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Providing aerial surveillance from tactical-grade balloons

Providing aerial surveillance from tactical-grade balloons
A Florida-based company has created an aerial surveillance system that comprises of a flight deck and an imaging unit attached to a tactical-grade balloon.
When it comes to monitoring vast areas from above, mounting a camera atop a pole or a roof was the only option until recently. Then came the drones, with their limited batteries and operational difficulties. Now, a Florida-based company has created an aerial surveillance system that comprises of a flight deck and an imaging unit attached to a tactical-grade balloon.

The company is IC Realtime and their solution is called Persistent Low Altitude Surveillance (PLAS). Speaking to, Robert Mitchell, Director of Government Practice & Law Enforcement Division at IC Realtime, indicated that the need for such a solution is on the rise.

“Law enforcement, border patrol and special event personnel remotely monitor events taking place in large areas,” Mitchell said. “This is typically known as Overwatch Surveillance. Given today’s volatile public safety climate, more-and-more government agencies and private institutions are realizing the importance of implementing this type of security.”

The technology behind the solution
The PLAS flight deck is a 6 x 3 x 3-inch carbon fiber housing that contains all command, control, and communications equipment as well as on-board microphones for drone detection.  These integrated components provide encrypted communications to either fixed or mobile command centers as well as authorized mobile users. The system is extremely light-weight. Total weight of the flight deck including an imaging unit is 5 pounds.

PLAS is compatible with any of IC Realtime’s video, thermal imaging and infrared cameras. Air sampling sensors such as CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense) can also be deployed through the PLAS on-board network connection. At present PLAS is delivered with an IC Realtime I-Sniper nighttime camera (.0 lux light handling capability).

Communications are sent by point-to-multipoint 5.8 GHz or public safety frequencies.  Transmission is sent via IP connectivity - as opposed to traditional remote control - which makes it possible for one operator to control multiple PLAS systems at once it is tethered via a proprietary carbon fiber power tether or mini CAT6 cable.  The solution may also be battery-operated.

Significantly, the PLAS balloon system is both industrial and tactical grade.  Designed by Altametry Aerostatic Engineering located in Miami, FL, it is comprised of an inner bladder and outer balloon that has a 6-foot circumference.  Depending on the mission, the balloon is filled with either hydrogen or helium.

What makes it special?
 According to the company, in case of border protection, emergency management / natural disasters and security, public safety, and intrusion defense at large-scale special events, a rapidly-deployable, mobile surveillance solution is paramount. PLAS can be used stationary or attached to personnel or vehicles to move about areas of interest.  Because the system requires no propulsion, its silent operation makes it advantageous for drone hunting and deterring operations.  While normally flown at 250 feet, it may be deployed as high as 455 feet. 

The company works with security systems integrators and government agencies to deploy its solution. 
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