A plurality of fatal plane crashes occur right where people expect them to: at takeoff or landing.
The knowledge of where a crash is likely to happen can be used to find flaws and risks, as well as make aircraft safer in the future. On Nov. 15, Motorola Solutions announced the installation of special security cameras at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, the home of U.S. Strategic Command. The goal is for information provided by the cameras to provide crash data, beyond the black box.
The system uses Avigilon H4 Pro cameras, which can provide an image quality of up to 30 megapixels. To ensure that the high resolution doesn’t overload base bandwidth or memory capacity, the system sends a low-resolution stream to the viewing workstation until the person operating it zooms in. Once zoomed in, the person can see the area in full resolution.
Of particular note, too, is that the camera is designed to work in low-light conditions, allowing it to record better detail and information on fires and hard landings at all hours.
“At this point, the system is being used to view incoming and outbound aircrafts as well as activity on the flight line,” said John Kedzierski, senior vice president of video security solutions at Motorola Solutions. “The goal was to get enough detail of an aircraft to recreate a mishap and analyze the flight path of the aircraft.”
Inspiration for using the high-resolution camera system to record flights at air bases came from a crash in 2010 at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. In that accident, low-resolution video helped officials understand parts of the cause of the incident, but left some questions unanswered. As designed, the Avigilon system can provide more information for when crashes happen in the future.
“Details such as flap position, landing gear being retracted or extended are all easily discerned several miles away from the runway,” Kedzierski said.
Information captured by the cameras can also be used for training pilots on everything from hazards during taxiing, long landings, hard landings, or landings and takeoffs at unusual angles, allowing pilots to learn from the mistakes and errors of others.
With the camera system in place at Offutt, the U.S. Air Force is interested in turning captured information into better analytics for flight paths. Additionally, the information recorded could be adapted to purposes like automated drone detection, or identifying objects in paths to which they don’t belong.
For now, though, the cameras just provide a persistent high-resolution surveillance presence, ready and watching so that when an accident happens, people can take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.