Customs' unmanned spy plane protects Aussie borders

Customs' unmanned spy plane protects Aussie borders

Summary: Customs is wrapping up a AU$5.5 million trial of an unmanned spy plane next week, used to keep watch for criminal activities such as illegal fishing.

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Customs is wrapping up an AU$5.5 million trial of an unmanned spy plane next week, used to keep watch for criminal activities such as illegal fishing.

UAV over a merchant ship
(Credit: Customs)

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is being used in a pilot to watch out for quarantine and border threats. It is based at Weipa, north Queensland, from which it has been flying over the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef.

The 8.5-metre long "Heron" aircraft used in the trial, operated by Israel Aerospace Industries, can fly 1,800km on a single fuel tank as well as take off and land automatically.

Live radar, vessel information, video and photographs are transmitted from the UAV to its Weipa command centre via satellite, then pictures of interest are downloaded to laptops and transmitted to the BPC National Surveillance Centre in Canberra.

According to Nigel Perry, Border Protection Command's acting national director of maritime operations' support division, the plane flies a predetermined flight path, but isn't limited to that particular route: "If you want it to go somewhere else you click and flick and there it goes," he said.

Another advantage of the unmanned plane is that it can fly low and slow, down to 65 knots, allowing its cameras to pick up small detail such as the name of the ship on the hull, and the crew (so as to determine their ethnic heritage), or whether there are livestock on the ship.

The UAV is able to identify vessels over 300 gross tonnes automatically, because the International Maritime Organisation requires them to operate automatic identification systems at all times. These provide information such as the ship's identity, type, position, course and speed.

Perry hopes if the plane is adopted on a long-term basis, it will be controlled remotely from Canberra, so that those controlling the sensors on the craft can speak to operations personnel, helping them see "the big picture".

If the UAV becomes a permanent feature of border control, two new satellites to be launched at the end of this year will provide a dedicated communications link.

The aircraft's last scheduled flight will take place on 2 June, with Customs preparing a report on the trial by the end of the month. The government will then decide on whether to invest in the program on a long-term basis.

For photos of the UAV in action, see the related photo story.

Topics: Government AU, Emerging Tech, Privacy, Travel Tech

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • The HERON I

    The HERON I is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV system for strategic and tactical missions
    The HERON I main features and capabilities are:
    Multiple operational configurations
    Adverse weather capability
    Safe, reliable and easy operation
    Simultaneously 4 sensors use capability
    Satellite communication for extended range (SATCOM)
    Two proven simultaneous Automatic Takeoff and Landing (ATOL) systems for maximal safety
    Fully redundant, state-of-the-art avionics
    Retractable landing gear
    Payloads
    Electro Optical (TV & IR Combi or Triple Sensor TV/IR/LD)
    Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)
    Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR)
    COMINT & ESM capability
    Customer furnished sensor suites
    Communication relay package
    Integrated ATC Radio
    Datalinks
    Direct Line-of-Sight (LOS) data link
    UAV airborne data relay for beyond LOS missions
    Ground-based data relay for beyond LOS missions
    Satellite communication
    Performance
    Endurance: 45 hr
    Range: 350 km
    Range with satellite coverage: Beyond Line of Sight
    Altitude: 30,000 ft
    Technical Data
    Weights
    Maximum take-off weight: 1,150 kg
    Maximum Payload Weight: 250 Kg
    Dimensions
    Overall Length: 8.50 m
    Wingspan: 16.60 m



    Engine 100hp (75kW) Rotax gasoline engine, although IAI also offers a 180hp diesel.


    IAI's Tamam Division Announces the Launch of its New Multi-Mission Optronic Stabilized Payload (MOSP3000) Unit
    Feb 14, 2008
    Israel Aerospace Industries' Tamam Division (IAI/Tamam) has announced the launch of its new Multi-Mission Optronic Stabilized Payload (MOSP3000) unit. MOSP3000 provides advanced image processing and automatic video tracker capabilities, and enhanced surveillance, targeting and geo-location capabilities for a variety of platforms including rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aerostats, ground applications and naval vessels. The first customer deliveries are scheduled for 2008 with further orders to additional customers scheduled for 2009.
    MOSP3000 is a multi-sensor electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) payload that is an evolution of the successful MOSP concept. The system is available in 14" inch (36cm) and 15-inch (38cm) diameter configuration, with identical internal design. The 14" unit is designed primarily for UAV and aerostat platforms, while the 15" unit is designed primarily for helicopters, naval vessels and ground applications that require enhanced ruggedized structures.
    MOSP3000's open architecture design provides the capability to match the sensor configuration according to customer needs with up to five sensors. The sensor package includes a continuous day color zoom camera, a variety of thermal imaging cameras (up to 640x480 detector format), a laser pointer and an eye-safe laser range finder. A laser designator and laser ranger finder (LRDF) can also be installed.
    System highlights:

    a. Uses MOSP four gimbals and mechanics concept integrated with Fiber Optics Gyro (FOG) technology and shaft encoders for accurate gimbals angles readout.
    b. One line replaceable unit (LRU) with all electronics inside payload
    c. "Plug & Play" sensors where each sensor is totally independent and operated digitally
    d. Digital control loops for added flexibility
    e. Significantly enhanced dynamics (slew rate and acceleration)
    f. Enhanced image processing
    g. Digital video capability
    h. Area auto-tracking in addition to the original correlative and centeroid features

