Persistent surveillance

What is the next generation of surveillance for border security? By David Eldridge, Sales Director at Chess Dynamics

An integral part of any border security operation is robust surveillance. Be that coastal or land-based, tracking objects or people and being able to identify the absence of the normal is crucial to protecting a border or any kind of critical infrastructure.

Without effective detection and identification, steps to nullify threats cannot be successful, and any protection is compromised. New advancements are enabling forces to be more agile and obtain a richer understanding of the operational environment. So, what are they, and how might their deployment provide an advantage?

Persistent surveillance

As a fundamental part of the security picture, surveillance is an increasingly innovative and forward-thinking capability area, and next generation technologies are coming online rapidly. Increasingly, operators have moved to a ‘persistent surveillance’ model. Vital to any surveillance capability is its ability to perform 24 hours a day, seven days a week and deliver persistent surveillance at maximum resolution. A 24-hour operation, regardless of operating conditions, is crucial in a dynamic environment, such as a border, where many objects need to be identified and classified. 

Through technological innovations and the development of new sensors, persistent surveillance can provide long range reconnaissance for the detection and identification of potential threats for the military, civil organisations, and high value assets. But how can surveillance truly be persistent?

There is a clear trend toward more integrated intelligence systems that provide more useful data for the command centre, however key to this is the management of data generated from sensors. Improving the operational flexibility of these systems is also becoming a key factor. Systems built with open architecture are becoming more prevalent, while the ability to customise a system and swap out some elements – such as sensors or cameras - will significantly benefit the user. These early adoption trends will likely become fundamental requirements for persistent surveillance in the near future. Therefore, it’s important to consider what system manufacturers are offering and how this can support the establishment of a border surveillance capability.

All about the data

Underpinning any surveillance capability is the sensing technology that detects, tracks, and identifies threats. Image accuracy, resolution and stability are the fundamentals of this capability, enabling both detection and classification of objects of interest. These three key pillars ensure that potential threats can be identified, and accurate information is shared throughout the command chain.

Increasingly, operators are looking for even more data from their systems. Adding GPS, temperature sensing, barometer and range identification capability to a system provides a more complete understanding of the environment.

With the proliferation of data produced by the increased use and integration of sensors, efficiently utilising the data produced becomes key to operational advantage.

This is where AI comes into the picture, providing new enhancements that take surveillance to a new level.  The latest AI technology in the surveillance space, such as Vision4Ce’s DART (Detection and Acquisition, with Robust Tracking) can detect an abnormal object and accurately track it. AI technology is constantly learning and developing, and is even able to reacquire targets once lost among clutter as the tracking loop becomes tighter.

This greatly reduces the burden on the operator as the system effectively filters the information and only flags objects that are deemed risks or threats or are unknown. The operator will benefit from only being notified when a threat is genuine and action needs to be taken, drastically reducing the time and effort required to operate a system and improving overall security. These AI-based solutions also help improve the security of a border or high value asset, as they can auto-detect a target at a much greater range than through manual and human-centric processes.

Other technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) could also play a role in helping to paint an even clearer picture for the operator. AR may not be at the same readiness level as AI when it comes to surveillance, but there is huge potential in this area.

While AI has a crucial role to play, surveillance specialists such as Chess Dynamics can make the process even more efficient. Not only do these specialists understand different operational environments, but they are able to configure the system to provide the correct classification of expected targets of interest.

Again, this will reduce the time, effort and skill required from the operator and enable them to focus their resources on other key areas, such as the ability to deal with the threats identified by this surveillance to ultimately improve the overall security. In addition, this approach will lower the total cost of operation as fewer hours need to be spent on operating the system and training personnel to use it. This demonstrates how engaging with surveillance specialists can offer significant benefits to operators.

Modular and flexible

While technological advancements are shaping the next generation of persistent surveillance, features such as open architecture remain crucial. Modern surveillance requires innovative technology such as electro-optic systems, and with an open architecture, they can easily be integrated with technologies from other manufacturers.

This enables better customisation so the system can suit the operational environment it is working in more effectively. Not only does this give the operator and integrator more freedom and a better choice of the best technology around, but it also provides the opportunity to tailor the application to suit its surveillance needs. Different applications may cover land or sea and enable benign ‘threats’ to be filtered out from the genuine ones. Having this flexibility is crucial as operational environments become increasingly complex.

Moving forward, a system that can offer modular swap outs will become even more important. Systems that can remain operational while individual sensors are damaged are not offered by all manufacturers, but they provide significant benefit to operators. Typically, if a sensor is compromised, the whole system needs to be sent to the integrator to be replaced. Enabling modular swap outs means persistent surveillance is maintained, even if parts of the system are damaged.

Innovative technology is driving the next generation of persistent surveillance. Looking towards the future, with border surveillance becoming an even greater global focus, we expect to see new innovations rapidly entering service. Due to this, open architecture will continue to be essential so these technologies can be easily integrated with modular systems. With this trend likely to continue, the role of surveillance specialists will be to enable forces to reduce the cognitive burden on the operator, increase cost efficiency, and to continue to improve the overall security capability as new sensors become available.

For more information visit: https://www.chess-dynamics.com/

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