Let’s begin by agreeing some definitions. By persistent surveillance we mean providing visibility or eyes-on an area of interest for an extended period of time. It could be weeks or even months in some cases. The area of interest could be a village, a choke point in a mountain range or even an international border. It could be a relatively small area or a large area such as in wide area persistent surveillance.
It this context, persistent surveillance covers the technologies to collect the data, i.e the sensor technologies such as radar / full motion video but also the processing needed to extract information from the data. It also covers the communication technology needed to provide timely information to the commander or analyst.
One way to think of the requirement is that the persistent surveillance needs to be able to establish the pattern-of-life of an area of interest. Once that understanding of the normal activity is established then anomalous behaviour or activities might be identified.
It is the hope that the technology that will be developed through this call and in subsequent activities will support our ability a capture a higher level of situational awareness and that there are benefits to be gained by considering the sensing, processing and communications as closely coupled entities.
We believe that persistent surveillance will become increasingly important as operations move more towards an effects based approach. That is the military commander knows the effect or influence that he wants to have on the operation but they might not have complete situational awareness at many levels (geographic, social, physical). By providing trustworthy, precise and timely intelligence it will allow us to move from situational awareness to situational understanding.
The requirement to make the right decision under the media spot-light places increasing demands on the decision maker. A greater understanding of the battlespace both at the strategic and tactical levels should help support these decisions.
It is our belief that in certain operations a greater level of persistence, improved discrimination and autonomous processing will be needed to support future missions.
So what are the current issues that restrict us from providing persistent surveillance today.
Most platforms certainly ground based and maritime rightly provide the information needed to operate in their environment. The sensor systems are designed to provide tactical and operational information to the user. The areas covered by their sensors is relatively small and generally you can’t afford to leave that platform on task to observe an area of interest for an extended period as you have the man closely coupled to the data to information step (i..e the operator is sitting looking at a screen and getting bored!
Similarly manned air-platforms have a man-in-the-loop who also needs to be operating flying the aircraft. So typically you are talking about very limited time-on-station.
Observation from space is one option but geostationary satellites are at very long range so the resolution is extremely limited. Whereas satellites with closer orbit are unable to dwell over the area of interest for any reasonable period of time.
The larger UAVs provide one potential solution but they are expensive, limited in number and have their own logistics infrastructure. We are looking for a more cost effective solution that can provide the level of persistence that is needed.
There are some potential platforms that we might exploit to provide the level of persistent surveillance that we needed but these have there own issues.
The long endurance HAPS (High altitude Pseudo satellite) type platforms could provide the level of endurance required but the size, weight and power of current sensor, processing and communication technologies restricts the current capability of these platforms.
Another barrier to innovation and exploitation of novel sensor technology in the air-borne environment is the extensive use of propriety architectures and interfaces. Everything is possible over course but the cost then limits exploitation. To minimize integration issues we want to use open and published international interface standards from the outset when designing future persistent surveillance capabilities.
Other barriers or let’s call them hurdles to persistent surveillance
Obviously persistent surveillance implies huge volumes of data therefore we need to be smart about what data we collect, how and where it is processed (on-board versus off-board) . Obviously more processing on-board uses more power but potentially saves power for the communications system whereas more off-board processing saves power in one way but implies a higher bandwidth. Other important considerations are levels of compression that are appropriate and what data or information is released to the communications network.
Looking at the communication network, it will need to be secure, which generally implies more power, and also be persistent or at least managed in an appropriate way.
It is clear that there needs to be a greater level of assisted, automatic or autonomous processing to ensure that the analyst has the right information at the right time available to him. Presented in a way that is easily assimilated.
Moving onto the technology challenges.
This CDE themed competition seeks inventive and innovative technologies that will enable persistent surveillance from the air.
The focus should be on the sensor technologies, the processing techniques and the communications system keeping in mind our requirements for reduced size, weight and power.
The technologies should be useful across a range of platforms. The focus is on the sub-systems not the platform itself.
There has been lots of discussion on the types of platform that should be in scope for this competition.