    EL/M-2022U- UAV Maritime Patrol Radar System
    EL/M-2022 consists of a UAV Radar Payload and a Ground Radar Operator Station that controls the radar operation and processes data sent by the Radar Payload via the UAVs datalink.
    The EL/M-2022U Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) system provides a cost-effective force multiplier solution for the following operational missions:
    Support to surface and littoral warfare operations
    Maritime surveillance and EEZ patrol
    Drug interdiction and prevention o
    anonymous
  • The HERON I

    EL/M-2022U- UAV Maritime Patrol Radar System
    EL/M-2022 consists of a UAV Radar Payload and a Ground Radar Operator Station that controls the radar operation and processes data sent by the Radar Payload via the UAVs datalink.
    The EL/M-2022U Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) system provides a cost-effective force multiplier solution for the following operational missions:
    Support to surface and littoral warfare operations
    Maritime surveillance and EEZ patrol
    Drug interdiction and prevention of illegal immigration and terrorist activities
    Coast Guard and Fisheries patrol
    Image intelligence operations
    Search and rescue location and support
    EL/M-2002U features automatic detection and tracking of maritime surface targets at all speeds and produces high quality radar images. The radar operates as a true all-weather, day and night sensor capable of penetrating clouds, rain, smoke, smog, fog and man-made camouflage.
    The system was tested operationally and passed all the tests successfully, even in real operational flights. Various types of live rockets and missiles were fired toward the system without causing any damage to the aircraft.
    The system can be easily adapted to various types of airborne platforms including: fighters, airlift and helicopters.


    In October 2007 Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled the Heron-I, which is optimised for the maritime patrol mission and able to operate in conjunction with the Israeli Air Force's Westwind 1124 Seascan maritime patrol aircraft, with a view to later replacing them. The maritime Heron-Is have been equipped with an Elta Systems EL/M 2022 V2 Maritime Patrol Radar which is said to be able to spot a submarine periscope at 46.3 km (25 nm) while being able to track around 500 targets simultaneously. This system may eventually give way to the V3 version that may track up to 2000 targets and which could be fitted to the aircraft to supplement the long-range IAI Taman EO/IR system.
    anonymous
  • The HERON I

    In last Email that I sent, have mistake. Have part that not belongs to the issue.

    I AM SORRY

    It must be



    EL/M-2022U- UAV Maritime Patrol Radar System

    EL/M-2022 consists of a UAV Radar Payload and a Ground Radar Operator Station that controls the radar operation and processes data sent by the Radar Payload via the UAVs datalink.
    The EL/M-2022U Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) system provides a cost-effective force multiplier solution for the following operational missions:
    Support to surface and littoral warfare operations
    Maritime surveillance and EEZ patrol
    Drug interdiction and prevention of illegal immigration and terrorist activities
    Coast Guard and Fisheries patrol
    Image intelligence operations
    Search and rescue location and support
    EL/M-2002U features automatic detection and tracking of maritime surface targets at all speeds and produces high quality radar images. The radar operates as a true all-weather, day and night sensor capable of penetrating clouds, rain, smoke, smog, fog and man-made camouflage.
    The display video and data of the sea surface detection and tracking together with captured SAR/ISAR imagery generated on board the UAV are transmitted via data link to the Ground Control Station (GCS) for further processing interpretation and extraction of valuable intelligence.

    The modular system design with its flexible interfaces enables simple integration with UAV avionics and data link, and with the GCS.


    In October 2007 Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled the Heron-I, which is optimized for the maritime patrol mission and able to operate in conjunction with the Israeli Air Force's Westwind 1124 Seascan maritime patrol aircraft, with a view to later replacing them. The maritime Heron-Is have been equipped with an Elta Systems EL/M 2022 V2 Maritime Patrol Radar which is said to be able to spot a submarine periscope at 46.3 km (25 nm) while being able to track around 500 targets simultaneously. This system may eventually give way to the V3 version that may track up to 2000 targets and which could be fitted to the aircraft to supplement the long-range IAI Taman EO/IR system.
    anonymous
  • 3 Day UAV Fundamentals Course

    UAV Fundamentals Course, March 5-7, 2013, Las Vegas
    http://www.slideshare.net/jetdoc2001/uav-fundamentals-3-day-slides
    jetdoc2001