TV technology finding a home on the battlefield

Harris Corp is applying football broadcast technology to help the military better use the staggering amounts of video and other data collected over Iraq and Afghanistan every day.
“This work is a very high priority,” Navy Commander Joe Smith, with the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said in an interview yesterday.
He said a recent demonstration project carried out by Harris in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp proved that commercial broadcast technologies could be used for the military, and accelerated efforts were now under way to test the new architecture in an operational setting.
The amount of video being collected by the military using remotely piloted planes and other aircraft, as well as sensors on the ground, has grown exponentially in recent years.
Nearly 400 000 hours of military airborne video alone were collected in 2008, up from just a couple of thousand hours a decade ago, and the US government now expects 80 % of future military surveillance to be captured on video.
Smith said it was premature to say if the effort would result in a full-blown competition, but other companies were also developing tools to manage full motion video. EchoStorm Worldwide, for instance, recently unveiled its newest technology in this area.
Harris, which some industry observers call the “800-pound gorilla” in the broadcast field, sees the area as having strong growth potential, Lucius Stone, director of government broadcast systems for Harris, told Reuters.
He said full motion video systems were one of six growth areas the company was pursuing, in addition to cybersecurity and health care, for instance.
“All I see is more imagery, more video and more requirements coming along, and our systems are just a big old catcher’s mitt for all of that,” Stone said, adding that Harris could program its Full Motion Video Asset Management Engine (FAME) system to send out automated alarms every time certain terms, individuals, or even license plates popped up.
During a joint military exercise in July, Harris for the first time used the same graphics engines that it uses for commercial broadcasts of football games the kind that feature players’ past statistics, show the line of scrimmage, and other important data, Stone said.
Data from a variety of sensors and archived material, analysts and warfighters could work together in the future to track a specific truck suspected of carrying weapons, or analyze the likelihood of a roadside bomb attack at a particular location, experts say.
Smith said his agency was working overtime to meet the growing need to capture, store, retrieve and analyze video.
Using commercial off-the-shelf technology has big advantages in terms of time-tagging disparate data and then collating it to improve analytical capabilities, Smith said.
Stone said the government’s intelligence and surveillance task force was earmarking $2 billion (R15 billion) to $3 billion (R23 billion) a year for non-traditional warfare, including use of full motion video.
Harris, which also builds military radios, recently introduced new tactical radios that allow individual troops in the field, command posts and vehicles to see real-time video, company officials said.
Some of the new technologies had already been deployed to troops or other agencies, others were still in the process of being fielded, Stone said. He declined to give details, saying the programs were classified.

Pic: Harris Corp logo