C2 Systems – Sensor fusion architecture

Multiplying efficiency

HENSOLDT has a long history producing high-quality sensors that enable military and security personnel to protect critical infrastructure, bases and borders. While these sensors are powerful by themselves, we have boosted their effectiveness even further by developing advanced command and control (C2) solutions that fuse multiple sensors together. We will explore what this means for today’s security forces.

Significance of C2 systems

Sensors play a key role in all military and security operations today, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, as well as threat detection for platforms, infrastructure, and borders. These include electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) cameras, radars, direction finding equipment, and other detectors.

While sensors are fantastic assets by themselves, their effectiveness can be multiplied significantly when fused together in real-time to give a common operational picture.

How is this achieved?

The answer is a scalable mix of software and hardware that can network multiple sensors together and then fuse the data, which is then presented to an operator through an easy-to-use operating system.

This is commonly referred to as Command and Control (C2) software, which ultimately allows operators to detect and track incursions sooner and evaluate them quicker as to whether they pose a threat or whether it is a false alarm.

Just as sensors are specialized on certain functionality, C2 solutions and their functionality are specific to the application – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. These applications include naval combat management, ship navigation, airborne ISR, tactical land & airborne electronic warfare, land vehicle mission signals intelligence, airborne mission management & ground control, fleet asset management through to security solutions, each requiring C2 applications that fits that purpose. Some are very customer and project specific for highly customised solutions while others are more product orientated, standardised and market segment focussed.

Improving the operator´s coordination

For commanders, effective C2 software allows them to coordinate an appropriate response and allocate adequate resources in a timely manner.

Depending on customer requirements, HENSOLDT has a range of specialist C2 solutions that can fuse data from a variety of sensors, substantially improving the protection of critical infrastructure, bases and borders. These C2 solutions can exploit the large amounts of data being generated from the sensors and use technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) for image processing and threat detection.

 

“The idea is that these C2 systems consolidate the data, provide a task focussed situational picture and differentiate between alarms and non-alarms, simplifying the use for the operator. The operators don’t have to worry about where the sensors are or how they work, that’s taken care of by our advanced C2 systems.”

Michael Hirschner
Head of Security Solutions

Security Applications with two clicks to every functionality

One of the C2 software suites developed by HENSOLDT is known as CxEye, which was originally developed by HENSOLDT UK as a way to combine radar sensors with EO/IR cameras – as well as other sensors – for land-based security applications.

“The idea was to create a piece of software that brings together different sensors and create a distributed network so that the right person can see the right bit of information at the right time, but fundamentally keep it very, very simple” explained Jonathan Field, Vice President International Business Development. “Traditionally, software architecture has been very complicated, but with CxEye the idea was to create a piece of software that within two clicks can get you to every functionality.” 

CxEye’s software is as intuitive as today’s smartphones and tablets, and this ease-of-use means that operators require a minimum amount of training and do not need to be experts. Possible threats are overlaid on a satellite map display for situational awareness, and operators can then access sensor feeds for threat assessment through the same interface:

CxEye can be used for perimeter surveillance, border protection, and critical national infrastructure and base protection. As the threat from drones has expanded over recent years, CxEye has also evolved to address this threat and now forms a key part of the HENSOLDT Xpeller counter-UAV solution.

Thanks to its open architecture standards, Xpeller allows the fusion of various sensors and effectors – underpinned by CxEye software – which means that security and military forces can detect and neutralise UAVs far quicker than was possible before, even in crowded urban settings. Security forces can utilise a single mast solution, which incorporates all the required sensors on a strategically placed mast.

This is now expanded to allow multiple sensors and distributed systems utilising a large range of HENSOLDT’s radars, cameras, RF sensors and jammers along with fusion and AI at various levels for configured solutions to fit each purpose.

Combining camera and radar to one operational picture

Another powerful C2 suite known as ASSESS, was pioneered by the company’s Optronics division. It was originally developed as control software for HENSOLDT’s successful NightOwl M long-range day and night camera, but its capabilities grew as a response to customer requirements.

For one such project, HENSOLDT deployed a number of masts with both cameras and radars along a border, which could either be controlled from a shelter located at the mast, or controlled via a central HQ, through the ASSESS architecture. Security forces could detect pedestrians, vehicles, or low-flying objects using the radar sensors, observe them using the long-range cameras, classify the targets in the tactical map and distribute this classification to every security operator. Even mobile forces are equipped with ASSESS allowing for blue force tracking in the headquarters and an up to date operational picture for these interception teams.

 

“We started the development of ASSESS with the goal of achieving a real networked solution with modern technology, including modern IP-based interfaces for the cameras. Now, ASSESS allows you to have user-based access to resources and to combine the camera imagers and radar to one common operational picture.”

Dr. Lutz Höring
Head of Design for Ground Based Systems

ASSESS can also integrate a tasking system that will initiate appropriate responses for intercept personnel, which gives a comprehensive C2 functionality, and can be run by both high-end and low-end systems. Video and data recording ensure that recaps and debriefings are possible and high level automation functions like scanlines, video alarm zones, map alarm zones and others ease the daily business of the security personnel. The Linux-based software is also adaptable depending on who is using it, with the human-machine interface and privacy level matching the role of whoever has logged on.

Potentials by AI & deep-learning algorithms

HENSOLDT is constantly working on ways to improve its C2 technologies further, both from a hardware and software perspective. This includes continuously improving camera image quality, which allows users to see targets at greater distances and the software to classify objects from further away.

Additional capabilities are also being enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI), including advanced image processing and exploitation, as well as anomaly detection where sensors can alert operators to abnormal behaviour using deep-learning algorithms. The introduction of greater AI will mean HENSOLDT’s C2 solutions can respond even quicker and more accurately to threats, while still retaining its much-valued ease of use for operators.