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Protection from underwater threats

Posted By David Shamah On June 29, 2010 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

An Israeli company is at the forefront of technology taking on the challenge of safeguarding us from threats that originate at sea.

 

Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.
Harbors, ports, energy terminals, oilrigs, and piers all over the world need protection from attack. In the picture, Haifa port.

Sharks and jellyfish aren’t the only dangerous creatures in the sea. There are other frightening elements out there, like terrorists, pirates and industrial spies – nefarious seafarers who are bent on bringing their particular brand of trouble to land-dwellers all over the world. Israel’s DSIT Solutions is at the forefront of technology to detect trouble coming from the sea – especially the kind that comes from beneath the ocean’s surface.

Battling security threats that emerge from the ocean is a difficult task and a major headache for security services, maritime security being more of a challenge than its on-land counterpart. On shore, perimeters can easily be established around sensitive security sites, and cameras can monitor nearly every square inch of an area.

There’s a lot more space to patrol at sea, and many of the best security measures – like cameras – aren’t applicable there. Few land-oriented security systems are capable of creating an underwater security perimeter, which means that scuba-diving terrorists have almost unencumbered access to every country with a shoreline.

With its long coastline, Israel is no stranger to maritime terrorism. There have been more than 80 attempts to attack Israel from the sea, the worst example occurring in 1978, when terrorists killed 37 Israelis and injured more than 70 on the Coastal Road.

Acoustic and sonar detection

DSIT, located in the Tel Aviv district of Givat Shmuel, helps coast guards and navies to defend their countries against attacks from on or beneath the sea, using systems based on acoustic and sonar detection. The company offers various configurations of below-water electronic detectors designed to protect bays, harbors, and ocean-based installations (like oilrigs), piers, ports, and energy terminals – the company’s specialty.

While it’s difficult to detect a small motorboat or other craft in a large area of water, it’s almost impossible to detect scuba divers, who usually use a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) to infiltrate an area. SDVs are midget submersibles designed to transport swimmers from an underwater combat swimmer unit, over long distances – as far as 5,000 feet.

Divers travel either outside or inside these ‘pods,’ which also carry equipment. Sophisticated SDVs may even contain detection systems to alert divers to the presence of security or naval units, so that they can lay low until the coast is clear, making the task of catching them all the more difficult.

Using sonar and other detectors, DSIT’s flagship AquaShield Diver Detection Sonar (DDS) alerts security personnel the minute an underwater perimeter has been breached, giving them maximum warning time to respond to a threat. A full AquaShield package includes sonar detectors, above-water day and night cameras, electronic alarms, and other bells and whistles. The company acts as an integrator, pulling together security technologies from various partners, and supplying its own sonar and acoustic components.

Sonar at its heart

It’s the sonar that’s at the heart of the AquaShield system, DSIT’s business development manager Brandy Ben-Yosef tells ISRAEL21c. “Our sonar technology has the longest range of any on the market, making it perfect for the distance detection AquaShield offers,” she asserts.

“In addition, our algorithms are able to detect far more accurately what is going on underwater – eliminating false alarms for fish or underwater debris that has breached the perimeter, and alerting security personnel when a diver or SDV is out there.”

With┬ámany AquaShield systems deployed around the world – most protecting energy installations – Ben-Yosef says that the company is constantly tweaking its technology. “We respond quickly to customer concerns and use their experiences with our systems to constantly improve things.”

With some systems already in operation for more than three years, DSIT has many satisfied customers, according to Ben-Yosef. In 2007, DSIT installed the world’s first major underwater security system at the large NaftoPort oil terminal in Gdansk, Poland.

Formerly an Israeli start-up, DSIT was bought out some five years ago by US company Acorn Energy. The DSIT unit has been kept intact – and even expanded (the company today employs about 70 people, mostly engineers, programmers and researchers), with all R&D based at DSIT’s Givat Shmuel headquarters.

Interest grows after 9/11

“As part of an energy company, it’s natural we would be supplying systems to energy installations,” relates Ben-Yosef, adding that the company has been perfecting its underwater sonar security applications for nearly a decade.

Today there are more than 2,000 coastal energy terminals and ports around the world, and all of them need guarding “There’s a huge market for this technology,” Ben-Yosef acknowledges. Interest in offshore security has also increased following 9/11. Just this year, DSIT garnered nearly $5 million in contracts for AquaShield installations.

“The significant growth in the field of diver detection systems at DSIT, along with the rest of the company’s sonar and acoustic products, has been happening at a very fast pace,” admits DSIT CEO Benny Sela. “In the last year we have had to work hard and efficiently to meet the growing demand and our delivery commitments.”

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