Espreso. Global

Understanding the SurveilSpire drone protection system

21 January, 2024 Sunday

In the coming decade, approximately one-third of the world's leading armies will transition to robotics, with artificial intelligence (AI) reshaping the landscape of warfare, as highlighted by U.S. General Mark Milley. Given Ukraine's ongoing intense war, leveraging AI becomes crucial. SurveilSpire, an automated intelligence system provided by Germany to Ukraine, plays a key role in this strategy

Espreso delves into the origin, purpose, and functionality of the SurveilSpire unmanned reconnaissance systems, shedding light on their significance in countering Russian drones.

The article covers the following: 

  • Creator and provider of SurveilSpire to Ukraine
  • Overview of SurveilSpire
  • How SurveilSpire operates
  • Practical applications

Creator and supplier of SurveilSpire to Ukraine

SurveilSpire, the automated intelligence system, was developed by the Estonian company DefSecIntel, starting in 2018. In the final stages of development and production, the German company Rheinmetall, in close collaboration with Ukraine, joined the project. The SurveilSpire system became operational in 2021.

Rheinmetall, acting on the German government's order, supplies automated intelligence systems to Ukraine. The first official report on SurveilSpire surfaced in February 2023 when German gunsmiths mentioned an order of "a double-digit amount in the millions of euros."

In October, Rheinmetall announced the supply of a new batch of SurveilSpire systems to Ukraine. The German government's website notes the provision of five systems, with a caveat that the actual supply depends on the manufacturer's capacity and production speed. Notably, the Ukrainian Armed Forces became the world's first to test these intelligence systems in real combat situations.

Overview of SurveilSpire

The SurveilSpire system is designed to surveil large areas with minimal manpower. In Ukraine, its primary role is countering drones.

Equipped with thermal imagers and versatile day-and-night cameras, the system comprises special masts, reconnaissance drones, and a control system. Transported by a car with an attached trailer, the observation towers can be swiftly moved to operational zones. Folding the masts requires just three people, and the entire system is fully automated.

Utilizing wireless channels like 4G and Starlink, the system transmits video to a mobile command post. Continuous, cable-free, and fuel-independent operation is facilitated by solar panels. Additionally, the SurveilSpire system can support a 5G network.

How SurveilSpire operates

The system utilizes radar and drones on autopilot for patrolling. Information received undergoes processing with specialized software and artificial intelligence. The control center then decides which air defense systems to deploy against these enemy drones.

Notably, upon returning to the trailer, serving as the system's base, drones autonomously land on it and connect for battery recharge.

"This reduction in service is due to artificial intelligence being a control element. It quickly recognizes detected objects: vehicles, people, or animals," explains the ArmyInform article.

Developers emphasize that the primary goal was to ensure user safety. Hence, military personnel don't need to be in close proximity but can set up an observation post tens of kilometers away. This approach safeguards their lives if the enemy discovers and attacks SurveilSpire. With the assistance of artificial intelligence, the equipment independently alerts operators about detected violations, eliminating the need for continuous monitoring of screens displaying camera images.

Practical applications

“By incorporating SurveilSpire into the Ukrainian Defense Forces, we can reduce border patrols, allowing more officers to respond to incidents. These systems were utilized by Lithuania during the surge of illegal refugees at the EU borders, influenced by Russia and Belarus," notes ArmyInform.

SurveilSpire, designed for monitoring borders, coastal zones, ensuring public safety, and detecting enemy targets and threats, has found a unique purpose in Ukraine.

"Originally meant for ground and surface monitoring, SurveilSpire's focus in Ukraine has shifted to detecting enemy UAVs," explains Serhii Zgurets, Defense Express CEO.

The systems boast a 30-kilometer target detection range and control over a 20-square-kilometer area.

Jaanus Tamm, director of the Estonian company DefSecIntel, which developed SurveilSpire, highlighted its uniqueness. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he emphasized that while there are many surveillance systems and drones globally, SurveilSpire stands out as the sole system integrating all intelligence technologies into a single platform for a unified mission.

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