Contractors eye Navy surveillance project
Firms seize opportunity to build intelligent security system
- By Doug Beizer
- Nov 20, 2007
Situated near a lonely fence at a naval
base, an unattended ground sensor detects
vibrations in a restricted area. Is it a person,
or just a fox looking for dinner?
An unmanned ground vehicle is automatically
sent to the area to investigate. Its
video camera picks up tracks and what
might be damage to the fence.
An unmanned plane is automatically dispatched
to track the potential target. When
the suspected infiltrator is spotted, security
officials are notified.
That kind of persistent, automated surveillance
is a major goal for the U.S. military.
Commanders say there are not enough
runways to launch all the vehicles they
would like to use at one time or enough
manpower to monitor all the sensors available
in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Technologies that can help achieve the
goal of creating a decentralized, intelligent
network of multiple sensors, cameras
and vehicles represent a fertile business
opportunity for information technology
Earlier this year, Augusta Systems Inc.,
of Morgantown, W.Va., won a three-year,
$10 million contract from the Naval Air
Systems Command to implement technology
for a distributed, intelligent network of
battlefield sensors and unmanned vehicles.
Instead of relying on centralized processing
and communication, or data integration,
this next-generation network quickly and
efficiently sends critical information wherever
it needs to go.
Augusta works with TechTeam
Government Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va., on the project. "Our role is to provide Augusta Systems with the swarming-control
software that manages the actions, the
movement of all the unmanned systems and
the behavior they take," said John Sauter,
TechTeam's business unit leader for emerging
Any unmanned vehicle needs some kind
of control to tell it where to go and what to
do. When several vehicles must cooperate
and coordinate their activities, human control
or technology is needed.
TechTeam's software makes sure each
vehicle knows what to do, where to go and
what it needs to deal with. It lets all the sensors
and vehicles operate together toward
an overall mission objective.
"In our case, that's usually some kind of
surveillance application," Sauter said. "So we
need to make sure that an area they're
responsible for is adequately covered and
that we get the right sensor at the right time
to the right people."
In a situation where a pipeline needs to
be protected, unattended sensors that monitor
motion might be installed. If
motion is detected, a robot with
a video camera might be
installed. And finally, the system
also can get more input from an
infrared camera mounted on a
All the vehicles and sensors in the Navy
project are networked using Augusta software.
Augusta's SensorBridge uses
Microsoft Visual Studio software components
for building and managing intelligent
networks, systems and applications, said
Patrick Esposito, president and chief operating
officer of the company.
The system also uses Augusta's
EdgeFrontier middleware for building and
managing intelligent networks, systems and
A ruggedized appliance called SensorPort
running a modified version of EdgeFrontier
delivers the integration and processing
required at the sensors.
Augusta's SensorPort is a reconfigurable
network appliance that enables distributed,
intelligent processing at the edge of the network.
It provides enterprise network access
to data from sensors, actuators, wireless
sensor networks, radio frequency identification
systems, imagery devices and other
"It is useful when you're looking to monitor
remote locations," Esposito said. "You
can take one of our appliances, put it out in
the field quickly and allow it to be configured
for integration of data from sensors
and other devices."
So if the U.S. Geological Survey, for
example, deploys unattended seismic
sensors in an array, the system could be set
up to trigger video distribution when a
seismic event occurs. That would keep
the video from streaming when nothing is
An even more advanced system is possible
using video analytics algorithms that,
for example, are triggered when a seismic
event occurs to help determine exactly what
The technology has applications beyond
the military, including border security and
even logistics management.
Oracle Corp.'s Sensor Edge Server, for
example, extends the reach of enterprise
software infrastructure to include information
from sensor technologies. The technology
enables augmenting enterprise software
with RFID and sensor technology for
"A lot of integrators are confronted with
issues where they need to integrate data
from RFID systems, sensors and video
devices," Esposito said. "This bridges the
devices, whether they're running IP or not."
A network built on these technologies has
already been developed and demonstrated
for the Naval Air Systems Command. During tests and demonstrations, Augusta's
technologies were used with other technologies
to demonstrate the networkcentric
Among the other technologies included
were mesh networking from Motorola Inc.
and ITT Corp., four unmanned ground
vehicles, two unmanned aerial vehicles and
the collaborative control algorithms from
TechTeam.Staff writer Doug Beizer can be reached at email@example.com
Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.