By Army Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
Nevada National Guard Joint Force Headquarters
RENO (1/18/11) – A glimpse into how officials can view the effects of a disaster in real time was in full view here recently as the Nevada National Guard’s latest generation of imagery management vehicles was unveiled to the public during the annual Washoe County Public Safety Preparedness Day.
With a combined value of $5.8 million, eight imagery vehicles and three trailers comprising the Nevada Integrated Imagery Network were displayed by the Nevada Guard’s imagery section throughout the preparedness day.
The day marked the first time Nevada citizens could examine and receive briefings on the fleet of vehicles that promise to be invaluable should a catastrophe strike Nevada. Funds for the vehicles were acquired from a Congressional appropriation.
“When a disaster such as a flood or earthquake occurs, these vehicles can respond and give the decision makers a remote look at the situation from a number of imagery platforms,” said imagery section Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert Bagnato.
“Incident commanders and first responders then can base their decisions on real time video downlink imagery received by these communication vehicles.”
According to Bagnato, the Nevada Guard is the first state to receive an integrated imagery network.
“The Nevada Guard is one of the leading states in the field of imagery systems,” Bagnato said. “We are at the tip of the spear in video downlink capability.”
The network includes two support trucks, two imagery reception vehicles, one remote base station, one mobile command post and two Tomcars. All of the vehicles except the mobile command post can be transported via a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft and are configured to support imagery management (including the processing, exploitation and dissemination of information) and have the ability to transport voice and data communications, even across dissimilar radios and frequencies.
The imagery reception vehicles and the remote base station are capable of receiving multiple over-the-air video streams, including both analog and digital mediums. The systems can receive and decrypt video from airborne military platforms including the Raven, Predator, observational helicopters, C-130 Scathe View aircraft and any Lightning Pod equipped aircraft.
The network can also process multiple imagery streams for distribution through any of the vehicles and then, via a wireless radio system, re-transmit the video streams directly up to 80 miles away.
“It may sound technical, but essentially these vehicles will allow the first responders from all of the various agencies to stay on the same page in terms of communication,” Bagnato said.
With its eight-seat conference table, four computer workstations and 50-foot, self-erecting communications antennae, the 40-foot mobile command post vehicle was perhaps the most impressive van in the fleet.
The vehicle has the capability to receive, record, archive and index video for officials during a crisis. The command vehicle features two 46-inch flat screens with “John Madden” video stream annotation features that allows first responders to draw diagrams and plans over retrieved video.
The fleet also features two Tomcars. Tomcars are durable, speedy, off-road vehicles able to cover just about any type of terrain. They will be used should the NIIN need to establish a communications link in a remote area with rugged terrain.
In addition to Bagnato, nine enlisted Soldiers and Airmen are trained in the operation of the NIIN fleet. The vehicles are stored at the Nevada Air Guard base in Reno.
The imagery Soldiers and Airmen received their initial training under the auspice of the Counterdrug Task Force. Due to budget constraints, the Counterdrug Task Force is on furlough pending additional funding.
The imagery vehicles remain available and will be staffed in the case of a domestic response situation. While the task force remains on furlough, the imagery vehicles will not be available for counter-narcotic missions.
Bagnato said that, although the NIIN hasn’t been called to a real-world mission yet, the imagery staff is fully prepared to respond whenever the next crisis situation occurs.
“When the next event like a Hurricane Katrina hits, we expect to be the first ones going,” Bagnato said.