Past Features

June 4, 2017

"Unique system" links drones
and ground sensors

Published March 28, 2017 by -- "As drones get ever more capable, a company called ARA has married them to a system of ground sensors that can automatically dispatch a drone to monitor suspicious foot traffic. That means border protection and military perimeter monitoring. " -- March 28, 2017
Pathfinder and drones
“If you're a bad guy, or maybe someone trying to cross the U.S. Border, you definitely don't want to be in this picture.” So begins a short video produced by
    "It's part of a unique system of drones and ground sensors called Pathfinder. We got a look at the system at AUVSI Exponential in Dallas.”
    (AUVSI is the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. AVweb was attending their trade show held in Dallas between May 8 and May 11, 2017.)
   Robert Quinn of ARA, Inc., explains to AVweb that Pathfinder is actually a system of seismic sensors that his company has produced for the Army. ARA Web "Pathfinder is the premier footstep and vehicle detection system designed for both the commercial and military markets.”
    Quinn explained, “The detections are sent to a little receiver, and this receiver receives a radio signal , the computer processes the signal inside the single board computer that processes the detection that comes from the buried sensor.... it gets received by a computer processor algorithm that say, yes it is a foot step or a vehicle, depending on what the customer sets the sensor at.”
    “In this past year we have been able to automatically send the location directly to an autopilot of small UAV, whether it can be a fixed wing that can fly for an hour and a quarter, or a quad rotor like the one behind me."
    According to the ARA, the Pathfinder system comes in a basic package of eight sensors that link to a processor by radio. This video by ARA suggests human footstep detection at about 20 meters --- or sixty feet.
    Assuming a human detection range of 60-feet, 8 sensors the sensors could be positioned to cover an area of about 480 feet. The processor would look at the data from these sensors and send an alarm by radio. Up to 60 sensors can be used at one time, possibly extending coverage to 3/4 of a mile.
How different from SEIDARM?
    In SEIDARM, a local computer uses sophisticated algorithms from five miles of sensors (110 pods) and classifies signals as humans, vehicles or aircraft simultaneously. Human footsteps are detected at more than 500 feet. Each five-mile SEIDARM segment uses only one radio link to send alarms to the end user (U.S. Border Patrol, for example), whereas each Pathfinder system could use up to 60 for less than one mile. SEIDARM can launch a drone to automatically to send live video to the end user.
    An effort by Customs and Border Protection to expand ground sensor coverage by using radio links was abandoned four years ago.
    In summary, the ARA Pathfinder/drone system is entirely different from SEIDARM/IDENTICOPTER, which can provide simultaneous detection of humans, vehicles and aircraft over the entire border, free of radio frequency management issues --- at ten times the human detection range of Pathfinder.