To ensure that a mission goes to plan, analysis and data correlation is key. Mission planning is based on the gathering of accurate data. However, the best approach to mission management should incorporate technology that not only analyses and interprets historical data, but can also integrate real-time information too.
Military mission planning and technology used in police and civilian security operations now tend to overlap to a degree, utilising both onboard systems and satellite-based data-gathering technology.
In this article, we will explore up-and-coming technologies that can be used for mission planning. We will be looking at the technology itself, and how it helps with efficient mission planning and management, both in the theatre and back at a control centre.
The growth of AI
The almost exponential growth of AI within the field of mission management and in particular military planning has been remarkable. Capable of analysing and calculating mission strategies at a phenomenal rate, AI has proven to be exceptionally useful in all types of theatres.
However, a note of caution has to be added that mission planning cannot be based purely on AI alone. Indeed, AI, while impressive, has yet to fully realise its potential in this arena. It has to be used in conjunction with the human element, both in the air in the case of airborne units and back at mission control. The final decision to proceed with a mission has to be made by those in command, and not the technology that they use.
Having said that, the AI element has propagated huge advancements in the development of mission planning software and its implementation in the real world. While mission management still has to be a hybrid planning activity, there is no doubt that the incorporation of AI makes the process much easier and far more efficient.
AI’s future – joint problem-solving
Where AI really can assist going forward is in problem-solving and data analysis. The incredible ability of AI to not only process vast amounts of data very quickly and accurately, but also to learn and adapt its processing algorithms through experience makes it a valuable tool in military mission planning in particular. In the fluid theatre of battle or in surveillance operations, the ability to capture relevant data and then relay that quickly to operators in the air, the sea or on the ground is crucial.
AI needs parameters to work within, and these are set by the operators. Doing this ensures that AI captures the right or relevant data, picking it out carefully and cleanly from the background noise.
What is on offer
Hyperspectral imaging is not new and has been around for nearly a decade. However, this essential aspect of mission planning is now far advanced from the 1.0 versions of 2014. Now, this invaluable resource can differentiate between variations in vegetation, identify and isolate a camouflaged location or vehicle, or break down a broad-spectrum image into its individual wavelengths to uncover locations that may be hidden from the human eye at the minutest level of detail.
Hyperspectral imaging is now available not just for base operations but to operators in the field too, thanks to multi-layer software and handheld devices interconnected to a satellite network. It’s this joining of multiple technologies that makes hyperspectral imaging far more practical and useful than before, especially as the inclusion of satellite imaging gives it a real-time application.
New mission planning tools for satellites
Staying on the subject of off-world mission management tools for a moment, new advances are being made in the development of mission planning tools for satellites. New ways of integrating are exploring an entire network of satellites, both military, civilian and commercial, to plan and execute the correlation of data more effectively from various geosynchronous orbits.
The package includes Multi-Spectral Imagery (MSI), Radio Frequency (RF), Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), Electro Optical (EO), Hyper-Spectral Imagery (HSI), Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), weather forecasts, Full Motion Video (FMV), and potential Social (ex. Cell Phones) discoveries.
This multi-faceted approach to mission management software development gives multi-layered resolutions and greater detail. This can then be analysed and deep-dived for data to make subsequent missions more effective.
Web-based mission planning software
Mission planning software that’s web-based and easily accessed for both military and civilian uses is both cost-effective and user-friendly. Incorporating satellite data from multiple sources, it presents the data in an easy-to-read format that overlays data onto a real-time map. Used for more wide-ranging missions rather than close-quarters operations, it has the potential to help identify potential hotspots through the use of wide-area and border line slicing.
While satellite-controlled spectral analysis can be used by ground and ocean-going operators, it’s the aviation industry that is leading the way in developing new mission management technology. Both civilian and military organisations are partnering to create software and technology that has applications in both military mission planning and non-combative roles such as search and rescue, land development, agriculture and even traffic management.
For example working with mission planning systems with more efficient touch-screen systems that incorporate augmented reality and geospatial software. The tablet-sized technology is both already familiar to the operator and intuitive to use, minimising training time and ensuring the product is operational across multiple platforms and in various theatres straight away.
Transferable to the general market
While many of these mission planning applications are primarily designed for military and law enforcement use, they are also transferable to the general market. Some of the new technology coming online (as well as much of that already in existence), such as hyperspectral analysis, has applications within agriculture. For example, it can be used to examine the health and development of crops and give the operator an instant snapshot of things such as water dispersal and ground saturation in real-time.
As climate change continues to alter our weather patterns, this kind of analysis will be vital to anticipate how crops respond to changing weather conditions. As a result, it could have a major influence on crop planting and even the development of new strains of crops to cope with climate change in the second half of the 21st century.
FlySight – creating mission-critical software for use in any theatre
Surveillance specialists FlySight are also pushing the boundaries of mission management with a plethora of mission planning technologies. However, where other producers of similar equipment and software tend to focus on one specific area, FlySight takes a more broad-brush approach, integrating multiple different platforms into a single Analyst Console.