Please keep in mind that the main focus is on low size, weight and power whilst providing capability at relatively large stand-off range. So high altitude pseudo satellite, HAPS type platforms such as Zephyr is a good example of the type of platform we have in mind. However other persistent platforms of interest include the relatively long endurance mini-UAVs such as Scan Eagle and even perch-and-stare platforms that might provide persistence in certain operations.
Again the emphasis is on low size, weight and power and any solutions that match the requirements for these should then be compatible with other endurance platforms such as tethered lighter than air platforms (Balloons) and HALE and MALE UAVs where power constraints may not be so severe.
We don’t expect to receive proposals where the innovation could only really be implemented in the large and heavy sensor systems that are already widely deployed.
Space based observation is considered out of scope for this call as it doesn’t provide the level of persistence coupled with resolution that we believe we need. Plus a recent CDE themed call addressed that domain.
Finally just to re-emphasis that that we would like to constrain ideas to the air-to-ground domain.
We thought that it would be useful to go through the HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo satellite) type platform as an example to help put the requirement into context.
Typically one might expect to be operating at a height up to 23 km but the slant range to the area of interest might be greater – maybe up to 40 km.
By using solar generated power and power management system at night one might expect to have no more than 50 W available for the sensors, processing and communications functions.
Weight is critical, the whole sensor/processing/communications payload cannot be more than 4 kg in total. 3 kg is a more realistic target to enable the levels of persistence envisaged.
For the HAPS platform the size constraints are not too onerous – the sensor and processing package could have a volume up to 25 litres and a single antenna length of up to 25 m.
In terms of endurance and the time available to build up a understanding of the pattern-of-life, it is reasonable to assume a time on target of up to 1000 hrs or approximately 40 days (and nights).
The HAPS platform also has some physical constraints that need to be managed within the SWAP budget.
The temperature varies hugely from night to day – with extremes from -70 Celsius at night to 40 degrees during the day.
Similar the sensor needs to be able to operate at 1 atmosphere on the ground to approximately 20 mBar at the operational heights of interest.
Moving on to the first challenge and the types of sensors of interest. I think that it is fair to say that there are no constraints in terms of the types of sensor that could be of interest (full motion video, thermal imaging, synthetic aperture radar). It is more likely that the sensor options will be severely constrained by the SWAP envelope.
It is reasonable to say that we are interested in innovative single sensor technologies but also approaches that might generate more than the sum of the parts by operating as a sensor array and communications network. It is conceivable that we will have a number of platforms, unlikely to be a swarm (100s, 1000s) but certainly 10-20 separate airborne platforms to provide wide coverage and persistence beyond the 1000 hrs available with a single platform.
From an electro-optic and infrared perspective the types of innovation areas that spring to mind include high operating temperature thermal imaging. Around the world there is a drive to push up the operating temperature of high performance thermal imagers to reduce the cooling requirements and thereby shrink the size, weight and power. It might be possible to exploit these developments in the HAPS type platform.
However there will also need to be novel developments in the optical design as multi-component Germanium lenses would be too heavy. So novel materials, devices and approaches that reduce lens weight would be of interest.
Thermal imagery provides the 24 hr capability but in many circumstances shorter wavelength imaging provides higher resolution and better discrimination but a separate sensor adds power and weight. So novel approaches (such as multi-band) that provide thermal and reflective imaging in the same sensor would be of interest.
For a low SWAP platform pointing and stabilisation associated with long range imaging creates a huge challenge. Novel ideas (non-mechanical steering or stablisation) would be of interest.
In the RF sensing domain the potential availability of multiple platforms could be used to cover a much wider area of operation or provide multiple different view points for target discrimination.
With certain sensor modes different viewing angles with enable higher precision target location and tracking.
Obviously if the performance of one platform is degraded, perhaps due to RF interfere then the network can compensate or allow gradual degradation in performance.
Other areas of interest include modular scalable approaches based on lightweight conformal antennas. Leading on phased arrays to avoid moving parts and wideband multi-function to reduce whole system SWAP.
Novel sensor processing techniques designed for the challenging environment that convert from data to information whilst operating at low power perhaps building upon bio-inspired approaches to low power processing or exploiting mobile computing technology in a novel way.
