The ocean offers vast opportunities to hide and perform illegal activities, and the threats on a nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are constantly growing. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, oil theft, smuggling and illegal trans-shipment are only some of the activities threatening a nation’s economy and sovereignty. “In recent years, we see an increase in both the number of ships reporting false identities [or ‘spoofing’] and in the number of vessels ‘going dark’ – turning off their AIS [Automatic Identification System] transmitters – while performing illegal activities at sea,” warns Shaul Mazor, Vice President of BIRD Aerosystems in Israel. In order to provide a complete solution for a nation’s maritime protection needs, including 24/7 protection of the maritime domain and Tier 1 Level of prevention against illegal activities at sea, BIRD Aerosystems developed OSCAR (Ocean Surveillance Control and Reconnaissance), an autonomous multi-sensor maritime awareness system that complements the ASIO Maritime Special Mission Aircraft solution. The Israeli company officially launched and demonstrated it for the first time at the Paris Air Show last summer. Speaking with our sister magazine NAVAL FORCES prior to DSEi in August, Shaul Mazor explains why this system is an ideal solution for a nation’s maritime protection requirements.
MON: What’s behind the OSCAR solution?
Mazor: OSCAR is an affordable and quick to deploy Maritime Domain Awareness [MDA] solution delivering real-time intelligence and threat assessments for the vessels within the country’s areas of interest.
MON: How does it work?
Mazor: OSCAR applies machine-learning algorithms on real-time data sources such as satellite and terrestrial AIS, satellite SAR/EO/IR, LRIT, coastal radars, tactical sensors and more, and uses it to detect, analyse and prioritise suspicious vessels while providing automatic alerts to the user once these threats are found. Once OSCAR detects potential threats, it plans an effective flight plan for the ASIO special mission aircraft, which is then loaded into the MSIS mission management system to enable an effective surveillance mission. Additionally, during the mission OSCAR receives the real-time tactical sensor data of the aircraft that is then further analysed and detect additional possible threats.
MON: Who can operate the system and how long does it take to learn it?
Mazor: OSCAR is fully autonomous and requires only minimal training for expert-level operation. With a modern, intuitive and user-friendly interface, simplified visual design and advanced multi-touch screen technology, it reduces operator workload to a minimum, [offering] enhanced real-time situational awareness. Specifically customised for the needs of each customer, OSCAR’s alerts and detection criteria may be customised to accommodate the behaviour and challenges in the customer’s maritime arena.
MON: To conclude, what are the system’s main advantages?
Mazor: OSCAR drives operational costs down and detection probabilities up. Its learning algorithms ensure a growing efficiency for future operations and improved detection capability of suspicious activities over time. It is platform-independent – with the same mission management system for all the tactical segments. Combined with a secure ‘over-the-cloud’ deployment, OSCAR does not require hefty IT installations and support of servers and computer equipment, thus reducing setup and operational costs. Using secure internet access, OSCAR’s data is always available and easily scaled up to multiple users across the nation.