Monday, January 21, 2008

Shadow UAV goes Hyperspectral

Exciting news for the Army and BAE systems who just recently completed a transaction for 5 hyperspectral sensors, to be mounted on the Shadow tactical-sized UAS.

The commitment had been agreed upon in October 2006, and it's not entirely clear that the objective requirements are all met. In the original release BAE expected aircraft with usuable payload as low as 15 pounds to carry the sensors... in the current release BAE indicates it will be limited to aircraft with usable payloads of at least 35 pounds. Of course, development is an on-going process...

The technology is expected to reduce burden on the warfighter in asset-locating, targeting, search & rescue operations, etc. The "latest and greatest" ISR tool.

Hyperspectrals analyze refracted light from everything within their field of view, across a much broader spectrum than the visible bands (about 15-18 times as many, as I understand) and use this information to identify particular points of interest (without having to rely human eyes). Hyperspectrals use three methods of analysis:

  • Identify anomalies within a particular field-of-view
  • Identify a pre-programmed signature
  • Identify change, in comparison to a previous analysis of the same field-0f-view (the system is outfitted with GPS)

I am curious. The usefulness of the second two functions seem dependent on either knowing what composition you are searching for, or, having a previously mapped record to compare with.

How many pre-programmed signatures can you utilize at once? How many does the Army need?

How can you effectively utilize the change detection function (we have to pre-map all the areas we think Iraqis and Afghanis are going to hide weapons? Or all the places we think our sailors or airmen will go missing?)

Someone please clarify.