Recently there has been huge academic interest in sparse sampling (sensing) and compressive sensing – perhaps there are some technologies or concepts emerging from that field that would be applicable to our problem space.
One concept is to couple the sensing function to the information requirement such that only information of direct relevance is recorded, processed, stored and transmitted.
Challenge 2 is focussed towards the sensor communications network but as we mentioned earlier proposals should be thinking about the whole system. The sensor and communication channels cannot be considered in isolation.
To follow on the “eyes on” analogy – the brain cannot process the sensor information if the optic nerve is degraded, damaged or just not able to transmit the electrical signals with sufficient integrity. The communication channel is at least as important as the sensor and processing functions.
As with the raw sensor information, any potential impact of the communication transmission process needs to be understood (for example excess delays, likelihood of errors) as part of the provenance meta-data of the sensor information.
Remember the goal is to provide the decision maker with timely, trustworthy information that can be acted upon.
Security is to be considered in the broad sense covering confidentiality, integrity and availability. In relation to sensor data all three are relevant, but the focus for innovation in this call should be on the latter two (integrity and availability), particularly taking advantage of a multi-node network for resilient and redundant routing. However novel techniques that allow these three components to interact to best meet the mission needs is also of interest.
Power efficiency is a key theme, of particular interest is how the network nodes working together can minimise power consumption through cooperation. How can the characteristics of the sensor data be better used to minimise power consumption (e.g. store and forward between nodes for delay tolerant data)
The dynamic nature of airborne networks, where network density is variable, needs to be effectively managed real time and must be resilient to node failures.
Rather than treating these as separate problems, cross-layer approaches to optimising performance parameters (e.g. power efficient routing) may be where the biggest gains lie.
Effective information management can not just improve the timely and accurate delivery of information, it can also reduce network load. What novel information management techniques can be employed (cooperatively) with network management to better shape and filter information flows?
What new bearers can be utilised? Such as non traditional comms methods like laser optical communications, or even using civilian networks, including the internet. Thinking more out of the box, can an optical/RF sensor also be a comms bearer?
With increasing demands on the radio spectrum but decreasing supply, techniques to improve spectrum efficiency are required. In this particular context, it is desirable to be able to reuse radio frequencies as much as possible, and thus techniques that enable spectrum sharing with and between airborne networks will be of benefit to MOD. At the same time, the exposed nature of airborne networks means there is greater potential of interference, and thus interference protection measures may be required.
Your proposal should provide a clear description of the technology or concept that will be developed and explain how it will operate in the context of persistent surveillance from the air.
You should consider how the size, weight and power can be minimised and explain the effect that that will have on the overall performance of the sensor or communication system.
You should indicate the type of persistent platform that would be most appropriate for your innovation. Obviously if it compatible with the more stretching constraints then it could be more readily exploited onto a number of different platforms.
Please consider how you innovation would operate within an open architecture and what other information you might need to access to fully exploit your innovation.
Building on that please consider the system and implementation issues, what additional infrastructure might be needed.
Please make the assumption that your phase 1 proposal will be funded and be successful and give an indication of the cost and timescale to take your innovation to the next level and what that might entail.
For proposals against challenge 1 – sensor technology
Please indicate the stand-off range at which your innovation will operate and what ground level resolution it should be able to achieve.
In your proposal, please consider the quantity of data that your sensor will generate and the storage and processing requirements to turn that data into information. In addition what type of information will be generated, tracks, positions, target identification.
In the same vein – please consider the bandwidth requirements and whether the data/information can be compressed without degradation.
Finally, the novelty and innovation might be clear to you but it is not always clear to the reviewer so it helps to put your innovation into context with contemporary work. And remember that technical risk is good so long as it doesn’t break any laws of physics.
Similarly for challenge 2 your proposal needs to provide a clear description of the technical approach and put the proposal into context.
The proposal needs to clearly explain why your proposal is new and novel.
Indicate the range and bandwidth that can be achieved and any potential limitations. If your explain the limitations then the reviewer is more likely to believe that you have consider the military implications in a wider context.
Don’t forget that power management is as important for the communication system as for the sensor and processing system.