What is the OPENSIGHT Analyst Console?
This turnkey solution has applications both in military mission planning and civilian and law enforcement scenarios. Delivering an all-in-one management system for airborne missions, it interconnects both the operator in the air and mission controllers back at base. Analyst Console consolidates several different FlySight technologies to help operators plan a mission and identify targets before the mission commences.
Once in the air, using handheld devices that include augmented reality and multiple layering, the console can assist in target acquisition within the parameters of the mission statement. This works equally well in both challenging urban and more rural environments, making it useful for both military and civilian or law enforcement operators.
Advanced technological data collection is important, but critical to any mission planning is the ability to utilise this information in real-time. Analyst Console does exactly that, as well as exporting the information gathered during the operation back to the operational base for deeper, more detailed examination later on.
Analyst Console never loses sight of the fact that a mission-critical decision requires the human touch. The object of Analyst Console is to be regarded as a tool, not a replacement, for the operator. While it provides the ability to incorporate multiple layers of augmented reality and data correlation within a single, real-time operation, the final analysis of the data it collects is carried out by a real person.
Operational in high-stress situations
One of the key components of any mission management system is that it needs to be easy to operate in high-stress situations. To this end, both FlySight and other developers within the field are working towards incorporating their software into familiar and user-friendly technology that is intuitive and simple to operate.
Not only does this multi-level system help operators (and in particular airborne units) operate more efficiently and without the need for additional expensive equipment, but it also assists ground-based managers in making mission-critical decisions in real time and ensuring the success of any mission.
Find out more about Analyst Console
OPENSIGHT Analyst Console is just one of several turnkey solutions provided by FlySight. Our expertise in the field of surveillance and information gathering has allowed us to create bespoke systems that can be tailored to specific needs, helping you and your team in mission management and planning both in the air and on the ground.
Our experts are here to work with you to create effective and productive analysis tools that improve your operational efficiency.
Vegetation management is critical to the reliable and efficient operation of utility infrastructure. It involves the proactive and strategic control of vegetation around power lines, pipelines and other crucial infrastructure.
Historically, monitoring vegetation growth was a significant obstacle in the management process. It was costly, time-consuming and could only be performed relatively infrequently. With the advent of advanced imaging solutions and AI-powered platforms, that is all changing.
This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the importance of vegetation management for utility companies. It also highlights the technological changes that are taking place, facilitating a new, more effective approach.
What is vegetation management?
In the context of utilities infrastructure, vegetation management refers to the process of monitoring, maintaining and controlling vegetation in and around infrastructure systems. These systems include power lines and pipelines but also extend to other infrastructure, such as roads, railways and buildings.
Vegetation management involves planning, implementing, and maintaining measures to ensure that vegetation does not interfere with the proper functioning and safety of the infrastructure. To mitigate the risks associated with overgrown or infringing vegetation, those responsible for vegetation management will often perform the following activities:
- Inspections – assessing vegetation growth and identifying areas that require attention or pose risks to infrastructure.
- Pruning and trimming – trimming tree branches, shrubs and any other vegetation that may pose a risk to maintaining safe clearances around infrastructure.
- Herbicide application – applying approved herbicides to control the growth of unwanted vegetation in critical areas.
- Tree removal – cutting down trees that pose a risk to infrastructure. This might include trees that are leaning towards power lines or that show concerning signs of decay.
- Vegetation clearing – clearing low-lying vegetation in areas that are prone to fires or hamper access to the infrastructure itself.
- Regular maintenance – implementing vegetation management initiatives that ensure vegetation growth is monitored and controlled over an extended period.
Why is vegetation management important?
Vegetation management is critical in maintaining infrastructure and ensuring the safety, reliability and efficiency of key infrastructure systems. It also helps to minimise disruptions to these systems caused by uncontrolled vegetation growth.
Several issues can arise when utilities organisations do not implement appropriate vegetation measures. Some of the common problems caused by unmanaged vegetation include:
- Obstruction – overgrown vegetation can obstruct the visibility of vital signs and signals, resulting in situations where there are no appropriate warnings or instructions. This can prove dangerous.
- Structural damage – tree roots penetrate beneath pavements, roads and building foundations, causing cracks and damage to the infrastructure’s structural integrity.
- Power outages – trees and branches that come into contact with power lines often cause electrical faults, leading to power outages, disruptions and safety hazards. This all contributes to higher costs for the utilities company.
- Fire hazards – dry and dead vegetation increases the risk of wildfires, which can cause untold damage and are difficult to control. In this sense, vegetation management is a preventative measure.
- Maintenance costs – uncontrolled vegetation growth is typically more expensive to remedy than smaller, more regular works. Similarly, poorly designed initiatives cost more than those that utilise modern technologies to optimise management strategies.
FlySight and i-EM vegetation management solutions
FlySight and i-EM have demonstrated that our OPENSIGHT and x-EM solutions can be used to improve vegetation management processes by optimising the inspection process and reducing overall costs. By utilising advanced AI-powered software solutions, utility companies can detect existing risk areas, predict future risk areas and assist with disaster management.
