This Day (Lagos)

1 February 2013

Nigeria: Nama's Surveillance to Check Arms Smuggling

The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has concluded plans to install the Automatic Dependence Surveillance Broadcast (ADSB) and multilateration system for the observation of low flying helicopters involved in oil and gas activities.

The Federal Government would also use the system to monitor movements of unauthorised flying aircraft, arms smuggling and the use of illegal airstrips that are ubiquitously located at different areas of the Niger Delta.

Top official of the agency told THISDAY that although the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) covered the nation's airspace, all radars in the world do not cover low altitudes flying aircraft and that explains why during wars pilots fly below the radar to avoid detection.

"We are going to have increased safety. It is going to help search and rescue and obviously it is going to help security too because it can detect movement of any flying object in that area. So it has both safety and security impact on the system," the official said.

Many helicopters airlifting for oil and gas activities fly as low as 1000 feet which is well below the scope of the radar.

The objective this project, the official disclosed is for the agency to boost its revenue, secure the Niger Delta area in terms of safety and also in terms of security.

"In the Gulf of Guinea (the Niger Delta) what you have going on there is that you have very low flying helicopters, as low as 1000 feet- that is below the radar detection area. So it is not a defect of the TRACON system, but the propagation pattern of radars all over the world: primary surveillance radar and secondary surveillance radar.

"So what you now have is that there are other technologies that give you that coverage. One of them is ADSB and the other one is multilateration. There are two types; you have ADSC, which is Automatic Dependence Surveillance Contract. We are going to do a matrix of ADSB and Multilateration in that zone."

The project when completed will put all the aircraft activities under surveillance in the Niger Delta.

"So all the helicopters operating in that place will be under detection; don't forget we already have control centres in Lagos and Kano and Port Harcourt that support ADSB. The TRACON system is ADSB compatible, so it supports ADSB signal. So all we need to do now is to install hardware, both ADSB and multilateration in the Gulf of Guinea and we can detect the movement of low flying helicopters.

The NAMA official also explained that offshore oil rigs were as farther away as 130 nautical miles from Port Harcourt.

"What that means that if that helicopter is not under radar detection, you can't have any air traffic control there. You just have oil companies based work stations. So we have identified this gap. For this low flying helicopter to come under our control there should be a form of surveillance there. And that is why we are deploying Multilateration and ADSB. These are like overlay technology to the TRACON," the official added.

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