AVT and Thales Avionics look to develop video security systems for commercial aircraft

Officials at the Thales Avionics in Montreal are using data compression technology from AVT Audio Visual Telecommunications Corp. to develop a new concept of video security systems for counter-terrorism use on commercial aircraft.

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by John McHale

VICTORIA, British Columbia - Officials at the Thales Avionics in Montreal are using data compression technology from AVT Audio Visual Telecommunications Corp. to develop a new concept of video security systems for counter-terrorism use on commercial aircraft.

For the proposed project AVT experts in Victoria will pro vide Thales Avionics with their video compression technology, Video-Crunch, which will then be integrated into Thales's product. Thales Avionics specializes in avionics and cabin electronics and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thales.

The new system would integrate a security camera provided by Thales Avionics - Inflight Systems in Irvine, Calif., and a SATCOM satellite communication system supplied by Thales Avionics. This system will enable operators on the ground to visually monitor the cockpit and other areas of the aircraft while in flight, if the need arises, AVT officials say.

"We identified AVT over a year ago as a potential technology supplier due to its superior video compression technology, and its ability to stream quality real-time video from a mobile environment," says Tom Henderson, vice president of business development at Thales Avionics - Inflight Systems. "The tragedies on September 11 accelerated our plans to develop products that will enable real-time, on-board video in commercial jets. We are confident that we can map out a development plan with AVT to cooperatively develop a new video security system."

The first phase of the Thales program will be to put this video technology in the cockpit, and the next phase would extend that capability to the entire cabin, says Keith Bavel, application engineer at AVT.

VideoCrunch also enables air marshals to be able to sit in their seat and use a handheld computer to view everything happening in the cabin, Bavel says.

The Thales application will probably start transmitting at a "low bit rate, but we don't mind because our technology can work with low and high bit rates," Bavel says. And when the technology eventually moves to a faster rate, AVT engineers will be able to take advantage of that, he continues.

The obvious ap pli cation for Video Crunch is satellite communication systems tracking commercial and military aircraft, Bavel says. It would be well suited for military applications too, he continues. It would give ships at sea over the horizon capability and even individual soldiers out in the field could use the technology to send high quality images back to command and control securely and quickly, Bavel explains.

AVT's technology will enable low bit-rate video compression, good quality image resolution, and management of dial-up functions over wireless networks, AVT officials claim. Thales Avionics intends to license and/or purchase AVT's VideoCrunch technology, which through a joint engineering project, will be developed for use on board commercial aircraft, company officials say.

AVT produces low-bit rate video and speech compression technology and provides products and technology that can be used to conduct real-time video over existing cellular and satellite wireless networks, AVT officials say. AVT is a technology company that designs and develops wireless audio-visual solutions, based on the industry endorsed, interoperable MPEG-4 standard, company officials say.

VideoCrunch transmits one frame every two seconds at a 2400 bits-per-second rate, which is significant, Bavel says. It uses the QCIF (Quarter Common Intermediate Format) and the SQCIF (Sub-Quarter Common Intermediate Format), he adds.

Separately from the Thales program, AVT experts are looking at making their technology compatible with a facial recognition system, Bavel says. For example "as passengers board a plane or even while they're on it the camera can take their picture" and AVT's technology can compress the image and relay it via a secure signal down to the ground station, he explains.

AVT is just coming out of its research and development phase and expects to release its product this fall, Bavel says.

Other applications for VideoCrunch include mobile-monitoring environments such as telemedicine in ambulances, security surveillance on public buses, armored vehicles, and personal wireless communications, AVT officials say.

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For more information on AVT's Video Crunch technology contact Tanis MacSween by phone at 250-380-9343, by email at tanis@avt.net, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.avt.net.


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