Our solutions utilised Earth Observation (EO) satellite imaging to acquire data without the need for feet on the ground. We can compare this with historical data and images to detect changes in vegetation and the extent of those changes. This information feeds into the AI-powered platform, which assesses risks and provides details that inform vegetation management decision-making.
While we initially tested our solutions on power line infrastructure, there is no reason we cannot apply the technology to other areas in the utility sector.
How does vegetation management benefit utilities companies?
Vegetation management benefits utilities providers in four key ways. They are:
- Minimising infrastructure safety concerns
- Reliability and service continuity
- Environmental stewardship
Let’s look at each of those in greater detail.
1. Minimising infrastructure safety concerns
Safety is the foremost concern for utilities companies, and effective vegetation management significantly contributes to ensuring a safe working environment. Potential safety concerns include fire hazards and electrical hazards, such as arcing, short circuits and power outages. These put the public, utility workers and property at risk.
Vegetation management minimises the risk utilities providers are exposed to, preventing damage to critical systems, safeguarding individuals and limiting the potential for reputational damage, costly repairs and personal payouts that result from infrastructure incidents.
Unmanaged vegetation also obstructs access to utility equipment, making it difficult for technicians to perform maintenance and repairs. This makes such work more time-consuming, expensive and dangerous. It also hampers the emergency response when things do go wrong.
2. Reliability and service continuity
Vegetation interference is a leading cause of service interruptions in the utility sector. By proactively managing vegetation, utilities companies enhance system reliability and limit unplanned outages. This is typically achieved by maintaining clearance distances to prevent accidental contact.
Vegetation management also plays a role in ensuring storm resilience. Well-managed vegetation is more resilient to severe weather events, such as storms, high winds and heavy snow. Removing weak, diseased or dead trees minimises the risk of damage and service interruptions.
3. Environmental stewardship
Advanced vegetation management practices also enable utilities companies to protect their assets in a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner. Rather than indiscriminate clearing, companies can adopt a selective approach based on data-driven insights. This approach allows organisations to preserve beneficial vegetation while managing potentially hazardous or incompatible species.
It also allows for improved habitat preservation. By collaborating with conservation organisations and leveraging data, utilities providers can identify opportunities for preserving and enhancing habitats for native flora and fauna. This contributes to greater biodiversity and a more healthy ecosystem.
4. Cost efficiency
Though vegetation management requires investment, strategic management yields significant cost savings in the long run. Considering how vegetation management is one of the principal costs associated with powerline maintenance, there are considerable savings to be made by adopting a more informed approach.
Cost savings are made in several ways. By proactively managing vegetation, utilities companies mitigate the risk of vegetation-related emergencies, reducing associated response costs, equipment damage and service restoration expenses. Effective management also extends the expected lifespan of utility infrastructure by reducing the impact of vegetation-related stressors.
Finally, vegetation management makes utility infrastructure more accessible, allowing engineers to perform their tasks more efficiently and safely and reducing the time required for maintenance, repairs and inspections. This improves overall operational efficiency and reduces costs.
Vegetation management FAQs
Below, we explore some of the most frequently asked questions we receive on the topic of vegetation management.
What kind of savings do FlySight and i-EM vegetation management generate?
While savings depend on how well our technology is implemented and employed, utilities organisations can drastically reduce the amount they spend protecting their infrastructure assets by facilitating a more strategic approach to vegetation management and automating monitoring.
What technologies does the FlySight and i-EM solution rely on?
In the SP4GO- ESA recent project, we paired FlySight’s OPENSIGHT AI solution with i-EM’s x-EM business intelligence platform to refine vegetation management processes. These technologies utilised Earth Observation (EO) and Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) space assets as reliable sources of mapping data and information.
What are OPENSIGHT and x-EM?
FlySight OPENSIGHT is a real-time visualisation and decision-making tool incorporating an innovative geo-exploitation toolbox. It enables organisations to leverage geographical mapping data to inform strategic and operational decisions.
x-EM is a smart grid solution from i-EM. It helps organisations manage energy solutions, improving their resilience and optimising performance. It also helps to optimise infrastructure maintenance, which is particularly useful in the context of vegetation management.
Is this a proven solution?
The recent SP4GO demo trial demonstrated FlySight and i-EM’s ability to deliver vegetation management solutions. It showed that our solutions provided excellent value to Transmission System Operators (TSOs) responsible for power lines by detecting vegetation clearance issues and assessing other vegetation risks.
The future of vegetation management is here
Vegetation management is of paramount importance for utilities companies due to its significant impact on safety, system reliability and cost efficiency. By implementing proactive and sustainable vegetation management strategies, utilities companies can ensure the uninterrupted delivery of services, minimise safety risks and optimise operations.
FlySight and i-EM have demonstrated that our technologies can play a crucial role in revolutionising the processes that underpin vegetation management by introducing AI-driven automation and improved strategic planning. This benefits utilities companies in every way, from improved safety to greater efficiency and reduced costs.