A team of researchers tested a new way of communicating for maritime interdiction teams April 23-24 in the Atlantic Ocean about 14 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida, as part of the mobile maritime command and control project, or M2C2.
The team, from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and Joint Interagency Task Force South, crisscrossed the area in a Panga-style fishing boat – seized from drug traffickers – testing NGA’s Mobile Awareness GEOINT Environment app, known as MAGE.
“If a maritime patrol aircraft finds (an) illicit trafficking vessel, there isn’t a way to communicate with the team on the water tracking it,” said Justin Connelly, an NGA research scientist embedded with JIATF South.
Connelly and the other members of the team believed MAGE, a secure, mobile app created to support first responders during natural disasters, could eliminate that communication gap and provide operators with the real-time ability to talk to each other.
In keeping with the spirit of M2C2 – a cooperative endeavor to integrate commercial communications capabilities with existing government tools – the JIATF South team chose MAGE because its operations team was already using it, said Jeff Stahl, chief of JIATF South’s Development and Integration Division. In addition to the open-source app being publicly available, it allows foreign partners to use it.
During the test, the team used only mobile phones, commercial off-the-shelf satellite communication receivers and MAGE, said Connelly. The experiment proved the app could allow teams to make calls and provide their locations to JIATF South headquarters from beyond the range of cell service.
While, the new capabilities of MAGE tested in the experiments haven't become operationalized yet, JIATF South hopes to fund and approve the operationalization of the M2C2 project soon, said Stahl.