Integrated video downlink system to enhance police airborne surveillance capabilities

Real-time airborne downlink (ADL) equipment is to be deployed by law enforcement agencies throughout the UK as part of a Home Office project to boost surveillance capabilities and enable accurate and timely decision-making.

Jan 28, 2015
By Paul Jacques

Real-time airborne downlink (ADL) equipment is to be deployed by law enforcement agencies throughout the UK as part of a Home Office project to boost surveillance capabilities and enable accurate and timely decision-making.

Fifteen aircraft are to be fitted with new integrated video downlink systems capable of transmitting live images from airborne assets to multiple receive sites. During joint operations, regional forces and national agencies will be able to access ADL images transmitted from aircraft using portable and handheld equipment, and also at regional command and control centres throughout the UK.

The ADL equipment from Vislink, a technology provider specialising in the collection, management and delivery of high-quality video and associated data, has been used by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) since 2006. With high-quality output and H.264 encoding, this latest equipment greatly improves transfer speeds compared to traditional analogue systems, increasing situational awareness at all levels.

“The ability to downlink live imagery from a helicopter to our ground units is the single most important piece of equipment we have. These high-quality images provide commanders with critical intelligence from the comfort of the screen in their control room or headquarters. They can deploy the right operational staff to the right place at the right time,” explained Inspector Richard Brandon, executive officer in the MPS Air Support Unit.

Vislink downlink solutions enable the MPS to share, distribute and record footage between aerial, surface and maritime fixed and mobile units, enabling more unified collaboration, more efficient use of resources and faster, better decision-making.

For example, the MPS says that when a firearms incident occurs and a police team has to enter a location to make necessary arrests and safeguard the area, the command unit can, using real-time images and video footage to assess the threat, keep officers updated and relay critical information to support services, such as ambulances on standby to treat possible casualties, so that everyone knows what is happening.

ADL equipment is now a standard part of every public order deployment by the MPS. As well as in critical incidents, it plays a central role in a variety of everyday policing requirements, such as improving surveillance and crowd control at major public events, simplifying traffic management and enabling better evidential collection for criminal investigations. Vislink downlink and handheld applications also overcome the barrier of blind-spots and video-freezing in metropolitan areas.

The MPS says this has had a significant effect on resources, saving money and allowing officers to be utilised more efficiently – all crucial in making London a safer city.

Insp Brandon said the new ADL upgrade project has delivered significant improvements, noticeable in terms of picture quality and stability, transmission range and security encryption.

“The new ADL system also lets us operate throughout the UK and we have already demonstrated the benefits of this interoperability during a recent multi-agency operation,” he added.

Tony Price, ADL project manager at Vislink, said the Home Office contract represented “a huge milestone” for the company, which has transferred its expertise from the broadcast sector into the surveillance and public safety markets.

Vislink’s ADL equipment is being deployed in fixed locations across several regions in the UK and the project is expected to be completed during the first quarter of this year.

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