The headline figures are large, and the market is global. The ability to provide a unique UK proposition into the persistent surveillance marketplace is both real and urgent. This is not research for the sake of understanding, but research that seeks innovation to rapidly bring products to market. The expectation from this CDE themed call is that both sensor and communication package technologies can be exploited for immediate use on current and planned future unmanned platforms. The UK is a recognised leader in the development of High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS) and from a recent Royal Aeronautical Society report, the UK leads both the US and Israel in this area. You will have seen the Airbus Defence and Space Zephyr platform static model in the foyer. This ground breaking, world record holding, solar powered aircraft forms the basis of the operational envelope constraints for the challenges. This platform has benefited greatly from UK SME innovations in aeronautics, power usage, power generation, storage and low power, low revolution DC motors. Developed in the research programme by QinetiQ, Airbus Defence and Space are industrialising the airframe and building an eco-system of UK SME companies to support the development of the HAPS capability – the challenges will feed directly into this exploitation route. At this stage it is important to differentiate this challenge from other CDE challenges particularly within the low SWAP ISTAR area – this challenge focuses specifically on HAPS, HALE and touches on MALE UAS whereas other CDE calls were in the low –earth orbit and the Land/tactical air domains. The envelope for sensor and communication packages will be described in more detail later in this presentation.
Today, the concept of border security shares a complex relationship with the persistent threat of terrorism and the illegal movement of people between countries. Border security includes the protection of land borders, ports, and airports and therefore, can encapsulate a wide rage of sensors, terrains, crossing points and the surveillance of many people and assets. Traditional surveillance methods can include fixed surveillance towers, UAS, aerial surveillance, biometric tracking, acoustic sensing and many 100’rds of kilometres of CCTV and radar surveyed fences working in conjunction with specialist intelligence gathering. These systems are often integrated and the products of sensors analysed and acted upon from both regional and central command and control centres. For example, it is estimated that in Turkey, a country in which the UKDSC is proposing an integrated systems approach to border security, that there is a total of ~8000kms of sea borders, and ~3000Kms of land borders to monitor along with the airspace and aircraft landing points. However, due to terrain and other environmental and/or geographical factors, some areas along these borders will fall into ‘black spots’ or areas where primarily due to terrain considerations, there is no sensor or communications systems coverage. One method of reducing these so-called ‘black spots’ is to elevate your sensor above the level at which the terrain masking occurs by using a sensor/communications tower, or by utilising airborne platforms such as balloons, light aircraft, helicopters and increasingly, UAS. Some nations have extended this concept further and use bespoke, instrumented aircraft with sophisticated sensor and communications packages to detect, monitor and track objects of interest over wide areas. However, these platforms are complex and involve many specialists to operate effectively. Therefore, it is expected that the use of high and very high altitude unmanned aircraft, and the dissemination of information between sensing nodes will become an increasingly important capability in providing robust, integrated border security systems in the future.
Maritime security forms the third layer of the border protection system along with Air and Land. Broadly, maritime security falls into three areas: Port, vessel and facility security. Where high altitude aerial surveillance comes into its own for maritime security is in the ability to cover (survey) very large geographical areas of open waters from a single sensor pass and to build up a picture of the emergent pattern of life, or movement of objects within an area of interest. Using sophisticated hyper and multispectral sensors, along with traditional EO/IR and GMTI radar, a sensor at 70,000feet can potentially have a field of view of many 100rds of kilometres over the sea surface. This is important where persistence and the creation of a pattern of life over a long period (weeks and months rather than days) is needed, particularly when tracking sea vessel movements or spotting discrepancies from trade routes and designated maritime shipping channels which may indicate suspicious behaviours of the vessel. In addition, high altitude assets are able to be re-tasked and provide ‘eyes on’ a particular area or object of interest and track its movements to identify potential hostile movements or actions alerting commanders to take actions. We are interested in receiving proposals that exploit the coverage that high altitude platforms offer and that can provide novel, or more effective maritime sensing capabilities which can provide a persistent maritime surveillance capability and that can be potentially re-tasked to operate over other areas of interest.
