New ‘eyes’ for the SA Navy


The CSIR has researched and developed a short-range optical surveillance and tracking system known as the Wide Area Surveillance Prototype (WASP).

The latest CSIR newsletter reports that the research, which was performed in conjunction with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, aimed to fulfil a need of the South African Navy (SAN) to have additional “eyes” onboard a naval vessel that will detect and warn the crew against possible visual threats at sea and in hostile territory.

The WASP as a short range visual surveillance system provides close range multiple target information, calculated trajectories and visual identification to ship’s command on a 3D terrain map. It also has the capability to interface with other surveillance systems.

The system passively observes the scene and requires no moving parts, making it both covert and robust. One of the advantages is that it requires only one person to keep an eye on the surveillance system as opposed to a number of sailors fulfilling the post of “lookout.”

The 60 degree real time image is obtained via four cameras (15 degree field of view, 1360×1024 pixels), stitched into a 4000×800 pixel image at approximately 20 frames per second.

WASP runs on commercial off-the-shelf hardware with specially developed software, which uses adaptive background modelling to identify possible threats to track. An omnidirectional version, dubbed WASP360, is currently in development.