Drone Glut Leading to Data Storage Issues

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
A soldier launches a Raven surveillance drone.
Over the past decade and a half, unmanned aerial vehicles have been used extensively to collect intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. That has led to an enormous — and growing — amount of data that government officials must sort through and securely store. One company has proposed what it says is a better and cheaper way to manage it.

There is a colossal amount of drone “data that has to be stored and has to be kept,” said Brian Houston, vice president of engineering for Hitachi Data Systems Federal, a Reston, Virginia-based IT company. “It’s not just that the agencies are flying a drone flight today and three years down the road that data is null and void. No, they’re going to go back and want to be able to keep that online.”

This glut of information is in part due to an increase in UAV flights, as well as high-resolution cameras and better sensors, he said. A single drone flight can produce up to 400 terabytes of data, he added.

Currently, many agencies have multiple databases that act as silos for video imagery, audio or sensory data. Additionally, much of it is kept on physical tapes, which can often degrade over time or during data migrations, he said. Hitachi’s digital system consolidates that data into one unit and employs a tiered process that prioritizes an agency’s information using a durable, field-deployed Blu-ray optical storage system, Houston said.

“Think of it as a Blu-ray jukebox — so you have 200 drives inside this one little cabinet and every drive has a certain amount of data on it and it grows exponentially,” he said.

When data originally comes in, it would be kept at the highest and most prioritized tier, he said. But as the data ages, it goes down to a lower tier, he said. “At the same time, we’re never taking it offline, we’re never spinning it off.” Through metadata tagging, users can search for specific pieces of information, he said.

It is a more efficient alternative to tape-based storage, he noted. Currently, some agencies have to switch out tape for preservation purposes about every two years, he said. But “there is a loss with tape. … It’s just a fundamental nature of the technology.”

With Hitachi’s digital system, users don’t have to worry about that potential loss of data and the information can be easily migrated to other databases, he said.

Photo: Army

Topics: C4ISR, Intelligence, Sensors, Robotics

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