The Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado (RAPTOR) system, the world leader in fast jet stand-off electro-optical day and night reconnaissance, is reviewed. System performance is illustrated with example imagery from long and short range day and night operation.
The prototype effort within the SHAred Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) program successfully demonstrated real-time reconnaissance operation of the prototype SHARP system on an F/A-18F and of the prototype SHARP payload on a P-3 in coordinated flights, each aircraft downlinking imagery to a NAVIS ground station and displaying that imagery in real time on August 28, 2001 in Washington, DC. The principal technology objectives - to verify that dual-band camera technology was sufficiently mature and that the SHARP Reconnaissance Management System (SRMS) with its operating software could control the SHARP subsystems and deliver real-time high-bandwidth reconnaissance imagery - were achieved through demonstration flights. The prototype SHARP Pod system is now used as a test asset in support of the E&MD phase of the SHARP program. Further development of technology for SHARP is continuing. The Airborne Real-time Imagery Exploitation System (ARIES) has been developed for incorporation into the SRMS to provide the flight crew enhanced image exploitation capability for time critical strike. ARIES capability is undergoing continuing development and evaluataion in combination with Fast Tactical Imagery (FTI) real-time, cockpit-to-user, transmission of the selected imagery.
This paper describes the design concept and the technical features of a new developed EO camera. The camera is integrated on a stabilized sensor platform of a tactical reconnaissance pod for extended pointing capability and wide field ground coverage.One of the major design constraints was the extremely small space available in the front gimbals, shared with a high resolution IR FPA Sensor in the other half of the gimbals. The line-of-sight of both sensors is harmonized, leading to multi-spectral information of the same ground target. The sensor features a high resolution zoom lens, large FPA detector, automatic focus and exposure control. An unique feature of the camera is automatic mass compensation when the zoom lens elements change their position during FOV change to keep the balancing of the sensors on the gimbal. The VOS 40/270 camera represents a new generation of tactical reconnaissance sensors for stabilized platform integration. The design of the VOS 40/270 camera system employs the latest emerging technologies in an all digital reconnaissance system.
A new draft NATO STANAG was released in 2001 for review by the member nations. Its purpose is to promote interoperability for the exchange of data among North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems. This standard defines both the physical and logical interfaces needed to download data from new data storage devices into compliant ground stations. This paper will describe the development of this STANAG, detail its physical and logical implementation requirements, and describe how the requirements work together to permit the exchange of data.
Modern conflicts are highly dependant on the information flow and the ability not only to get the raw information, but also to process it and to deliver intelligence. This is specially obvious in the domain of image intelligence, and "signal" intelligence.
The sensors are there, on different kind of platform, with different technologies, and each platform and each sensor has its own physical and operational characteristics.
According to the high number of available sensors and platforms, and then to the number of possible configurations, there is an increasing requirement for the processing of all these data to deliver the wise intelligent report as soon as possible.
Technology evolution and budget restrictions make the gap between civilian and military sensor systems smaller. Then the data processing has to take in account this aspect.
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems for reconnaissance and flight instrumentation applications are being developed and deployed on a variety of airborne platforms. Multiple asynchronous radar data channels, data formatting, channel time-stamping, file management and control are but a few of the requirements that mandate a sophisticated data recording device suitable for an airborne environment.
This paper describes a solid-state recording architecture designed to meet these requirements. Discussions of the implementation of high-speed continuous multi-channel data recording, airborne and ground data interface technologies, data channel synchronization and general solid-state recorder device features are provided.
The performance characteristics of hyperspectral imaging methods for airborne reconnaissance with wide area coverage are compared for Dispersive Grating (DGS) and Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS) technologies. The system characteristics of field of regard ground coverage, signal-to-noise ratio, and spatial and spectral resolution are evaluated to include temporal frame time and moving platform parameters within the airborne environments. Additional trade space parameters are included for field operational examples, and real-time hyperspectral image cube processing. The comparison utilizes equivalent requirements for ground coverage rates, ground spatial resolution (GSD),s pectral range, spectral channel width, and airborne platform parameters for both the DGS and FTS approaches. Achievement of equivalent system characteristics drive the implementation and performance trades for scanning (DGS) versus step stare (FTS) field of regard ground coverage, SNR and NESR, and the subsequent trades of output data rate processing for airborne platform flight parameters of altitude, ground speed, and look angles. Comparison of existing system concepts implemented for pan-scanning with DGS and step-stare with FTS reveals fundamental differences between the concepts of operation and subsequent achievement of airborne reconnaissance objectives.
