HAMNET Report 20 January 2019

South Africa has won an extraordinary victory in space science with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) being chosen to provide space weather information for the continent, the country’s ministry of science and technology said on Monday.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said SA was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to become the designated regional provider of space weather information to the entire aviation sector using African airspace.

“This means that every aircraft flying in the continent’s airspace will rely on SANSA for the space weather information it needs to submit as part of its flight plan.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said: “Space weather, which can influence the performance and reliability of aviation and other technological systems, is caused by the Sun, the nature of the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and the Earth’s location in the solar system.

“Space weather can lead to reduced signals from global navigation satellite systems, adversely affecting navigation, increased radiation, which can destroy human cells and tissue, especially during long-haul flights, and blackouts of high-frequency radio communications, which are critically important for the aviation and marine sectors.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said SANSA’s designation by the ICAO presents an opportunity to  use further the newly revamped space weather centre at Hermanus in the Western Cape.

The centre’s monitoring of the sun and its activity has been providing the country with vital early warnings and forecasts on space weather conditions, and these benefits will now be extended to the international aviation community.

The upgraded centre was unveiled by Kubayi-Ngubane in April 2018 and processes are currently under way to secure additional funding further to capacitate the centre for the huge task that lies ahead.

“The international community has supported South Africa’s ICAO designation, and has demonstrated confidence in SANSA’s ability to provide the services required. The process that SANSA underwent to achieve this designation has already enhanced South Africa’s reputation in the space science and technology field.”

She said since South Africa was the only African country with operational space weather capabilities, it would engage with other countries on the continent on data sharing, infrastructure hosting, training, product development, and research collaboration opportunities.

The country’s space science programme was feeding the knowledge economy and placing the national system of innovation at the centre of South Africa’s developmental agenda.

Thank you to the African News Agency for this report.

From the Jerusalem Post comes a report of a new Emergency Response Vehicle capable of providing fresh water to disaster zones. Watergen, the Rishon Lezion start-up known for its unique technology extracting fresh water directly from the air, has partnered with the Red Cross to develop the vehicle to provide fresh water to disaster zones.

Equipped with the company’s patented GENius-powered atmospheric water generator capable of producing 900 litres of water per day, the ERV will provide access to much-needed potable water supplies for communities far from population centres that are affected by emergencies or natural disasters.

“At a time when, according to international data, about two billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water, Watergen’s technology is a real lifesaver,” said Watergen chairman Michael (Micho) Mirilashvili.

“The new technological development is a breakthrough in enabling the technology to be mobilized and allowing access to clean drinking water so that it is available anywhere in the world immediately and without any installation.”

The vehicle was developed according to American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. It includes satellite communication capabilities, power sockets for charging communication device batteries, emergency accumulators for the supply of power, and storage for medical equipment.

An external water tank carrying up to 1,500 litres of water, a 500 litre fuel tank for long operations, emergency lighting and WiFi can also be added to the vehicle.

The ERV has already been deployed, providing clean water for emergency services fighting the deadly and destructive November 2018 wildfires in California.

Thanks to the Jerusalem Post for that one.

In that this vehicle is able to condense water out of water vapour in the air, it should be made available in all areas of our country, to be sent to any disaster situation at a moment’s notice. Let’s hope it will!

Due to recent events involving drones interfering with commercial air travel, the US Federal Aviation Administration is developing a strategy to allow wider use of counter-drone technologies across airports. In times of heightened UAV threats, the SPYNEL IR imaging camera provides an innovative approach that guarantees the ability to detect, track, and classify all types of drones.

Writing in Sensors|Online, Mathew Dirjish notes that the SPYNEL thermal imaging technology  makes it impossible for a UAV to go unnoticed. Any object, hot or cold, will be detected by the 360° thermal sensor, day and night.

Driven by unique CYCLOPE intrusion detection software, the panoramic thermal imaging system tracks an unlimited number of targets to ensure that no event is missed over a long-range and wide surrounding area. SPYNEL is thus fully adapted to multi-target airborne threats like UAV swarming.

SPYNEL is a multi-function sensor with a large field of view, enabling real-time surveillance of both airborne and terrestrial threats at the same time. The CYCLOPE automatic detection software provides advanced features to monitor and analyze the 360° high resolution images captured by SPYNEL sensors.

The ADS-B plugin enables aerial target identification and the aircraft ADS-B data can be fused with thermal tracks to differentiate an airplane from a drone. With the forensics analysis offering a timeline, sequence storage and playback possibilities, it is also possible to go back in time to analyze the behaviour of the threat since its first apparition on the CYCLOPE interface. Moreover, the latest CYCLOPE feature makes 3D passive detection by triangulation available, when using several SPYNEL sensors at the same time. The feature consists in analyzing the distance and the altitude of multiple targets, creating a kind of “protective bubble” around the airport.

A key advantage of the SPYNEL detection system for airport applications is that it is a fully passive technology, meaning it will not be a source of disturbance in the electromagnetic environment of the airport. Indeed, a concern often raised by air-safety regulators is that anti-drone systems designed to jam radio communications could interfere with legitimate airport equipment.

I’m sure airports like Gatwick will be quick to install this kind of surveillance system.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.