…In the last 30 years and even more so in recent years, as threats and technology have evolved and the need for 24/7 ISR has increased, helium-filled balloons—aerostats—have returned to the field. They are increasingly recognized as useful tools for long-term continuous ISR, as they overcome the greatest disadvantage of aircraft-based systems – limited fuel and flight time. They may also provide a visual deterrence to illegal activity, as they are lowered only for refueling and maintenance sessions…
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TCOM, a global leader in persistent surveillance Aerostat solutions and Logos Technologies LLC, an innovative developer of advanced sensors for Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI), have successfully demonstrated a 12m aerostat—or tethered blimp—with WAMI sensor designed for persistent surveillance in a number of scenarios, including emergency response, disaster relief and monitoring large crowd gatherings.
The demonstration took place at TCOM’s Persistent Surveillance Center of Excellence (CoE) in Elizabeth City, NC last month. Logos’ lightweight Simera wide-area sensor was integrated onto and flown on a TCOM 12M Tactical Aerostat.
TCOM’s 12M aerostat system provides a compact and portable platform. The aerostat enables rapid deployment and retrieval, enabling operators in the field to obtain actionable surveillance data at rapid clip. The 12M has a payload weight capability of 60lbs (27kg) and a mission endurance of up to 5 days.
The Simera system, at only 40lbs (18 kg), provides persistent coverage of a full 360 degree area to the operator. High-definition imagery from the full 360 field of view is available in near real time and is continuously recorded for immediate rewind or historical analysis.
Logos indicated Simera’s affordability and rapid deploy capability make the system an excellent wide area persistent coverage tool for disaster relief, counter-terrorism, sporting event security, anti-poaching monitoring and port or rail security.
“TCOM sees great value in the inclusion of WAMI sensors into our suite of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and force protection payloads already integrated onto our existing family of tactical aerostats,” said Ron Bendlin, president and CEO of TCOM, in a statement. “These WAMI systems, when paired with sensors providing full-motion video (FMV), greatly increase the persistent surveillance collection and forensics analysis tools that are highly advantageous for our customers with requirements in the areas of law enforcement, emergency response, critical asset protection, force protection, as well as other areas.”
TCOM Vice President, Business Development, Matthew McNiel, told Homeland Security Today he foresees a number of applications for the 12m aerostat with WAMI sensor, including aiding first responders by offering a significant advantage in situational awareness.
McNiel said, “When coupled with additional payloads, it could also provide local non-line of sight communications via hand held radio or cell phone in the absence of operational towers.”
In addition, the system is also ideal for border security. TCOM’s tethered aerostats have already provided the US Coast Guard, US Air Force, and Customs authorities with the range and reliability needed to enforce border security.
“The elevated position provided by the aerostat enables the wide area motion imagery sensor to cover a circular area of approximately 95 square kilometers with persistent, video imagery and full forensic capability,” McNiel said. “This provides, not only real-time surveillance, but significant advantage in forensic exploitation.”
Through the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS), TCOM aerostat systems along the southern US land and maritime borders have consistently deterred airborne and surface smugglers, and have provided authorities with real-time actionable intelligence needed to take decisive action.
“As essential assets in the TARS program, TCOM aerostats continue to serve as steadfast sentinels, keeping citizens safe, and our nation’s border under constant guard,” McNiel said.
As with any surveillance system, privacy concerns have been raised. While TCOM supports the military and homeland security missions, it does not provide data, but rather the platform approved by the government programs.
“Surveillance systems, by nature, run counter to privacy concerns,” McNiel said. “However, there are no aspects to the WAMI system as tested at TCOM’s Center of Excellence that are more invasive than traditional closed circuit TV (such as local security cameras or traffic/red light cameras).”
By: Corey Diehl, Staff Writer for Homeland Security
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