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Airborne Surveillance System Keeps Security Forces Safe

December 1, 2002
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Air Force Security Forces personnel supporting Operation Enduring Freedom have been equipped with the latest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology, the Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System (FPASS).


The system allows security forces to see beyond base perimeters and can provide a rapid visual assessment of detected threats.

The Electronic Systems Center's Force Protection System Program Office recently completed delivery of the initial Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System to deployed security forces personnel supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. "This system adds an enhanced layer of protection for bases around the world by allowing forces personnel to see beyond base perimeters," said Colonel Howard Borst, director, Force Protection System Program Office.

Each system consists of a ground station - computer, displays, recorder and communication equipment; six UAVs; a remote imagery viewing terminal; interchangeable payloads of color cameras and thermal imagers for day and night time imagery; in addition to transportation cases and launch equipment. "The system is not intended to be 'backpackable' but it is easily transported by a general purpose vehicle," said Major John Crennan, Delay Denial Systems Division Chief.

The UAV, dubbed "Desert Hawk" by Lt. General T. Michael Moseley, commander, 9th Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces, is small in size, light weight and very simple to operate. The airframe is manufactured from damage resistant molded material that is designed for limited field repair. Desert Hawk is able to operate from a 100 x 100 m clearing without a runway. "FPASS was specifically designed to be used by cops," said Major Mike Giger, FPASS program manager. "It extends the range that security forces can monitor without putting troops into harms way," he said. "This system is not intended to replace troops, it is a critical surveillance tool that will protect and save lives by providing essential real time information on potential threats," said Borst.

A two-man crew operates the system. To launch the UAV, operators use a bungee cord catapult. The system is powered by rechargeable batteries that have a one-hour life span or if available, can also be operated by using commercial AC power. The UAV is designed to fly primarily at altitudes of 300-500 feet and sends back to the operators' real time overhead video data.

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