Mr Gagov, during that year you shall implement the perspective European Safeshore Project for defence against drones. How is the work of the Consortium, in which OPTIX has a leading role, going on?
The Safeshore Project is financed under an EU 2020 program. The goal is a Consortium of 12 universities, scientific institutions, companies and end users to create the prototype of a system for detection of drones and small boats within coastal waters. In the end of April we will complete with the gathering of all technical components in Brno, the Czech Republic. There will be also made the first tests. After that, there will be tests in different types of environment. We will start in Belgium, then the prototype will be tested in the conditions of Israel and in September we will be at final tests in Constanta, Romania. We have invited border offices of many countries, security services, and service members, who to assess the Safeshore system as potential customers. It is also of importance the fact that the idea of the EU to finance similar projects is business- the participants in the consortium to promote the new high-tech product on the market.
Will each of the partners be able to sell Safeshore?
Each of the business-partners. It is because we have an academy, scientific institutions, police services in Belgium, security services from Romania and Israel – there is no way for them to deal with that. Their work is not to sell. They are valuable with knowledge and experience in such a special direction as the struggle with drones.
Mr Gagov, please tell us a little more about the place of OPTIX in that Project.
We, from OPTIX, integrate optronics in Safeshore. Said in another way, we give the prototype the chance to “see” through our lenses, through optical components and the ideas of combination of cameras. The system is unique, because it combines for the first time many and different technologies for increasing the confidence that the detected in flight object is a drone. And not only that. Little floating objects are also detected. Through passive radio location it is also detected the operator of the unmanned aerial vehicles. In general, the flying object is detected by a laser, and cameras are directed to it – a day camera, a thermal vision camera, a specialized camera for surveillance in fog. The prototype, which we are developing, will have more means also for acoustic identification. Our partners from the scientific institutions have created, after the method of neural net and artificial intelligence, the capability Safeshore to identify only the drones. It is included in the system a large data base of birds and other objects, which fly, in order to distinguish them from the unmanned aerial vehicles. Of course, it is also used data base of all known drones, which are on the market. So that the system catches only drones, foresees their flight through the artificial intellect and follows them.
What is the size of the prototype of Safeshore?
Physically the system is to be installed on a trailer. There are some major components: two installations, in which 2D and 3D lidars are integrated – laser radars, which rotate and detect targets; on a separate installation, on the same trailer, it is put the three types of cameras, through which the optical detection is realized. All devices are powered through a generator.
At what distance you may detect a coming or a flying-by drone? What happens when you detect it?
The first estimates were all flying object within a radius of 500m to be detected. We have already gone beyond that limit and reach radii of over 600-700m. The unmanned aerial vehicles have no identification “own/foreign” and this is a legal problem for the type of the flight regime – registered or authorised. After that it shall be also legally settled the issue with the control of the drone flights. The benefits of the work with unmanned vehicles for the society are clear. But it is already clear that harms also may be caused by them. May something be delivered in prison by a drone? Yes, it may be. May the guard counter it? Rather not. It is the same in the whole world. But if Safeshore warns on time, then the response will be another. We have conversations with all national structures from the countries that participate in the Project on sending of messages to the bigger systems for defence of the borders – mainly in the European system EuroSur. We receive lots of interesting information from the border policemen about malicious use of drones. They use them for transportation of various forbidden goods, including excise ones. The other thing, for which human traffickers use them, is reconnaissance – before the group crosses the state border, for checking for policemen or cameras on the way.
Mr Gagov, how much will Safeshore cost? Who will be able to purchase that system?
The price of the Safeshore will be clarified after presentation of a business plan in front of the European Commission. It will be submitted up to two months. Then it will be defined the trading price. Then the business partners in the Consortium – these are OPTIX and 4 more companies, will be able to sell the product after receiving all parts from the other partners. As of the moment, the final assembly of the Safeshore system is being performed in the Czech Republic. It is not a problem the technology to be transferred to the other business-partners as well. Here it will also work the economic logic – is it profitable for us to assembly or it would be better each one to produce what it can best. When we analyse our business plan – we will find out. In principle, it is not possible 100 per cent defence of the borders against unmanned aerial vehicles. But in a certain perimeter it is absolutely achievable. The idea of OPTIX is first to present the Safeshore in front of the Bulgarian Border Police. Already at the initial phase of the Project, we have received an official letter from them that they are interested in that. The system is also interesting for important national sites like the NPP, ports, and airports.
How the Safeshore will be improved?
The unmanned aerial vehicles are getting improved, so we will also improve the ways of detecting and following them. The experience from the joint work with the partners under the Project by now gives us one more valuable thing – knowledge of the capabilities of each partner and trust in each other. We also have the discipline of work between different structures – from scientific to private manufacturers and state administration. Therefore we will be partners in future as well, because we forecast a successful business.
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Source: Capital Bulgaria