18 September 2003 Infrared microsensor payload for miniature unmanned aerial vehicles
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Abstract
Miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are a category of aircraft small enough to be transported, launched, operated, and retrieved by a crew of one or two. The concept is not new, having been in limited use by the U.S. military over the past fifteen years, but interest in potential applications is growing as size and cost of the vehicles come down. An application that is particularly significant to the military and law-enforcement agencies is remote reconnaissance, with one or more onboard sensors transmitting data back to the operator(s) in real time. Typically, a miniature UAV is capable of flying a pre-programmed route autonomously, with manual override as an option. At the conclusion of the mission, the vehicle returns for landing, after which it can be quickly disassembled and stowed until its next use. Thermal imaging extends the utility of miniature UAVs to operations in complete darkness and limited visibility, but historically thermal imagers have been too large and heavy for this application. That changed in 1999 with the introduction of Indigo System's AlphaTM camera, which established a new class of thermal imaging product termed the infrared "microsensor". Substantially smaller and lighter than any other infrared imaging product available at the time, AlphaTMwas the first camera that could be readily packaged into the nose of a miniature UAV. Its low power consumption was also a key enabling feature. Building upon the success of AlphaTM, Indigo then took the microsensor class a step further with its OmegaTM camera, which broke all the records established by AlphaTM for small size, weight, and power. OmegaTM has been successfully integrated into several miniature UAVs, including AeroVironment's Pointer and Raven, as well as the Snake Eye UAV manufactured by BAI Aerosystems. Aspects of the OmegaTM design that have led to its utility on these and other platforms are described, and future prospects for even smaller microsensors are discussed.
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Joseph Kostrzewa, William H. Meyer, Stan Laband, William A. Terre, Peter Petrovich, Kyle Swanson, Carrie Sundra, Ward Sener, Jay Wilmott, "Infrared microsensor payload for miniature unmanned aerial vehicles", Proc. SPIE 5090, Unattended Ground Sensor Technologies and Applications V, (18 September 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.500712; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.500712
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