DARPA awards QinetiQ contract for high-altitude imaging system

AUGUST 12, 2008--Following a successful initial phase, DARPA selected QinetiQ to continue development of a new sensor system to provide persistent tactical surveillance and precision tracking capabilities.

Aug 12th, 2008

AUGUST 12, 2008--The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a QinetiQ (Farnborough, UK;www.qinetiq.com) led team a 33-month $22 million follow-on research contract from in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) program. Following a successful initial phase, DARPA selected QinetiQ to continue development of a new sensor system to provide persistent tactical surveillance and precision tracking capabilities.

The concept is to develop a sensor system that operates at high altitude (~20 km), possibly on an airship or endurance UAV, that detects and simultaneously tracks large numbers of moving vehicles in dense urban areas with a high degree of accuracy, 24 hours a day. In order to achieve this, the sensors need to have high resolution and sensitivity and a wide field-of-regard, with low mass and system volume.

QinetiQ's system is based on adaptive coded aperture imaging, a new disruptive camera technology with a range of defense, security, industrial, and commercial applications. QinetiQ is being assisted in delivering the LACOSTE program by Goodrich ISR Systems (www.isr.goodrich.com), which is responsible for designing the optical system, assisting with CONOPS and architecture development, and performing laboratory and flight testing.The second phase of the program covers the building and flight testing of a working sensor module to meet the LACOSTE goals. This builds on a successful first phase in which new sensing and processing technologies were developed and proven.

"This award is an endorsement of the team's ability to deliver novel sensing technologies," explained Dr. Chris Slinger, QinetiQ's principal investigator on the LACOSTE program and a QinetiQ Senior Fellow. "Our adaptive coded aperture imaging draws on several elements of QinetiQ's rich technology base, combining leading-edge microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), optical and sensor physics, signal processing, image recovery, tracking techniques, and systems engineering. It is an example of a new wave of disruptive, computational imaging systems that offer orders of magnitude improvement in mass, size, economy, and performance when compared to conventional sensor technologies."

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