Intel-in-a-suitcase system helps boost situational awareness

Taking advantage of emerging communications technologies and platforms, L-3 Communications keeps adding new capabilities to its VideoScout "intel-in-a-suitcase" system.

Taking advantage of emerging communications technologies and platforms, L-3 Communications keeps adding new capabilities to its VideoScout "intel-in-a-suitcase" system. The Anaheim, Calif., company's interoperable video exploitation and management systems capture video and telemetry from a wide variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), receivers, sensors and intel network feeds. Recent VideoScout feature additions include databasing, geo location and viewing apps.

According to L-3, VideoScout enables users to create derivative video files and still images, as well as annotate, geo-reference, store and share the resulting intelligent video with others across the battle space. VideoScout also aims to help users quickly turn vast amounts of video data into concise, sharable video intelligence to improve mission planning, execution and post-mission analysis.


Navy and Marine special operations forces tested the system’s actionable intelligence capabilities last July during RIMPAC, the world's largest international maritime exercise. The exercise, which included more than 30 aircraft and several ships, was designed to show how VideoScout could provide rich peer-to-peer intel support during a high-availability disaster recovery (HA/DR) exercise. "They were actually able to do a bunch of things they weren't able to do before," said Nicholas Ortyl, vice president and general manager of L-3's situational awareness group. "For example, when aircraft flew overhead, they were able, in real time, to image down to the people on the ground a view of their surroundings." In an HA/DR setting, such shared intelligence could be used by ground personnel to detect downed bridges, destroyed buildings, flooded levees and various other types of dangers and obstacles.

Ortyl observed that on the tactical edge VideoScout can be used by troops to locate enemy positions and other potential threats, as well as to coordinate responses. "If you have a group of people who want to go from location A to location B, and there's an airplane or a UAV overhead, they can take a look and see what they're walking into," he said.

Field-testing helps VideoScout adopters and potential adopters find fresh ways of accessing and using intel without placing lives at risk. Tests also help L-3 refine the VideoScout toolset. "We get a rapid learning event and rapid feedback from actual operations before we deploy the next spiral," Ortyl said.

Brad Curran, an aerospace and defense analyst at market research firm Frost & Sullivan in San Antonio, Tex., noted that intel-in-a-suitcase systems like VideoScout are bringing mobility to what were once a fixed intel resource. "Video technology was once mounted on poles and limited to applications like perimeter security, but with the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles, the ability ... to get constant, persistent surveillance on a particular target has become very important," he said. "Everyone has come to really depend on being able to see over the horizon, over the next hill or over the tall buildings into the next block."

Portable intel systems like VideoScout are likely to become even more widely used in the years ahead, Curran predicted. "Everybody from the general to the private loves it, and they're not going back," he said. "It's going to become very pervasive, even more so than it is now."

Yet Curran still sees plenty of room for improvement in data acquisition, distribution and presentation. "In the years ahead there will be smaller UAVs, better cameras, better data links and even smaller displays," he predicted. "There will also be more meta data that can be fused and refreshed on a more rapid basis."