Sentient Vision Systems, an Australian innovator and specialist in vision systems, recognized as the inventor of the world’s first optical radar, is collaborating with Austrian-based Airborne Technologies and UAE-British Phoenix Aerospace, which specializes in integrating Aircraft, to establish a center of excellence in the Middle East for the integration of sensors, in conjunction with the launch of the AW-139 ViDAR SCAR (Self Contained Aerial Reconnaissance) Pod system in the UAE market.
This tripartite initiative was launched during the Dubai Airshow 2021 last November. Al-Jundi Journal met with Mr. Richard Glyn-Jones, Sentient Vision Systems’ Business Development Director in Europe, Middle East and North Africa region, and discussed with him the company’s fields of work, its participation in The Dubai Airshow, its new alliance and its latest products.. Below is the text of the interview:
Can we have an idea about your company, please?
Sentient Vision is a leading developer of Computer and Artificial Intelligence software solutions for defence and civilian projects. Since 1999 the company has specialised in imagery analysis, building practical solutions that automatically detect and tracking small moving objects over land or small objects on the surface of the ocean. Actively used in the field of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), the solutions enhance situational awareness and support strategic decisions.
The aim of participating in Dubai Airshow?
International events are important to us, and Dubai Airshow is an opportunity to not just showcase our solutions, but also importantly to meet with old and new customers and contacts. The wide spread of organisations and sectors represented, civilian, military, manned and unmanned, makes this an important event. Our prime objective was to introduce the AW-139 ViDAR SCAR (Self Contained Aerial Reconnaissance) Pod to the UAE and Middle East market.
The aim of your alliance with two other companies, Phoenix and Airborne Technologies? What capabilities will add to your company?
Sentient and Airborne Technologies have a long productive relationship providing airborne surveillance solutions and together with Phoenix Aerospace we have a winning combination playing to our respective strengths. We are very pleased to be working with both companies on this compelling ViDAR development. This collaboration will provide a fully certified, integrated ViDAR Optical Radar capability for maritime search and surveillance operations for our key customers. Airborne Technologies, being an EASA Design, Production & Maintenance Organisation uses its engineering and testing capability to conduct integration trials and Phoenix Aerospace will provide installation and on-the-ground support in the Middle East region and demonstrate the system to potential customers. Sentient Vision Systems’ own Field Integration Teams will continue to help customers with ViDAR SCAR-Pod integration and operator training.
What are the capabilities of the ViDAR SCAR Pod you are going to launch and what is peculiar about it compared with other similar systems?
The pods will carry the full ViDAR suite of ultra-high resolution day and night capable cameras as well as image processing hardware, providing a fully integrated system. The ViDAR SCAR-Pod is easily installed to the airframe, providing a highly efficient autonomous search capability that is able to detect targets that radars cannot find. Sentient and Airborne Technologies’ AW-139 Day/Night ViDAR SCAR Pod, provides round the clock search capabilities, with real time autonomous detection of SAR targets.
The ViDAR Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Computer Vision software scans the 180-degree electro optic and/or infra-red sensor’s imagery feed to detect targets invisible to a human operator. It then places a thumbnail image on the operator’s screen showing the bearing and range of the target, allowing for an automated cross-cue by the inspection turret. When searching small objects such as a life raft or a person in the water, ViDAR has up to 300 times greater search coverage than an aircraft without ViDAR meaning more lives saved and lower mission costs.
Why did you choose Dubai Airshow to launch you ViDAR SCAR Pod and launch a Middle East centre of excellence for sensor integration in the UAE?
Our collaboration with Airborne Technologies and Phoeoinix Aerospace had been developed over the last 6 months, and the timing was perfect to announce this capability. Phoenix Aerospace, with a logistics footprint and presence in the UAE will provide installation and on-the-ground support in the Middle East region. Our intention is to develop this regional centre of excellence for sensor integration, based out of the UAE.
What are the most prominent challenges facing the ISR systems today, and how the VIDAR system will help to overcome them?
ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance); demands real time or near real time data to allow accurate information and fast decision making. It could include battle space management, tactical deployment of assets, interdiction, and safety of life at sea. All demand robust systems that are able to operate in harsh environments. That is where our ViDAR pods are able to make the difference.
How do you assess your relations and cooperation with the UAE, its military, industry and its armed forces?
We are privileged to not only have excellent relations with the range of UAE defence and civilian agencies but also have our Kestrel software already operational with a number of customers in the region. Our ability to provide on the ground logistics, integration and customer support in the UAE and wider Middle East is built on our strong relationships with the concerned authorities, and individuals and senior and operational levels.
The Arabian Gulf market is witnessing great competition between defence companies, what makes your products attractive to customers?
We have over 3,000 [Kestrel] systems deployed. With a proven track record in the UAE where it is widely used on the fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks for military or law enforcement. Kestrel is compatible with any platform with a FLIR or Wescam-type turret.
What are your most important projects in the next phase?
We operate an Agile development programme to constantly upgrade and improve our software and hardware solutions. We are working on bringing ViDAR down to operate at surface levels as well as enhance the capability of the system to further reduce operator workload.
Do you expect to negotiate any deals with any party during the Show?
We are actively developing interest from a number of potential Middle Eastern customers in our ViDAR SCAR-equipped AW139 for search and rescue operations by day or at night.
What’s your impression of this edition of Dubai Airshow?
This was the first event for almost two years, and it surpassed all our expectations, both in terms of quality of visitors and quantity. Our stand was busy during the entire show, without any opportunity to break, from planned meetings and ‘walk-ons’. We were visited by UAE and other military and Government delegations. The support of the Australian Government has also been a considerable help in spotlighting our solutions here in the UAE and wider region.