Defence, security and technology sys-tems company BAE Systems says unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasing within the defence industry in South Africa and worldwide.
In Massachusetts, US, BAE Systems has introduced one of the smallest multi-spectral sensors available for unmanned systems. “This innovation will help improve soldier situational awareness by reducing the time required to identify targets,” notes the company, adding that soldiers need the ability to process, understand and engage with their environment at any time, under any conditions.
Further, the company’s Digitally Fused Sensor System (DFSS) offers a combination of multiple capabilities in a single sensor so that soldiers can intuitively assess a scene using an unmanned vehicle in time-critical situations.
“With sensor fusion, soldiers don’t need to switch back and forth between the daytime camera and the infrared camera, and then try to compare the images in their heads, as they are forced to do with existing systems,” says BAE Systems business development manager for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions Eric Hansen.
“Our new technology allows warfighters to quickly determine whether people or vehicles are hiding and if they present a threat,” he adds.
The DFSS allows soldiers to see laser desig- nator spots even in darkness, making it easier to coordinate and confirm target marking using UAVs. The shading and high-definition imagery provide depth to the scene, and rapid target acquisition is possible when the system indicates potential problem areas.
“By blending low-light and infrared images in a single display, fighting forces get a broad range of imaging options, including full day- light, deep shadows, dawn and dusk, illu-minated night operations and darkness,” says Hansen.
Meanwhile, the company notes that unmanned aerial, ground, or underwater vehicles provide the image through a sensor mounted on to the vehicle. “The system adjusts its own settings to each mission’s environ-mental conditions so that operating forces do not need to choose between an electro-optical or an infrared sensor before launching the unmanned vehicle,” notes BAE Systems.
The company highlights that this flexibility and adaptability is important, as mission durations are becoming longer and new tactics and surveillance techniques are being explored.
Further, BAE Systems reports that the defence industry is facing several challenges with the decrease in defence budgets, especially in the US, that is affecting the global defence industry.
“Besides the decrease in budgets, there are also many more competitors, especially in the onshore environment, than what would traditionally have been encountered,” says BAE Systems business development and com- munications director Natasha Pheiffer, adding that governments are generally moving towards building their own industries and, therefore, not buying exclusively from large, traditionally well-established companies.
The company notes that the consolidation of services is also becoming a trend in the industry. “Partial manufacturing or final assembly of products in the customer’s country are becoming increasingly important, as this saves time and money,” says Pheiffer.
Meanwhile, BAE Systems is also working on several export opportunities with its RG series of wheeled armoured vehicles, as well as several opportunities for remote weapon systems, which will result in gunners remaining in the relative protection of the vehicle.
“South Africa has a strong defence industry with capabilities across air, land and at sea,” says Pheiffer, adding that currently protection and mobility in defence operations form the current focus.
The major trend is for companies to develop the most mobile, highly protected armoured vehicles to shield soldiers in combat or peacekeeping operations and in border control conditions,” she adds.