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Dynetics Debuts Surveillance Radar for Critical Infrastructure

Dynetics Debuts Surveillance Radar for Critical Infrastructure Homeland Security TodayRecognizing the importance of closing security gaps in critical infrastructure, Dynetics has introduced a ground surveillance radar specifically designed to meet the perimeter security challenges of a critical infrastructure environment.

The new GroundAware CS4 Radar provides critical infrastructure security stakeholders with the real-time information needed to instantaneously respond to intruders before they breach a perimeter, including the restricted areas at airports, power plants, utility facilities, water systems, prisons, and other facilities.

Headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, Dynetics began its career with a contract for air and missile defense applications and grew to become an expert in radar. A few years ago, the company’s former CEO challenged the Dynetics team of engineers to develop a brand new capability, rather than an adaption of a military-grade product repurposed for perimeter security.

The result was a radar utilizing an S-band, a radiofrequency band chosen for its ability to operate in all weather conditions. Tom Gates, Director of Product Marketing at Dynetics, told Homeland Security Today that one of the big issues with ground radar is false alarms, which are often weather induced, such as tree branches moving.

“Effectively, this leads operators to turn off the alarms. We have experience in all weather conditions, including desert conditions, heavy snow, and tropical, with heavy rains, storms, winds, and humidity,” Gates explained.

The GroundAware radar monitors 2,000 acres with a single unit, which enables the monitoring of extensive perimeters and grounds for potential security threats posed by humans, animals, vehicles and aircraft. This long-range surveillance capability provides greater lead time for responding to intrusions, while eliminating the costly need for multiple short-range sensors to cover areas of equivalent size.

“GroundAware can survey a 120 degree field of view out to beyond 3 and half kilometers. That is about 2,000 acres with a single sensor,” Gates explained. “Rather than having a bunch of shorter range sensors, whether they be radars or cameras, all of which can be expensive due to unit costs and supporting infrastructure, it is much easier to put a single GroundAware radar in place.”

One area of vulnerability that could be mitigated with the help of surveillance radars is electrical substation perimeters. On April 16, 2013, a sniper attack on Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Metcalfe Substation left 17 electrical transformers severely damaged, resulting in over $15 million worth of damage. The attack, which lasted only 19 minutes, exposed the vulnerability of critical substations, as well as the crucial need for security improvements at electrical utility facilities across the United States.

There has also been speculation that the attack was a trial-run for a much larger attack on the nation’s power grid.

Airport perimeters are another area of vulnerability. In 2014, a teenager was able to breach the perimeter at Mineta San Jose Airport and stowaway in the wheel well of a flight to Hawaii undetected. The young man survived and had intended no harm, but the incident raises significant concerns affecting airport passenger security.

Gates said airport perimeters and electrical substations like Metcalfe are exactly the kind of places where the GroundAware radar would be able to pick up targets that are coming at the substation, whether on vehicle or on foot.

GroundAware can automatically classify and distinguish different types of threats (human, animal, vehicle and aircraft using the data captured from detected threats, including location, heading, speed, size, and gait movement. Using this data, critical infrastructure owners and operators are able to cut down on false and nuisance alarms.

The GroundAware system is comprised of eight radio antennas, each of which are scanning constantly at 120 degree field of view, and each antenna is scanning that field of view four to five times per second. Gates explained that the intelligence and algorithms the company has built into the system, which are adjustable, allow the radar to identify permanent objects, such as a tree, in that field of view.

With the configurability of the system, critical infrastructure owners and operators can identify those objects that are permanent fixtures and account for them accordingly, reducing the number of false alarms.

“We don’t get false alarms—if GroundAware says something is there, it’s there,” said Gates. “However, we can produce nuisance alarms, i.e. something you don’t really care about as a customer. But the ability to configure alarm zones drastically reduces nuisance alarms. In the vast majority of cases, we are correct, whether it is detecting birds all the way down to small humans. We can even distinguish between aircraft, and large vehicles, like fuel trucks, in an airport environment."

Gates added, “And, though we are just beginning this, we recently successfully demonstrated at a Department of Defense sponsored test event the use of GroundAware for detecting and tracking unmanned aerial vehicles. At this event, we showed our ability to simultaneously track drones, boats, ground vehicles, and humans with the same sensors.”

Furthermore, the radar is designed to be easily integrated with existing security infrastructure, including video cameras, video management systems, and other sensors and systems. For example, when a camera system is integrated with the radar, the camera will be cued to slew to that target and the radar will direct that camera to follow the target.

Or, if a target entersan alarm zone and the customer has flood lighting set up to scare off an intruder, that lighting can be automatically triggered to flood that area, and hopefully scare off that person.

“GroundAware is not meant to supplant, it is meant to augment and expand,” Gates said. 

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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