Pirates, beware: Navy's smart robocopters will spy you in the crowd

Apr 05, 2012
This is a screen shot of imagery obtained by the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS), which uses automatic target recognition software to help robotic aircraft identify target boats in congested coastal waters. Sailors operating the robotic aircraft receive the image on their control station displays. Funded by the Office of Naval Research, the MMSS is a suite of high-definition mid-wave infrared and visible sensors and laser-radar technology under development for naval unmanned aircraft. Credit: US Navy image

Navy unmanned aircraft will be able to distinguish small pirate boats from other vessels when an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded sensor starts airborne tests this summer, officials said April 5.

Called the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS), the sensor is a mix of high-definition cameras, mid-wave and laser-radar (LADAR) technology. It will be placed on a called Fire Scout. Carrying advanced automatic target recognition software, the sensor prototype will allow Fire Scout to autonomously identify small boats on the water, reducing the workload of Sailors operating it from control stations aboard Navy ships.

"Sailors who control robotic systems can become overloaded with data, often sifting through hours of streaming video searching for a single ship," said Ken Heeke, program officer in ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department. "The automatic target recognition software gives Fire Scout the ability to distinguish target boats in congested coastal waters using LADAR, and it sends that information to human operators, who can then analyze those vessels in a 3-D picture."

Navy-developed target recognition algorithms aboard Fire Scout will exploit the 3-D data collected by the LADAR, utilizing a long-range, high-res, eye-safe laser. The software compares the 3-D imagery to vessel templates or schematics stored in the system's memory.

"The 3-D data gives you a leg up on target identification," said Dean Cook, principal investigator for the MMSS program at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). "Infrared and visible cameras produce 2-D pictures, and objects in them can be difficult to automatically identify. With LADAR data, each pixel corresponds to a 3-D point in space, so the automatic target can calculate the dimensions of an object and compare them to those in a database."

The algorithms have been successfully tested in shore-based systems against vessels at sea. The software is being integrated into a BRITE Star II turret by a team from NAWCWD, Raytheon, FLIR Systems, BAE Systems and Utah State University for airborne testing aboard a manned test helicopter. The flight assessment will be conducted against groups of approximately seven small boats in a military sea range off the California coast later this summer.

Explore further: Florentine basilica gets high-tech physical

Provided by Office of Naval Research

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

ONR-guided tech tracks what's inside ships

Apr 01, 2010

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is funding emerging technology that will allow wireless surveillance not only of ships and aircraft, but also the tracking of people and high value assets inside the ships.

Advanced weapon system helps ONR respond to Navy needs

Jul 16, 2010

The Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS), an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored technology, could soon give the U.S. Navy and coalition military ships an upper hand in swiftly defeating multiaxis attacks by small ...

Recommended for you

Florentine basilica gets high-tech physical

13 hours ago

Late last year, two University of California, San Diego students set out for Florence, Italy, to diagnose a patient that had no prior medical record, couldn't be poked or prodded in any way, and hadn't been ...

Radar sensors support parking management

14 hours ago

Siemens is researching the use of sensor networks in an advanced parking management solution that will hopefully counter the increasing parking space crisis in cities. The online magazine Pictures of the ...

SatisFactory project for more attractive factories launched

14 hours ago

Known as either "Industrial Revolution 4.0" or as "Industrial Renaissance", the need for visionary industrial approaches is widely recognized in the European Union. SatisFactory, a three-year research project funded by the ...

Life-saving train design is rarely used

Feb 25, 2015

(AP)—Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. secretary of transportation stood at the site of a horrendous commuter train crash near downtown Los Angeles and called for the adoption of a new train car design that ...

Lexus tops auto dependability survey

Feb 25, 2015

(AP)—Lexus is the most dependable car brand for the fourth consecutive year in rankings that increasingly hinge on high-tech features.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.