The ground test model of a high-resolution camera for small satellites was developed. It is a Cassegrain system with field correction lenses. Except for lenses, all optical and structural components are made of the same Aluminum material. This scheme has its advantages in cost, development period, and athermalization. In addition, the deformation of mirrors occurred during assembly could be corrected by using simple clamps. After assembly, the final MTF was measured about 19%. The Aluminum-based test model was found to be a cost-effective tool for ground test.
QinetiQ are the technical authority responsible for specifying the performance requirements for the procurement of airborne reconnaissance systems, on behalf of the UK MoD. They are also responsible for acceptance of delivered systems, overseeing and verifying the installed system performance as predicted and then assessed by the contractor.
Measures of functional capability are central to these activities. The conduct of these activities utilises the broad technical insight and wide range of analysis tools and models available within QinetiQ.
This paper focuses on the tools, methods and models that are applicable to systems based on EO and IR sensors. The tools, methods and models are described, and representative output for systems that QinetiQ has been responsible for is presented. The principle capability applicable to EO and IR airborne reconnaissance systems is the STAR (Simulation Tools for Airborne Reconnaissance) suite of models. STAR generates predictions of performance measures such as GRD (Ground Resolved Distance) and GIQE (General Image Quality) NIIRS (National Imagery Interpretation Rating Scales). It also generates images representing sensor output, using the scene generation software CAMEO-SIM and the imaging sensor model EMERALD. The simulated image 'quality' is fully correlated with the predicted non-imaging performance measures.
STAR also generates image and table data that is compliant with STANAG 7023, which may be used to test ground station functionality.
Recon/Optical, Inc. (ROI) has a family of digital, dual spectral band (visible/IR) cameras that is readily applicable for reconnaissance missions on virtually any airborne platform available today. Each camera is based on a modular design that allows reconfiguration for a multitude of volumetric and mission constraints. The open architecture facilitates integration as either a reconnaissance system components or as the system master controller. Output data can be formatted to satisfy either NITF or STANAG requirements making the camera adaptable to applications throughout the world.
These cameras offer several key features, including a stabilization system, that can be tuned to each platform, optional data compression to optimize data storage and data link performance, and a camera-mounted inertial measurement unit for improved pointing accuracy. These and other core capabilities are especially beneficial to users with unique platform integration requirements. Camera flexibility translates into low-risk integration to a variety of reconnaissance platforms.
A number of high-speed, wireless, wideband data links have been developed for military applications. Modern network oriented RF systems require network interfaces for flexibility in battlefield applications. Multiple sensor payload data streams can be integrated with voice or other applications using appropriate network interface units. These high speed RF modules are very flexible and can be fielded in either manned or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles. Downlinks from these vehicles can be integrated with various antenna configurations or through satellite links.
There is a current push to place large telescopes in geosynchronous earth orbit to improve the imaging resolution of earth observing systems. The concept is to use inflatable or deployable optical systems to get diffraction-limited imaging from a thirty-meter class telescope in space. While the resolution of conventional ground based telescopes is limited by near field atmospheric distortions, space based systems have no such limitation. However, the issue of signal strength must be considered. In this paper, the effects of noise on imaging performance are investigated in terms of the frequency domain signal-to-noise ratio. The resolution in the presence of noise is determined by the spatial frequency at which the SNR drops below unity. It is shown that for a power law (f-n) object spectrum the resolving power is not proportional to the square of the aperture diameter, D, but rather Dm where m is less than two and dependent upon object spectrum power law relationship, n.
Even though film is often thought to be a dinosaur in modern airborne acquisition systems it is still unsurpassed in capability to provide the most resolution and detail to the analyst who is chartered to extract the highest level of intelligence possible. The inability to quickly provide information from acquired film imagery has been one reason stated by field commanders as to their preference for "all digital" camera systems. Digitally scanning the film and adding modern digital processing to scanned images would enhance the "data mining" of archived imagery and could also maintain the exceptional quality of image data from today's film systems. New software developments, if applied, could also shorted the time line betwen the acquisition and the user.
Today's modern image processing software that removes pointing angle and platform anomalies through the photogrammetric orthorectification process offers some utility that if mitigated to hardware could provide near real-time on platform or on sensor capability. The orthorectification process, however, is so computation intensive and time consuming that real time operation is generally not available.
This paper describes a low-cost means of performing real-time orthorectification, a brief overview of the orthorectification process and how it relates to targeting and location measurement. Also included in the presentation is a dynamic demonstration of two commercial software packages being used to extra geocoordinate information from a high resolution digital image.