A site survey is a general term describing the process in which a specific area is inspected for various purposes, either to obtain a general overview for managerial purposes, or for specific tasks such as research, construction and communication projects.
A site survey will normally begin from a very general overview of the designated area, followed with specific focuses pertaining to the needs of the project, such as topography, access roads, power lines, communication, location of interest or high risk area, best orientation for operation, accommodation or deployment of systems. The level of details, sensors used, data resources and accuracy applied in the survey depend on the actual need and budget.
In the defense/HLS/perimeter defense market, a site survey is the fundamental step before assessing, purchasing or deploying any system. The information is recommended and valuable both for the end user and the provider. A site survey must be performed by an expert in the field, separately for every specific area even if they seem to be similar. For defense missions, the survey will provide information on the terrain, such as topography, vegetation, wildlife, climate, wind routine, human population, roads and villages, along with information on threats, assessing high threat areas, categorizing activity according to risk levels, assessing ground personnel and logistical capabilities or adaptability for technologies, and finally an evaluation of recommended or possible solutions.
A site survey is not a common occurrence in conservation, as until now most solutions we’re selected by a perceived need and not according to area and site conditions.
In Conservation, site surveys are unfortunately not yet a common practice. However, they should become a working standard with increasing demand from funders and professionals for clear measurable results, demand for thorough transparent processes before acquisition and deployment, and with the rise of cost of deploying quality efficient systems.
Site survey general stages:
A comprehensive analysis of a proposed operational site, includes a detailed examination of terrain, infrastructure, manpower, resources, climate, threats, challenges and more in the process that is designated to explore possible appropriate solutions for a specific area.
The process begins with a preparatory theoretical stage in which data and details are collected on the site from various on and offline sources, including maps, aerial images, general information etc. This stage is dependent on off-the-shelf available information, For more in-depth analysis, a budget is required for per-request analysis.
The second stage must be performed by physically visiting the site itself by the expert, not relying on second hand/online data. This stage includes verification of preparatory information, visual inspection and interviews of all involved sections, along with an evaluation of local community interactions, law enforcement, rangers, national officials and NGO's.
The third stage is performed only in specially designated areas which can invest a larger budget at the analysis stage - using defense software to analyze the terrain, indicate possible technology deployment sites and a deeper analysis of relevant threats through specialized intelligence regarding Syndicates, poachers, crime groups. Etc.
There are several general types/slevels/purposes of site surveys:
Managerial (overview or general assessment) –
A managerial site survey is performed to provide decision makers (local and international) a complete overview of selected sites, enabling a foundation on which to design projects, plan command and control routine, research and more.
The surveys provide an objective overview of site conditions, with an external perspective on personnel, threats and what may seem routine conditions or normal behavior.
Surveys will typically be performed on several sites of the same area, enabling a national/area overview and tools for prioritization.
An operational site survey is performed similarly to the managerial survey, providing decision makers an objective overview of selected sites.
The operational survey is usually performed when specific, methods, solutions or technologies are considered (for research or protection) - or when a new perspective on CONOPS is required.The survey aims to clarify which conditions (Aerial and ground) are actually present and may determine RFI’s or any process for acquisition and deployment.
The survey will also focus on threat and risk assessment in addition to existing personnel interviews and logistical assessment that are a crucial part of the operational survey.
System Specific -
A system specific site survey is performed similarly to the operational survey, but is commonly focused on assessing site conditions for a specifically selected solution and less intended to provide managerial background or data.
The specific survey aims to verify which conditions (Aerial and ground) are present in the field and which specific locations are best suited for deploying the selected system (For example – runways for aircrafts, water or fuel/power sources)
The survey will additionally determine initial CONOPS with an overview of existing personnel and logistics in the field to create the most appropriate training program.
5 less intuitive reasons of why a security analysis is so helpful
Provides an objective, logical and consistent methodology of qualifying and quantifying site conditions, topography and metrology, assets (Manpower, wildlife, water, vegetation, facility, vehicles, information, activity, etc.), current and expected threats, internal and external vulnerabilities, CONOPS, impact, and associated risk – in the short and long term.
Provides an objective fact-based starting point for searching, selecting, testing and implementing security countermeasures in a realistic fashion to achieve an acceptable level of risk at an acceptable cost.
Provides an objective short and long term cost-benefit analysis with a recommended process for evaluation of viable, realistic options – based on data rather than intuition – reducing irrelevant indicators and increasing cost effectiveness.
Minimizes waste of time and resources beyond budgetary effectiveness - increasing efficiency and streamlining of operational routine with appropriate long term development plans – maximizing benefits from systems, setting realistic expectations, identifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities, maximizing likelihood of detection.
Creates measurable requirements and expectations which can later serve for decision making and adaptation of plans as needed (Avoiding, reducing, transferring, diverting, accepting risk).
Site surveys may not seem so, but they are essential for decision makers when approaching a new idea, method, system or concept of operation, and even more so when planning to introduce new technologies - especially in conservation.
The cost of surveys are relatively low, but unfortunately, when trying to minimize cost, decision makers (from defense also) contemplate on not performing them. However, experience tells us that the small investment in a thorough site survey saves time, money resources and heartache later down the line, not to mentions improves governance, long term planning, increases efficiency and speed of results from deployment.