Protecting Us All

Greece, May 2004. The Olympic Games have returned to the land that invented them. The world’s biggest sporting event has attracted tens of thousands of tourists, spectators, organizers, and amateur athletes. The Greek security authorities are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to prevent a large-scale terrorist attack from blemishing the Olympic Games. After all, the war in Iraq has not ended. Al Qaida is still omnipresent, and there seems to be an unprecedented global rise in terrorist activity.

At one of the climactic moments of the Olympics, when the giant stadium, built specially for the Olympics, is packed with people, a black rubber boat makes its way under cover of darkness towards the brightly lit beach. Three men and a woman emerge, dressed in black, their faces covered by dark cloth. Their rowing was silent, and they have taken care to remain bent over in the boat, in order to remain undetected by the Greek shore patrol. They are aware of the port’s defenses, and have therefore chosen a rocky, abandoned inlet, to which they have directed their small boat.

A small suitcase rocks back and forth in a dry, protected place on the bottom of the boat. It contains a special cargo from one of the countries in the former Soviet Union. This suitcase, nicknamed “The Olympic Torch”, is designed to illuminate the Games, and establish new records for international terrorist attacks.

The splash of the waves on the sides of the boat is almost inaudible, and only a few meters remain before the rocky shore is reached. A small van has been left there, and is waiting for the four people. Behind them, almost on the horizon, a Greek shore patrol boat appears, scanning the sea with projectors and radar systems.

The four terrorists know that they are safe – the boat’s radar profile is so low as to be almost invisible, and its slow, undetectable progress was designed to bring them safely to shore.

A few kilometers away, in a land-based surveillance station, the lookout force spies an object flickering between the waves. An electronic monitoring system with state-of-the-art electrooptic sensors automatically locks in on the strange object that has disrupted the picture of the sea and waves, and draws the attention of the operator to the disturbance. Two short pushes of a button enable the operator to direct the system manually, and zoom in on the strange object, which has almost vanished between the waves. A more detailed zooming image reveals a small boat with four figures in an area where no one is supposed to be.

A short report to the control room about the presence of the suspicious objects is delivered to the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) command post, two of whose airplanes are always airborne. The land-based lookout post’s laser beams zero in on the rubber boat, with the UAV operator assisting in the location of the moving target. At the same time, special mobile interception force teams converge on the location, while laser beams illuminate the target with infrared light. The story has a happy ending.

If this script actually takes place during the upcoming Olympics, it is reasonable to assume that land, sea, and aerial systems developed by Hod Hasharon based Controp Precision Technologies Ltd. will be responsible, in part, for the discovery of the incursion.

Since 1988, Controp has been manufacturing combined electrooptic equipment and systems, such as precision surveillance systems and stabilized systems installed on various fixed and mobile platforms. To put it simply, the company manufactures day/night cameras mounted on light aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, miniature UAVs, pedestals tens of meters high, and on the roofs of buildings. Dozens of these cameras have already been ordered for the port security system in Greece. Once its product line included a large variety of payload cameras for aircraft, many of which are used in operations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Controp decided to bring some of its airborne technology down to earth, and adapt the systems for use on land.

The systems include a day sensor that provides images with the quality of a live TV broadcast, a night sensor (FLIR) that identifies thermal signatures, a laser pointer for marking targets, and a system for measuring laser ranges (LRF).

“We began developing the land systems, headed by the CEDAR and SPIDER intruder detection systems, based on payload technology, “says Controp CEO Shlomo Nir. Nir, a former manager of electro-optic development in the Israel Air Force, teamed up in the late 1980s with Eli Ben Aharon, Yehezkiel Amber, and Sason Benado, who resigned from Israel Aircraft Industries. The four men jointly founded Controp, which is now seeking to boost its sales of land, as well as airborne, equipment.

“The para-security market is a large market. It includes all the important strategic and civilian installations requiring protection, such as airports, power stations, bridges, oil fields, water sources, etc.,” Nir explains – in short, any location that the authorities are willing to spend $250,000-300,000 per system to defend, not including the cost of personnel and engineering adjustments that must be made.

In the same context, sources close to the company hinted that a connection had recently been made with a supplier of systems to the US for installing Controp’s systems in various strategic installations. This is part of the efforts by many Israeli companies, including Controp, to assist American activities in combating terrorism in Central Asia, including Afghanistan. Another Israeli company has already purchased dozens of Controp’s CEDAR systems to secure Greek seaports during the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The principal difference between the CEDAR and SPIDER systems is that the SPIDER can be installed on unstable platforms, such as stationary or mobile high altitude poles. In various locations, the Americans use SPIDER mounted on a telescopic platform rising from a Hummer field vehicle. SPIDER also has longer-range surveillance capabilities. With CEDAR, on the other hand, all the systems and sensors can be replaced and the level of performance and cost can be adjusted to varying requirements.

It’s no secret that day-night lookout systems have become fairly basic equipment for security agencies. Controp’s advantage lies in its capability to detect penetration attempts automatically. The system is able to scan a given sector, and discover incursions there. You could say that SPIDER and CEDAR do exactly what a vulture does when it flies in search of prey. The vulture doesn’t spot its victim from the altitude at which it flies; it sees movement. When it identifies movement on the ground, the vulture focuses its vision, spies a mouse or a falling leaf, and decides whether or not to attack. Controp’s systems work on the same basis. The systems continually scan the area. The moment they detect any movement whatsoever in the picture, they carry out examination and verification, lock in on the movement, and deliver a warning. At this stage, the systems can be directed manually, or allowed to continue scanning.

Controp recently received a Ministry of Defense prize for imaging, after it developed a thermal imaging system for night surveillance, with a special proprietary continuous optical zoom lens. This lens eliminates the sudden jump between normal viewing, and viewing with the type of zoom lens usually used in surveillance systems with night vision cameras. This sudden jump often causes the viewer to lose sight of the target. Anyone who has ever worked with surveillance systems knows what a crucial role the continuous zoom can play in retaining the target in constant view.

What lies ahead? Nir says, “We’re continuing our development, while intensifying our efforts in the para-security market. Our land-based operating systems have been installed all along Israel’s borders, and at sensitive sites, and we’re getting more and more inquiries from the US market. We’ve also recently established a permanent office in New York, and one of the things now being considered is security for the airport in New York, on the sidefacing the sea. Our system is capable of scanning the sea, and locating swimmers and rubber boats concealed by the waves. Although there are quite a few companies in the surveillance and reconnaissance field, our equipment has unique capabilities in automatic identification, surveillance, and scanning in difficult conditions, such as those at sea. Our advantage lies in the brains of the system, not just its ability to see.”

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