During critical missions, every second counts. At the same time, it is crucial to have as much information about the inspected object as possible to make accurate decisions. X-ray systems are the state-of-the-art solution to gain an insight into objects. In many cases, a 2D image is sufficient to understand the threat and locate critical components like batteries, detonators or switches. In other cases, one angle is simply not enough. What if we could get a 3D view of the object?
VCsecurity is a division of VisiConsult, an X-ray specialist from Germany. With hundreds of systems deployed globally since 2005, VCsecurity recently launched a new portfolio of upgraded portable systems based on high resolution and IP67 panels, lightweight and long-distance communication devices with state-of-the-art customizable software. The latest innovation is the ROVolumize 3D function, finally allowing operators to inspect IEDs rapidly and decisively from multiple angles to reach a safer decision by revealing even more details and information than before. In recent years, portable X-Ray systems have gotten more compact, lighter and rugged. Along with significant price improvements, and the growing need for full ROV1 integration without degraded capabilities, it is now the preferred choice for IED/EOD operators.
The main part of every system is a durable, field- operation-designed amorphous Silicon (a-Si) flat panel which allows rapid, high-quality image acquisition. The faster the better, as every second counts in critical missions. Ideally, the time from arriving on-site until having the first image is less than two minutes. Due to improved transmission capability, such as using several internal antennas, the time between images is also reduced to only a few seconds. This is also a crucial aspect for the 3D functionality, as we will see later.
The second critical part is a miniature communication device which supports easy deployment and rapid reliable image transmission. VCsecurity developed the eBoxLightECO which is optimized for an unprecedented cost-performance ratio and is ultra-light weight. It weighs less than 800 grams yet remains durable, and with IP67 rated with MIL-STD-810 connectors, it can easily be mounted on any Golden X-Ray source model. This allows for comfortable carrying of only two parts (tube and detector) by the operator, especially critical when handling while wearing a bomb suit or when mounting on small ROV with weight limitations.
Allowing up to 8 hours of operation, and up to 750 meters L.O.S wireless operation, the system remains sustainable in extensive missions and demanding environments – even when not connected via cable.
For the most demanding users or very challenging environments, the PRO version of the communication device is available, offering robust design with MIL-DTL-38999 connectors and advanced electronics.
Operators can choose between a variety of rugged tablets or laptop models. On them installed is the VCsecurity software which not only allows to operate the hardware parts and store all saved images in a dedicated advanced gallery. It also offers manual and automatic one-click image enhancement functions based on advanced algorithms to allow operators to see more details of the inspected objects. Especially when it is dense and cluttered from several objects are made from different materials.
Despite these advanced functions, operators might still not be able to take a decision based on only one angle as we will see in the example below.
IED/EOD operators face complex challenges to detect, neutralize and contain improvised explosive devices remotely, rapidly, and with minimum approach time down-range close to the IED. These factors combine to limit usability of these peripheral devices; therefore, the main method to master these challenges is by employing ROVs, and if the X-Ray system is already mounted on it, why not use it to inspect the object from several angles and then review it within the software? Now with the ROVolumize 3D function this dream becomes a reality. This function allows the operator to rotate the X-ray generator and detector around the object that is to be inspected. The X-ray tools are moving on a circular trajectory and with a pre-defined step width. On every step, the system automatically acquires a 2D image and archives it in a sequence. This sequence can then be evaluated step by step, or as a video. This creates an unseen depth perception within a very short time.
Integration of the ROV and the X-ray device must be carefully designed and tested in a close cooperation between all manufacturers to guarantee all parts have been perfectly integrated physically and technologically without interference between them.
There are options, especially with small ROV models with limited weight capacity, to mount the X-Ray source on the ROV chassis while the panel is held by the gripper – this allows to change distance and sometimes also heights, depending on the ROV model.
The most popular and common integration method between the ROV and portable system is the C-arm, specifically designed to firmly mount the panel and source to the ROV manipulator which allows to change angles easily and rapidly and remotely while keeping fixed distance between the panel and X-Ray source.
After taking several images, the ROVolumize 3D function will allow the operator to see the inspected object from all angles that reveal even more crucial details necessary to make a better decision.
There are a couple of examples in this article from a mission with the Hellenic Police Improvised Explosives Devices Disposal Department (TEEM) in Athens. More details and a comprehensive operation video can be found online: https://youtu.be/o7EpkSzwY3w
In this example the sequence of images allows the user to see inside a wooden box, which is also the external carrier of a suspicious object. Inside is a frame that includes a distinct circuit with a rectangular shape that could be a book with a space created by cutting out pages in order to be booby trapped with an IED. The switches are clearly visible – specifically you can see an on/off switch, and a pressure-release switch and a modified clothespin. There is also a buzzer and a 9v battery.
Finally, there is a detonator that it is not part of the existing circuit.
- The existence of a second 9v battery outside the book’s shape retracts a second circuit that is going to be triggered with a loop cable (not seen in all visuals) and has a buzzer. The carrier of this mechanism is not visible, but the user can imagine that it is made of paper like a mail folder. The battery cap in some visuals appears not to be buttoned correctly and can be used as a switch.
- The antenna shown in some images is clearly irrelevant, as a mercury switch and a jack-type plug, the cables of which reach up to a terminal strip.
- It would not be possible to see all the above if not for the option of multiple and continuous visuals. 4. It should be mentioned that common practice of Bomb technicians, in terms of reading X-Rays, is to irradiate the object, twice at a ninety degrees angle, if possible. So, knowing what these two visuals are, the operator tried to check these first and then all of them.
This unique capability, along with other available advanced enhancement functions, allows the operator to get a safer and more accurate decision based on more info and details, which cannot be seen from a single angle. The new ROVolumize 3D function is a breakthrough to gain unseen insights into suspicious objects. It can be setup within seconds and easily ready to obtain images, without the need for additional devices.
There are approaches that use dedicated sliders which allow automatic X-Ray source control. But this approach involves carrying an additional accessory and a more difficult process that can require multiple trips down-range depending on the technical challenges, which results in a more cumbersome and dangerous operation. The usage of these devices might also be even more challenging due to uneven terrain or tight spaces, and all information may not be revealed due to the limited number of images and angles.
Through the ROV integrations, operators never have to enter the danger zone.
But this is not the only new feature in the VCsecurity software that has been desired for a long time. Now it is also possible to easily customize the location of all functions by saving each operator’s preferred enhancement settings with a simple click of a button. Effortless and optimized for every setting.
VCsecurity is proud to constantly innovate by listening to practitioners in the field to gain a superior understanding of our customer’s needs. All of this operator knowledge and experience gets translated into a constant stream of new features and innovations. Contact us to learn more on how we can support your mission. ■
VCsecurity is a division of VisiConsult, a global market leader in the field of customized and standard X-ray inspection systems. The division provides portable X-ray systems for security and law enforcement forces around the world. Since its inception in 2005 already hundreds of customers put their trust into the high-quality products. Main applications are EOD/IED operations, counter terrorism missions, customs applications, and counter surveillance operations. The systems offer a versatile and easy to use software, durable hardware and full ROV integration. Customers can choose from a broad variety of digital detectors, CR scanners and X-ray generators. Our mission is to provide the operators with better tools that are more effective and provide a safer operation in challenging situations. To accomplish this, we work closely with experts to offer a system from operators for operators that address the real needs in the field. Discover the invisible!
If you need further information, contact Chelen Jonas via telephone +49 451 290 2860 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Remotely Operated Vehicle.
Counter-IED Report online – September 2022