November 19, 2012
Credit: Credit: Bill Sweetman/Aviation Week
Bill Sweetman Washington Christina Mackenzie Paris and David Eshel Tel Aviv
In August, a stranded jet-skier scrambled across a fence at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, walked past a $100 million system of video cameras and motion detectors, crossed two runways and penetrated well into Delta Air Lines' Terminal 3 before a keen-eyed employee wondered why a passenger should be wearing a wetsuit.
Heated debates about “the surveillance society” notwithstanding, technology has been slow to provide a cost-effective, full-time way to monitor an airport, a big energy facility or similar large-area targets. Day and infrared cameras have narrow fields of view, so you need many of them, and need either human operators or automatic target-detection systems to pick up intruders—neither being very reliable. Motion and intrusion sensors tend to have high false-alarm rates.
Flir Systems Inc. has now unveiled a range of multi-sensor surveillance packages that aim to provide wide-area, high-resolution and automated target detection, tracking and identification from a single installation. These have grown out of Flir's 2010 acquisition of ICX, which had specialized in ground surveillance radars and security systems.
On show at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington in October were two new Flir products: a mobile system for border protection and a transportable unit deployed in Afghanistan. Flir is in discussions with “about 20” major airports worldwide about permanently installed systems using the same technology.
The company is building 33 MSC-450 (Mobile Surveillance Capability) systems for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for the Southwest U.S. border, with deliveries to be completed early next year. Mounted on a Ford F450 truck and designed for a single operator, it combines the company's own radar and a multi-spectral sensor ball. Flir has designed a hinged extending mast, which the company considers more stable than a vehicle-mounted telescoping mast. The system can run for 13 hr. on batteries and for five days without refueling.
The containerized Combat Outpost Surveillance and Force Protection System (COS-FPS, known to its operators as the Kraken) carries higher-end equipment including an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-Elta Ground Master radar and Flir Star Safire 380HD turret, and is linked to unattended ground sensors, two hostile-fire-detection sensors (which can pinpoint fire even if it is not aimed at the unit) and two remotely operated weapon systems. It has its own 5-kw. generator. Three Krakens are operational in Afghanistan and eight more are scheduled to be delivered early next year.
The most important features of both the Kraken and MSC-450 are radar performance and sensor and data fusion. Flir's newest radars use frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) technology to pinpoint moving targets out of ground clutter, which the company has adopted because it handles slow movers—walking people—better than Doppler. Fine-movement tracking also shows where the targets are headed. IAI-Elta claims a range accuracy of 1-2 meters (3.3-6.6 ft.) and an azimuth accuracy of 2-5 milliradians, providing high confidence that the target on radar is the target on which the telephoto lens of the imaging turret has been cued. These radars have a range of about 10-15 km (0.6-9.3 mi.) against dismounts. Using data fusion, target locations and tracks can be superimposed on digital maps, and the operator can look at a high-resolution image and classify a target as friendly or suspicious.