Thales image transmission system for defence force

August 2005 News

An airborne image transmission system has been designed and manufactured by a local company for fitment to British Westland Super Lynx maritime helicopters used by the South African Navy and Air Force.

Johannesburg-based digital video surveillance, data communications and image transmission and processing technology company, Thales Advanced Engineering, was entrusted with the development of the system, which because it is required for airborne use, has to meet strict criteria and specifications in terms of size, weight, temperature tolerance and overall robustness.

"The basic function of the system is to capture images and transmit these back to base," says Thales managing director Dr Bennie Coetzer. "To enable the helicopter to film the target area from a distance deemed to be both operationally safe as well as secure from an intelligence perspective, the system has to capture images of a very high resolution."

Helicopter pilots can select the specific image frames that should be transmitted back to headquarters, which can either be land-based or ship-based. "The solution includes all data communications from the helicopter but the ability to transmit images of sufficient quality is the key new technology," adds Dr Coetzer. "We hope to put this product into the new Gripen fighter jets the airforce is using and into SANDF utility helicopters."

The technology also has a number of commercial applications in the field of aerial surveillance, typically for land surveys, meteorological surveys and even game counts in national parks or reserves.

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