Defense Technology International - September 2007 - (Page 20)
DISPATCHES GLOBAL ALL-SEEING EYE W The image may overwhelm the data link, even with compression, so the air vehicle carries a 5-terabyte server (something that, until recently, would have required a room, or even a building) to store the complete picture, responding as necessary to the operator’s requests. Otherwise, the system automatically adapts resolution to what the operator is doing, to keep bandwidth use to a minimum. UAV tracks targets with real-time Massive memory on the ground and in the air supports another feature of the sysimages and stored data tem: roaming in time. Suppose a car bomb explodes. The analyst BILL SWEETMAN•MINNEAPOLIS zooms into that location on the image. The operator can move e’ve become so acthe image back to the moments customed to images before the explosion and see the from airborne video car. Zooming out, the operator cameras—whether from a war continues to retrace the car’s zone or a freeway snarl-up—that movements in half-second stopwe forget these systems look at motion. If it turns out that the the world through a soda strawcar started its journey within size lens. That’s what makes a the system’s field of view, the new system jointly developed starting-point address becomes by ITT Space Systems and ina point of interest. The system telligence specialists CenTauri, can see what other movements flight-tested in May 2007 at took place at that site. An indiEloy, Ariz., so different. vidual may have stepped out of The system—nameless as the car, and his movements are yet—is made possible by adtracked as well. vances in aerodynamics, low-cost ITT/CenTauri system was ﬂown on a piloted paraAs well as supporting forenimaging systems and, above all, glider. Camera array is visible on the side. sics after the event, the system memory. It is designed to loiter 12,000-15,000 ft. over an area of interest, moving. The image is stabilized, rectiﬁed and can monitor sites for improvised explosive staring at several square miles of open ground georeferenced by ITT’s software and com- device emplacements and watch targets like suspected safe houses. or urban terrain, and snapping 66-megapixel puters, providing a near-real-time view. ITT and CenTauri used state-of-the-art If the operator notes movement that looks pictures twice every second. It’s carried on a runway-free powered paraglider. The design- signiﬁcant, or is tasked to check an area on but available technology to create the reconers’ goal, says one participant, was to create the image, the system zooms into maximum naissance vehicle. The Atair was developed resolution of that area without necessarily under Darpa’s Leapp (Long-Endurance Au“an affordable unblinking eye.” Two packs of six cameras are ﬁtted. One changing the tasking of the airborne plat- tonomous Powered Parafoil) program, and covers 3.5 sq. mi. at 2.5-ft. resolution, and form. This is because the zoom function uses a new speed-adaptive ﬂexible wing—a the other images 0.7 sq. mi. at 6-in. resolu- simply involves viewing more of the data al- major advance in parafoils. It has a glide ratio tion. The operator toggles between them, ready acquired. Spotting an apparent trafﬁc approaching 8:1 and can attain 50 kt. It is not a small aircraft; it has a 112-ft. or the system acquires both images at one ﬂow between two locations, the operator can wingspan and is heavier than a Predator, with frame per second. ITT’s proprietary JPEG- roam within the image, looking for clues. an all-up weight of 3,600 lb. (1,633 kg.) and 2000 compression algorithm makes it posa 180-hp. turbo-diesel engine. For launch, sible to transmit the image over a simple the wing is laid on the ground behind the 48-Mb./sec. line-of-sight data link, and a vehicle, which rolls 50-100 ft. before becomground station compiles and displays the ing airborne. Geospatial Systems supplies the picture within 7 sec. camera packs, and the inertial position and The 300-lb. (136-kg.) highly mobile sysattitude system is from Leica Geosystems. tem is mounted on an Atair Aerospace powHarris Corp. provides the data link. ered paraglider. The vehicle ﬂies slowly and The new system is designed to be compleperforms tight turns, so it can provide a conmentary to other UAVs—which offer higher sistent near-vertical look angle—a valuable resolution and full-motion, real-time video, characteristic in urban operations. The paraand can designate targets for attack—and glider is carried on a Humvee and launched could be used to cue such systems. But its and recovered without a runway. Its data link makers assert that its wide-area surveillance supports operations 20 mi. from launch. is unique, and say it could be ready to deploy What is important is what the system within 8-9 months of a go-ahead. I provides. Operators can view the complete area of coverage on the screen—resolution is limited by the screen, not the sensor—and Atair Leapp paraglider has a Read Sweetman’s posts on DTI’s even without the full-motion video provid- rough-ﬁeld landing gear and weblog, Ares, updated daily: ed by most UAVs, spot people and vehicles a heavy-fuel engine. aresblog.net DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL SEPTEMBER 2007 ITT PHOTOS 20 www.aviationweek.com/dti
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