Pal Aerospace Dash 8

ViDAR on PAL’s Dash 8s for counter-narcotics missions – Part 2

Published on: April 2024

The Snowbirds of Curacao ( Part 2)

Interagency Collaboration

Before 2021, there were a lot of air assets supporting the counter drug efforts in the Caribbean. U.S Air Force reserve squadrons would fly Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft along with U.S Navy P-3 Orion patrol platforms. As global threats have increased, however, the U.S. Department of Defense has withdrawn much oft hat capability for missions elsewhere. The PAL aircraft and crews are one of the few remaining assets covering this vast region on a regular basis. The upgraded Dash 8 is perfectly suited to affect the end game- directing surface vessels and helicopters to make those drug busts, seizing tons of cocaine, or to affect a rescue. At times, in the pitching sea states of the Caribbean, detecting the go-fasts and other targets is a challenge. Sometimes luck plays a role. The sensors can pick up a small gas can floating on the water 160km away, Laland noted, but I’ve had many cases of flying along on a routine patrol, and it’s just looking of the window, and then, “Hey, a go-fast.”

The AI-enabled ViDAR system can help fill gaps when the radar can’t build that comprehensive picture in higher sea states or if it’s trying to detect objects made with non-ferrous metals.”Drug packages floating in the water are a big thing for us,” said Lalande, and the ViDAR and cross-cued stabilized cameras work well spotting and identifying those small targets. The fused system “is a masterpiece,” he said.

Future Prospects

As the demand for complex ISR platforms continue to grow globally, business will continue to expand for PAL Aerospace. Smaller countries without the resources to acquire and support aircraft and other assets and support aircraft and other assets “need a one-stop shop,” noted Ben Boehm, senior executive. And that is a strength PAL can provide. The company offers a four-in-one solution: It builds out and missionizes aircraft; it has the software company, CarteNav, for specific mission systems; it also has the ability to fully integrate sensors and mission suites; and it has the operators to fly and execute operations globally. It’s a level of commitment to mission success that has resulted in an impressive 99.8 per cent reliability record. On recent operations, PAL has flexed where needed to pull in additional advanced sensors through its CarteNav ownership to meet mission requirements. This adaptability will be critical as PAL continues to deliver complex, missionized aircraft such as Dash 8s, King Airs and, in the future, business jets.

PAL holds over 6,000 supplemental type certificates for turboprop and jet aircraft. Like many others in ISR operations, PAL’s future focus is on data. ” Everything is about data right now, the recency of data and how do you get the data in real time no matter where the airplane is, no matter what the airplane is doing,” said Boehm. The company is currently working on extremely high data throughputs- more than 100 megabytes per second-using both line of sight and beyond line of sight systems. Technological enhancements aside, PAL’s secret to success would appear to be its focus on the mission. ” We kind of pride ourselves as just being part of the team,” said Smith. And the standards for that teamwork have been set very high in Curacao. PAL’s crews have accumulated a vast knowledge of maritime operations, and their impact on missions in the Caribbean has been substantial. With extensive experience in both engineering and operations, along with the vertical integration of bespoke engineering needs, PAL will continue to be a leader in multi-mission maritime operations.

Article by Brent Bergan. Brent Bergan recently regired from the U.S Coast Guard following a 23 year career.He flew the MH-65 Dolphin for thirteen years, focusing on maritime search and rescue. He shifted into international affairs and conducted port security assessments in seven Latin American countries. From there he wasselected to be the Senior Defense Official in CostaRica. He finished his career in USCG Intelligence, and now works in Business Development in Sentient Vision.

Photos by Patrick Lalande

Published in Skies Mag – Aviation, Aerospace and Aircraft News Magazine