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by Curtis Hand

CHALLENGE: Piracy continues to threaten seafarers in strategic waters and EEZs worldwide. Vigilance, preparation, early detection and rapid response remain the best means to counter pirate tactics since the earliest days of armed robbery on the high-seas. However, these are difficult to achieve because pirate vessels range in size from high speed skiffs to watercraft disguised as fishing boats attempting to get close to a target ship and attack.

Vidar Photo 1: Pirates intercepted and arrested as a result of Sentient Vision Systems. Credit: Sentient Vision Systems

SOLUTION:Visual Detection and Ranging – ViDAR – developed by Sentient Vision Systems is the world’s first Optical Radar system.   It consists of multiple fixed, high-resolution cameras with a combined Field of View of 180 degrees. Mounted in an external pod or internally aboard an aircraft or UAV, ViDAR can passively find an object in the water as small as a human head.

ViDAR makes counter-piracy tasks much easier for patrolling forces and the transport-logistic ships they might escort. ViDAR demonstrated its ability to automatically find fast boats at ranges of 9.1 to 17 nm and fishing boats at ranges from 17 to 25 nm in various sea trials around the world.

Sentient builds surveillance architectures with capabilities that deliver airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities.

VIDAR: Core Capabilities –

  • Target discovery at significant safe and discreet distances …from 10 to 30nm depending on vessel size
  • Real time identification, classification and categorisation of targets
  • >300x greater ocean coverage than conventional visual search techniques
  • Collates simultaneous inputs from ViDAR, AIS transponders and other sensors
  • High probability of detection at 96%
  • Proven effective in rough waters up to Sea State 6
  • Identifies targets with a small or non-existent radar cross-section

Benefits –

  • Low SWaP addition to any airframe
  • Quick and effective ISTAR and SAR tool
  • Allows an armed maritime force to respond appropriately and proportionately
  • Significantly reduces loss of life and property
  • Lower cost than re-installing an entirely new system of sensors, etc.
  • Easy integration with legacy manned / unmanned airframes and sensor packages
  • Proven effective in multiple continent deployments
  • Mission recording for analysis, court evidence, documentation and training
ViDAR Photo 2: Detection & tracking activity on a map. Credit: Sentient Vision Systems

 INSIGHT: “ViDAR was designed to enhance detection & tracking capabilities to deliver whatever effect the situation demands. The Royal Australian Navy is typical of modern maritime forces in exploring this elegant and economical response to common maritime security challenges”, Dr Paul Boxer, founder of Sentient.

FLEXIBILITY: Sentient Vision Systems has integrated ViDAR with multiple different airborne mission systems and platforms ranging from a UAV such as the Insitu Scan Eagle® to helicopters such as the AW139 and fixed-wing aircraft including the Beechcraft Kingair 350, Viking Twin Otter, Dash 8 and the Bombardier Challenger 604 jet.

CONCLUSION: ViDAR’s AI-enabled signal processing capability enables it to detect miniscule targets against an extremely cluttered background. Data fusion and machine learning over multiple manned and unmanned missions enables faster, less-fatiguing aerial searches in all sea conditions. Sentient provides a unique, cost-effective and quicker response to maritime threats and emergencies.