Using the Kestral system, a unmanned aerial vehicle, such as this Aerosonde, is capable of detecting and tracking both vehicles on the surface and low flying aircraft, even though they only appear as tiny points on the landscape. (photo : DMO)
Computer vision specialist Sentient has successfully integrated and demonstrated automated target detection and tracking capability on AeroVironment’s (AV) family of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) as part of its bid for an Australian Army programme.
In response to a requirement from Phase 4 Tier 1 of the Joint Projects 129 (JP129/4) of the Australian government’s Defence Capability Plan 2009, the army integrated Sentient’s Kestrel Land MTI computer vision system onto AV’s common ground control system. This allowed analysis of electro-optical/infrared imagery transmitted by UAS in real-time, according to company officials.
According to Sentient, ISR operators used AV’s Screener with the addition of automated target detection ‘where and when required’.
‘Most of the testing was done between July and November in 2009. All of the testing took place in the Australian Outback,’ a spokesperson for Sentient told Unmanned Vehicles.
‘Most testing was done with imagery from the Wasp and Puma UASs, although the earlier prototype testing in 2008 also involved the Raven. The aerial vehicles were tested in a range of mission scenarios reflecting their potential intended purpose in theatre,’ the spokesperson added.
‘In simple terms, ISR operators are able to turn automated target detection on and off at the touch of the button, without changing the ConOps [Concept of Operations] or anything else within the GCS. Everything is integrated,’ said Dr Paul Boxer, managing director of Sentient.
Tier 1 of the JP129/4 programme comprises a requirement for an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide organic ISR support for land forces through the acquisition of a SUAS. It must also be capable of being operated from or within confined areas such as the urban environment, according to the Australian Army.
An initial operating capability is expected to be achieved between 2013 and 2015, with a maximum procurement value of around A$100 million.
However, the collaboration between the companies is currently ‘a preliminary agreement’ and Sentient has ‘not yet executed a commercial supply agreement’, a company spokesperson told UV.
‘Sentient is working closely with AV and is in the process of exploring ways to further extend the capabilities of their airframes. Sentient sees the work we are currently doing with AV as the first step in building further collaboration,’ she added.
AV’s family of SUAS include Raven, Wasp, Puma and Dragon Eye. Currently, Australian forces use the Raven and Elbit Systems’ Skylark UAS, which the army said was acquired as an ‘interim solution’.
Since launching its requirement in 2009, the Australian Army is understood to have conducted tests and evaluation of AV’s Wasp III system. JP129/4 is due to receive final funding approval by 2012.(Shephard)