Lost and Found: Where ViDAR Made the Difference – Chapter 3

Published on: April 2023

Expert Insight:
Replacing Miracles with AI – Chapter 3
Brent Bergan BD & Govt. Relations

Here’s Where ViDAR Made the Difference

Here’s a real-word example where ViDAR® came through on a PIW search.

In 2015 the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) upgraded its SAR fleet to the Challenger 604 fixed wing jet complete with a modern suite of maritime sensors, including a conformal 3-camera ViDAR® Pod.

AMSA use this technology as a core tool for their SAR missions.

In one of the many ViDAR® successes, a solo sailor, Nigel Fox, found himself in a storm and fell overboard 50nm north of Australia in the Arafura Sea. Fortunately for Nigel he was wearing a personal locator beacon which alerted the AMSA Challenger 604 to his position.

However, once on scene, the mission operators were unable to find Nigel – the seas were too rough to find a PIW, and they knew exactly where the beacon was coming from!

Despite this, the crew unknowingly flew over Nigel numerous times because they could not see him in the swell. Luckily ViDAR® located Nigel at 3.4 nm flying 190 kts at 500 ft.

It was lucky because you never know if a locator beacon is actually attached to something – often they can be false alarms. It makes me wonder how much time the crew had on scene, and if it wasn’t for ViDAR® then the result may have been very different.

AMSA Aircraft mission coordinator Ollie Marin, who was aboard the aircraft which located Mr Fox, described the difficulty in finding him and dropping the life raft.

“What actually picked him up was three cameras on the nose of the aircraft called ViDAR®, which is actually a technology to automatically detect different colour and shape based on the background of the water” he said.

“Thanks to Nigel’s bright lifejacket, the cameras automatically took a picture and gave his position, and then we set up to drop a life raft.”

In Conclusion

I’m really excited about promoting the benefits of ViDAR® to the SAR market. One of the greatest strengths of ViDAR® is simply the versatility of the system. ViDAR® needs cameras, a processing board and Sentient provides ViDAR® API Mission system plug in.

ViDAR can be integrated on small UAS, or the largest crewed aircraft to augment the vitally important mission of maritime detection. We’re looking forward to the continued development of this technology and the inclusion of advanced AI processing to augment and enhance these challenging mission sets

Image credit : Carnival Valor Cruise Ship (3) by Chris Gent from Orlando, Fla., USA

About the author
Brent Bergan joined Sentient in July 2021 after retiring from the US Coast Guard following a 23 year career where he flew search and rescue helicopters for 13 years and worked in international affairs for eight years. He has written for aerospace media including the helicopter publication, Vertical Magazine, for 13 years.