Aerostats are the most cost effective and adaptable persistent surveillance platforms available for military and civilian observation, providing stable flight dynamics in high or variable winds. Aerostats, so named because they use ‘aerostatic’ lift through the use of buoyant lighter than air gases, include free balloons, airships and tethered balloons.
Modern aerostat design supports a wide variety of payloads at altitudes ranging from a few hundred to several thousand feet. These lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles provide a stable, rapid to deploy, platform for persistent monitoring across a broad range of applications including: surveillance & intelligence gathering; reconnaissance; research; force protection; border & port security; disaster response; incident assessment, as well as environmental and atmospheric monitoring.
For the military, aerostats are a proven platform for communications with many thousands of hours of persistent flight time logged in Afghanistan providing intelligence to protect and direct troops on the ground, as well as constant monitoring of immediate areas surrounding forward bases.
While static tethered aerostats can be of significant scale, there is an increasing demand for smaller, highly flexible aerostats. These can be deployed by a small team of just two, from vehicles no larger than a civilian hatchback, delivering a discreet deployment with a small on-the-ground footprint. The many different sizes of aerostats and range requirements for civilian and military applications means that aerostat surveillance packages must optimise the balance of available frequency and power with size and weight to ensure both airworthiness and rapid deployment.
This capability to deploy an aerostat at a safe and covert distance from the surveillance target is a key requirement. But to achieve this also requires a live digital feed in high definition (HD) with a digital zoom capable of providing useful surveillance and identification at long range from video platforms mounted to an aerostat.
To deploy a smaller aerostat for a long period of persistent monitoring needs power consumption to be low, but HD video operation, with new video compression CODECs, places a considerable burden on radio bandwidth and range, needing efficient modulation techniques and increased processing power to maintain a clear signal.
Wood & Douglas creates and manufactures live video and telemetry surveillance systems that are rugged enough for day to day use, simple to deploy, and safe for use on both military and civilian aerostat platforms. Wood & Douglas video and telemetry packages support a wide range of aerostat designs providing HD Digital Video for Moving Objects (dVMo), to enable the highest quality live and remote video monitoring.
HD dVMo from Wood & Douglas is provisioned with enhanced link performance through the application of advanced COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing). This encoding technique, with excellent spectral efficiency, counters multipath signal interference to deliver a robust and resilient video feed highly suited for mounting to aerostat platforms.
Under optimum communications conditions the aerostat can provide a working range of up to 200 kilometres, enabling the camera to be turned on or off when ordered and with option for full ‘pan, tilt and zoom’, all controlled from the ground with Wood & Douglas’ RF modems and telemetry systems. With clear line of sight, live video transmission from an aerostat can exceed 80 kilometres, especially with remote switching from COFDM to transmitted video in standard definition (SD) which effectively doubles signal range.
The dVMo package is however designed with HD video in mind. Depending on the range and performance required, and with H.264 based video encoding, the package is capable of sending live imagery at full 1080p HD resolution. This enables operators to employ digital zoom with clearly defined results on screen, enabling surveillance targets to be located, identified and a relevant response formulated to meet an ever widening range of operational deployment scenarios within military and civilian airspace.
- Rugged, cost effective telemetry for aerostats
- High quality video transmission for accurate surveillance
- Long range operation