Security for the 2010 Soccer World Cup will include state-of-the-art airborne surveillance systems. One of the latest hi-tech gizmos being considered by the government is an early warning system called the Erieye, which is designed by Swedish defence company Saab.

Though made for military use, Erieye is increasingly being used in civilian applications. It is mounted on aircraft and can survey a specific area .

Saab Surveillance Systems director Peter Hultin said the system was designed to detect aircraft in a radius of up to about 450km around the aircraft to which it is fitted. From its elevated position, the device gives monitors a bird’s-eye view and, depending on where it is positioned, can even help monitor ships on the horizon.

In contrast, ground radar can perhaps scan the near-ground environment to a range of about 50km, taking into account the curvature of the earth.

SA would most likely need at least two of these Erieye surveillance systems to cover a wide part of the country during the games to ensure that no aircraft flown by intruders or terrorists threaten the stadiums.

It can also be used to track above thick bush and forests and even to track tiny inflatable boats out at sea.

“This is a valuable feature of the system in the search-and-rescue role or for detecting piracy or illegal fishing activities,” Hultin said.

Business Day understands that senior defence force officials recently witnessed a demonstration and listened to a presentation by the manufacturers of the device.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was interested in testing the equipment and leasing it for use during the 2010 soccer events.

Though the SANDF denied yesterday that it was looking at the system, the South African Police Service’s senior superintendent Vish Naidoo confirmed that “part of the procurement for the 2010 security includes a very hi-tech surveillance system”.

Brazil, Sweden, Mexico and Greece have used this airborne surveillance system primarily for law enforcement, search-and-rescue and disaster relief.

Brazil has been using it over the vast Amazon basin with success for some years. It boasts a record of 84 arrests in its first month of use for aircraft used illegally, including for drug- running. Authorities have also closed 30 illegal airfields spotted by the device.

The Pakistani and Thai governments are the latest purchasers of the system.

Hultin said that once in orbit, the technology could monitor air traffic, border lines and ship movements at a distance and fight cross-border smuggling and sea smuggling efficiently.

He said a single aircraft could monitor approximately a quarter of SA’s lowest airspace.

PUBLICATION: Business Day
AUTHOR: Hopewell Radebe
DATED: 13th May 2008