EditorSpeak: Defence Applications Driving Sensor Technology

EditorSpeak: Defence Applications Driving Sensor Technology


Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Managing Editor

The rapid advances in sensor technology in the last few decades are largely as a result of their applications in defence and internal security. Battlefield surveillance is an essential prerequisite for conduct of modern warfare, with sensors being deployed on land, aerial platforms, in space and underwater, to keep a 24×7 watch over the battle zone. They are required by internal security agencies for border surveillance, detection of explosives, chemical and biological agents and to assist in crime detection. Sensor based access control and intrusion detection systems are a must even in civil establishments.

The Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap (TPCR), recently released by the MoD, which is derived from the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan 2012-27 (LTIPP), lists the requirement of high end sensor technology for India’s defence forces. Some of the critical sensors that need to be developed include advanced Earth Observation (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors with optical correlation. Sensors for targeting and weapon seekers are an area where indigenous capability is very limited. Laser based systems for detection and imaging of targets need to be developed. Though we are strong in basic fundamental radar technology, however, its practical application for defence purposes in sensors is lacking. Radar technologies are required for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Inverse SAR (ISAR), with enhanced processing capabilities for our manned and unmanned aerial platforms. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars with multimode capabilities would be required. Electro-optical devices may not be effective in fog, smog and dust, radars would be required in such conditions.

Much needs to be done for enhancing the night fighting capability of our mechanised and infantry units, which are currently largely ‘night blind.’ Passivisation of active IR sensors has been achieved but there is a need to graduate to Thermal Imaging (TI) based devices with enhanced all-weather performance. Our border surveillance systems require sophisticated ground based sensors, both attended and non attended, and can be a mix of electro optical, thermal, seismic and acoustic devices. Nanotechnology can help in miniaturisation of sensors and in designing unobtrusive micro audio bugs.

With a variety of sensors deployed in large numbers, data is flowing in continuously. Satellites provide imagery from space and aircraft and UAVs provide full motion streaming videos. The EM spectrum is constantly monitored to collect valuable SIGINT. Also, there is HUMINT provided by ground troops, obtained from informants and through interrogation. “We’re going to find ourselves in the not too distant future, swimming in sensors and drowning in data,” said Lt Gen David Deptula, Deputy Chief of Staff, ISR, USAF. There is just too much data pouring in from myriad sources to be handled manually. The process of storing, filtering, synthesising this data and communicating it in time as actionable intelligence has to be automated. The challenge that industry faces today is to ‘make sense from the sensors’- develop technologies that make this task easier, faster and less manpower-intensive.