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Airborne Surveillance System Keeps Security Forces Safe

Airborne Surveillance System Keeps Security Forces Safe

By Rhonda Siciliano, Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs.

Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts -- (AFPN) September 30, 2002 -- Deployed security forces supporting Operation Enduring Freedom can now see beyond base perimeters and visually assess detected threats quicker thanks to the latest in unmanned aerial vehicle technology.

The Electronic Systems Center's force protection system program office experts recently delivered the initial Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System that "adds an enhanced layer of protection for bases around the world," said Col. Howard Borst, force protection system program office director.

According to the colonel, each FPASS consists of a ground control station, which has a computer, displays, recorder and communications equipment; six UAVs; a remote imagery viewing terminal; interchangeable payloads of color cameras and thermal imagers for day and night time imagery; and transportation cases and launch equipment. The UAV flies primarily at 300- to 500-foot altitudes and sends back to the operators' real-time overhead video data.

"One of the real strengths of FPASS is the ease at which the system can be reprogrammed in flight," said Maj. John Crennan, delay denial systems division chief.

A two-man crew operates the system, according to Maj. Mike Giger, FPASS program manager. Operators launch the UAV using a bungee cord catapult.

The system is powered by rechargeable batteries that have a one-hour lifespan or, if available, can also be operated using commercial AC power, he said. Flight missions can be preprogrammed, and with the simple touch of a button on a laptop computer screen they can be altered to monitor a potential area of concern.

"The system is not intended to be 'backpackable,' but it is easily transported by a general purpose vehicle," said Crennan.

The UAV, dubbed "Desert Hawk" by Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander, is small, lightweight and very simple to operate, Crennan said. The airframe is manufactured from damage-resistant molded material designed for limited field repair. Desert Hawk is able to operate from a 100-meter by 100-meter clearing without a runway.

"FPASS was specifically designed to be used by cops," said Maj. Mike Giger, FPASS program manager. "It extends the range that security forces can monitor without putting troops into harms way."

"This system is not intended to replace troops," said Borst. "It's a critical surveillance tool that will protect and save lives by providing essential real time information on potential threats," Air Force experts from the FPASS program met recently with members of the Marine Corps UAV program office to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration. The Marines are in the process of developing their own UAV system known as Dragon Eye.

"The Air Force and Marine Corps have similar requirements for their UAV programs, but there are very distinct differences in the operational environments," said Borst.

The FPASS system is primarily designed to operate within close proximity to a base while the Marine Corps requires a more rugged system that can operate under a variety of harsh environments, he said.

"We're looking for something slightly smaller, lighter and as rugged as can be made," said Lt. Col. Don Bruce, UAV program manager for Marine Corps System Communications at Quantico, Va.

"There's a great potential for collaboration on our UAV programs that we already know of," said Bruce. "Now we just have to explore those possibilities, which is what we are doing here today."

Areas in which the two services are looking to collaborate include the payload sensors, autopilot and the systems software, components that account for half the costs of the system, Bruce said.

"If we can collaborate on the subsystems and tailor the less expensive items to meet our individual needs then we will truly be marrying the jointness of the systems while allowing the individual needs of each service to come through. It will really be the best for both of us," said Bruce.

The Air Force and the Marine Corps have entered into a memorandum of agreement to share information about their UAV development.

"We are already looking for opportunities to enhance interoperability as we progress which will result in cost savings to the government," said Borst.

(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).