This February 16, the final demonstration of a crisis management system called Descartes was held on the premises of Thales Research & Technology in Palaiseau near Paris. The system is the outcome of 42 months of work by teams at the Thales group (Thales Services, Thales Research & Technology, Thales Communication and Security), CEA (CEA-DAM, CEA-LIST) and three small businesses (Géo 212, Géoconcept and Masa Group), as part of a project managed by Thales, accredited by the Systematic Paris Region competitive cluster and funded in part by Fonds Universel Interministériel (FUI, government agency funding industrial R&D projects). The one-of-a-kind prototype covering the full spectrum of crisis management has demonstrated its outstanding potential during a particularly difficult crisis scenario. The Rennes branch of the French Weapons Procurement Agency (DGA), among others, monitored technical developments during the entire project.
Naturally, the Prefect, firefighters, law enforcement and health services attended the final demonstration that was the follow-up to an assessment drill on January 18 this year. The room where the demonstration took place had been turned into a zone operational center, a law enforcement operational center (police and gendarmes) and a firefighters' operational center. The crisis scenario involved three bomb attacks against mass transit in Paris. An additional attack had happened at one of the sites that had already been hit, during which radiological and chemical substances had been released. Therefore, the command and control prototype of the Descartes project had to coordinate all the relevant stakeholders during the major crisis unfolding in the heart of Paris.
A Set of Six Main Functions Available to the Operator
The minute the alert warning that an attack had occurred was received, the Context function enabled the operator to create a situation for the purpose of storing all the incoming and future information about the event into the function. "It is actually a container," the people at Thales explained. Thanks to the Observation-Logbook function, an event-driven reference was created so that a color code could be used to input all the event-related information and decisions. "Input information cannot be altered. So, it can serve as judicial reference later, a specific innovation of this system," said a project manager. The Intelligence-SITAC function materializes the situation on a map and displays tables to monitor the number of victims and the response resources on location. "The moves of the geo-positioned vehicles, thanks to the Geographic Information System built into the platform, and the video flows of all the cameras connected to the system can be monitored in real time."
At the same time, the operator can generate orders for rescue operations thanks to the Operation function and create them according to four modes (manually, based on an extant plan, based on an order prepared by the anticipation cell, and based on a scheduling module). Thanks to the Anticipation function, the relevant players can address the possible changes of the situation and prepare appropriate reactions. "So, the operator can simultaneously display on screen the different solutions with their advantages and drawbacks, and provide all the necessary information to the final decision-maker," they said at Thales. With the Collaboration function, all the incoming and outgoing messages to and from the operation center are managed.
An Array of Simulation Tools Engineered during Descartes
During the entire demonstration, other systems, i.e. modules and decision-making aid tools built into the platform via the SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) bus were made available to the representatives of the public authorities and the different decision-makers, thus they were able to assess the crisis situation and its changes in real time. An array of simulation tools was also engineered during the the Descartes project. For instance, the CEA-DAM designed a modeling tool of the space-time progression of toxic gas plumes, which made it possible to assess the health impacts of the toxic plumes on the population in an urban environment and determine the hazardous areas, taking account of the built-up urban areas and the network of streets. The CEA-LIST developed a training tool using virtual reality. With a vision helmet and a motion capture system, the tool provided a 3D simulation of an intervention at the location of the event. The MASA Group engineered a simulation tool of the players and crowds, built into the Thales platform. Thales Training & Simulation designed a 3D simulation tool that makes it possible to see a zone, move within it immersively, become familiar with the location, plan for the routes of the response teams, and decide where to set up a command post.