Pipelines and energy transmission lines such as electricity routes, form an integral part of our energy and fuel supplies transporting gas, oil and electricity from the production facility to the consumer. The security of these kinds of assets is therefore paramount in ensuring that energy and fuel is supplied and not disrupted. It is estimated that in the UK alone there are over 20,000Kms of pipelines transporting oil, gas and refined products across the nation. In other European countries this figure can vary between 1-30,000Km of pipeline and in the United States, the figure is as high as 2MKms. The security of these assets and monitoring the ‘health’ of these installations is therefore critical to ensure a safe and reliable energy supply. Land based security such as radar, CCTV and acoustic sensing such as Fibre Optic Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) (QQ Optisense) can be used to effectively monitor and report disturbances to the pipeline often locating the disturbance very accurately. However, each of these sensor types requires good communication packages and the ability to persistently survey an area of interest for months autonomously. Therefore this innovation challenge seeks to explore the possibility of monitoring such installations from a very high altitude and/or providing the communications networks to link up distributed sensing nodes and become part of a wider persistent surveillance network.
We have all become familiar with these kinds of videos that are provided from sensor packages operating on High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) such as Global Hawk and tactical/Medium Altitude UAVs such as Watchkeepr and Reaper. This video clip, however, was produced from a low-cost, low power sensor operating on a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) platform at 70,000feet. Even at this altitude, re-purposing consumer electronics (in this case a digital camera and mobile phone for comms) allows a workable ground separation distance, or resolution of approximately 50cm to be achieved. The advantages of operating at a high stand-off range have been known for decades and was first fully exploited by programmes such as the US U2 and SR71 aircraft - providing the ability to have ‘eyes on’ an object or area of interest rapidly, and being able to remain ‘on-task’ for a sustained period of time. In addition to high altitude UAS platforms, areal intelligence is successfully gathered from low and high orbit space sensor constellations and fused with intelligence gathered from other sources to form a complete intelligence picture.
Add words about NASA programmes (endurance, altitude, surveillance) Google and Facebook – comms rebro etc Describe operating environment In the near future, payloads flying on Stratospheric UAVs will be far more relevant to such operations than will today's Conventional UAVs, even with similar payload capabilities. This is one of the conclusions of a new "Stratospheric UAV Payloads - Markets and Technologies Forecast 2012-2021", available on ASDReports.com.
Set the scene – what do we mean by high altitude? describe the atmospheric conditions The operating temperatures for equipment The advantages of providing ‘eyes in the sky’ at high altitude, (U2) The advantages for communications/signals coverage at high altitude Touch on Google Loon, Facebook – connectivity aircraft, internet via drones(initernet.org) Titan Aerospace, etc – internet of things and big data
Pull focus back onto HAPS specifics Sensor technologies Communications technologies Repurposing technology from adjacent or completely different markets How innovation relates to exploitation of technologies Wind Profile variation with Altitude showing minimum wind speeds between 17 and 22 km altitude.
Zephyr – background Paint a picture – developed through the research programme, industrialised by Airbus Defence and Space Touch on records held – indicate development path from Z7Z8 Airbus Defence and Space adopt High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite term and look at CONOPS for future missions Increase in capabilities Need for Low SWPC payloads Innovation challenges – altitude – issues with operating at 70000ft/Communication packages and Sensors
Running exclusively on solar power and flying at high altitudes above the weather and above commercial air traffic, Zephyr 8 will bridge the gap between satellites and UAVs.
