DUBAI AIRSHOW NEWS: New Search-and-Rescue Tech Makes UAE Debut

By Meredith Roaten

Sentient Vision Systems photo

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates new sensor technology that made its debut at the Dubai Airshow could soon be flying in Emirati skies to help save lives in water rescues.

The ViDAR, or visual detection and ranging, system uses a 180-degree field of vision to autonomously detect anything that moves in maritime environments. The technology is already in the hands of the U.S. Coast Guard and other nations' coast guards, according to Richard Glyn-Jones, director of business development for Sentient Vision Systems.

The company has partnered with Austrian Airborne Technologies and United Arab Emirates-based Phoenix Aerospace to build a system for search and rescue that it hopes to sell to the United Arab Emirates, he said on the sidelines of the international airshow Nov. 14.

The system is built into a self-contained aerial reconnaissance, or SCAR, pod that is designed to latch onto Leonardo's AW139 search-and-rescue helicopter, he said. This allows for militaries to find someone in the water in minutes instead of hours, according to Glyn-Jones.

“This is such a step change in what people can do now,” he said. “They are limited within the capability that they have on helicopters.”

When demonstrating the capability in Belgium two weeks ago, the companies were asked to aid in a real water emergency that was happening nearby. A helicopter equipped with the sensor technology found a missing migrant boat in under 30 minutes despite only knowing that the victims were close to a windmill.

“It over-exceeded the expectations of people who were witnessing what was going on,” he said.

To help sweeten the deal for the UAE, Phoenix Aerospace has agreed to install the technology on aircraft and provide support on the ground, he noted.

Additionally, the sensor’s autonomous detection capability has the potential to be utilized for military intelligence missions, including submarine monitoring, Glyn-Jones said.

Unlike radar detection, the sensor technology is passive, meaning its signal cannot be detected by adversaries. Additionally, the system picks up objects that would not be detected by radar such as wooden boats or rubber rafts, he said.

Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard uses ViDAR systems for counter-narcotics missions, but other branches of the military could attach the sensor to their platforms. The carbon-fiber pod that the sensor comes in is light enough to attach to “anything that flies,” he said.

“We have a lot of interest from air forces and being able to do passive detection, and ... navies are thinking a bit about UAVs,” he added, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Topics: Global Defense Market

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