Joint Forces Command is shipping to Afghanistan the first pieces of a video-sharing system called Valiant Angel that will make it easier for soldiers on the battlefield to plug into live surveillance feeds and archived intelligence data.
The system provides access to persistent-stare surveillance data that previously have been available only to soldiers at certain operating bases.
The military hopes Valiant Angel will allow troops to make better use of the flood of videos that are collected each day in Afghanistan. Currently, much of this information goes unwatched or never reaches the troops who need it most.
Valiant Angel is expected to be fully operational this summer, and it replaces a video-sharing network that can no longer handle the increasing amounts of data coming from unmanned aircraft and other cameras.
“We’re trying to reach the guy who may have only a laptop and a 56-kilobyte modem,” says Air Force Col. George Krakie, JFCOM’s Valiant Angel lead. “We want to make sure ISR data gets to the war fighter — and not just the war fighter sitting in a command center, but the war fighter at the tactical edge.”
Lead contractor Lockheed Martin leveraged commercially available technology that is already used by television stations.
The network’s physical infrastructure — servers that will be housed in operating bases — ingest video footage from across Afghanistan and compress the data into a common format that will run on all military computers.
The system allows users to add location information, running commentary and labels to each video clip. Ordnance disposal officers, for example, could program the system to send them notifications anytime a video is labeled “explosion.”
Krakie says analysts often use instant messaging to chat about surveillance videos. This system will embed these chats into the videos so that subsequent viewers can read the analysts’ initial thoughts.
“It’s making this much more than just watching TV,” Krakie says.
The system also will keep an archive of all surveillance data. Following a roadside bomb explosion, troops could pull up past videos of the area to track the insurgents who might have planted the device.