Unlike reconnaissance satellites that monitor the earth surface from low-earth orbit, these HAPS will be able to persist over an area of interest providing satellite-like communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services without interruption. In 2010 the Zephyr 7 successfully achieved several world records, including the longest flight duration without refuelling (14 days), that was ten times longer than any other aircraft achieved before. It also flew at very high altitude, as high as 70,740 ft. The Zephyr 7 went through final testing in 2013, clearing the way for the next generation Zephyr 8. Add link to youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMmeNOZVj2o
Focus on the collection sub-system Describe traditional sensors and products and suitability on HAPS, add novel and new… SWPC Focus on the collection sub-system Innovation here? Re-purposing? GSD and resolutions… meshing, VSN, collaborative, etc – more on challenge 2 Comms modelling to provide evidence? On-board/off-board processing We are looking for new sensor technologies (or innovative re-purposing of technologies from other industries) that can capture intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information from HAPS, or similar, platforms. This technology can take the form of: Electro-Optical (EO) Infra-Red (IR) Full Motion Video (FMV) LIDAR multispectral imaging hyperspectral imaging electromagnetic (EM) and Radio Frequency (RF) sensing acoustic sensing Radar (including passive radar) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Moving Target Indication (MTI) and use on-board/off-board processing techniques
In addition to these traditional sensing methods, potential bidders are encouraged to develop innovative ideas and methods of sensing that may not be covered in this list. We invite proposals for innovative single sensor types or a potential networked array of sensors to provide persistent surveillance. We are particularly interested in meshed sensors for ISR and virtual sensor networks (VSNs) operating in a collaborative wireless network.
Issue – decreasing spectrum, QoS etc Maintain secure, resilliant comms across network lins Between sensorsensor; sensorC2; Sensorproduct exploitation FSO – free space optical comms – what next? Managing RF power requirements “connectivity aircraft” – facebook term for Ascenta a/c “internet via drones” - internet.org Repurpose for Military use? – innovations??
Having the most capable sensor package mounted on the best HAPS platform or remote sensing system will be nothing without the ability to control that sensor and transmit the sensor feed in a timely fashion to the decision maker. EM spectrum availability, bandwidth allocation and quality is an ever increasing issue as available spectrum decreases and frequencies become more congested. This makes maintaining secure, reliable communications between sensors, networks of sensors, analysts and decision makers more difficult. We want innovative methods and technologies to maintain secure, resilient communications across these network links. We’re seeking novel ways of providing secure, resilient communication links between disparate sensor nodes, particularly when thinking about high-altitude, low-mass, remotely piloted aircraft. These need to minimize size, weight and power consumption and be able to operate for weeks or months. Technologies that provide on-board processing and efficient transmission of information, while managing RF power requirements are of interest. We also want to make more effective use of the available radio spectrum and non-traditional communications methods (such as laser optical communications). Where possible, the high-level architecture and protocols used by the communications package will need to be understood so that it can be used with legacy equipment. It must adhere to published international standards for sensors and communications equipment. If not, the proposal must include how you will achieve interoperability and communicate between nodes when common protocols and standards can’t be used.
Your proposal must: include a proof-of-concept demonstration and a fully costed proposal for phase 2 as deliverables of phase 1 identify the technologies proposed and how they will operate consider the trade-off between minimum size, weight, power and cost and overall performance indicate the optimum range and resolution at which the innovation operates indicate the type(s) of information that can be collected by the sensor, along with the resolution and quantity of data acquired for challenge 1, consider and articulate the communications network required to transmit sensor information to a decision maker outline the standards and high-level architecture to which the concept is designed consider systems and implementation issues include an outline of future work required to fully develop your solution articulate how the sensor or communication package could be deployed and exploited from a HAPS, HALE or MALE remotely piloted vehicle or other platform We’ll consider research proposals for the defence application of technologies that are mature in other sectors. These proposals must be research focused and include a significant proportion of work that is clearly within the research and pre-commercial development space of the innovation life cycle, at less than technology readiness level (TRL) 6. What we don’t want Under this CDE themed competition we’re not looking for: paper-based studies marginal improvements in capability solutions that offer no significant defence and security benefit technology watch or horizon scanning roadmaps or technology prediction demonstrations of existing technology products used in a traditional way
To summarise we would like to solicit proposals for novel technologies and approaches that will support persistent surveillance from the air under severe size, weight and power constraints.
We have split the call into two challenges but the best proposals will keep in mind the whole system and explain how their component fits into the larger airborne system.
The first challenge is focussed towards novel sensor technologies most probably exploiting low power processing
The second challenge is firmly focussed towards the communications network operating with resilience under low power constraints.
8 July 2015: Persistent surveillance from the air themed competition
UK Defence Solutions Centre
•Global addressable Unmanned Air
Systems market from 2014-2035
•Land surveillance market is £11.6B
•Maritime surveillance is £5B
•Far East & Pacific
•South East Asia