A QinetiQ led team has secured a 33-month $22m follow-on research contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) programme. 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 LACOSTE concept is to develop a sensor system that operates at high altitude (~20 km), possibly on an airship or endurance UAV. [picture copywright DARPA]. 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 be high resolution and sensitivity and have a wide field-of-regard, with low mass and system volume.
QinetiQ's solution is the based on novel adaptive coded aperture imaging, an all new disruptive camera technology with a wide range of defence, security, industrial and commercial applications. QinetiQ is being assisted in delivering the LACOSTE programme by Goodrich ISR Systems 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 programme 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 programme and a QinetiQ Senior Fellow. “Our adaptive coded aperture imaging draws on several elements of QinetiQ’s rich technology base, combining leading edge micro electro mechanical 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."
Tom Bergeron, President of Goodrich’s ISR Systems business added: "This contract award is an important endorsement of the adaptive coded aperture imaging approach successfully demonstrated by the QinetiQ/Goodrich team during the LACOSTE Phase 1 programme. This novel computational imaging approach has now demonstrated real potential as a disruptive technology for the ISR Market. The Goodrich ISR Systems business has a long history of offering world leading capabilities in real time electro-optical systems in space and on manned and unmanned airborne platforms and is ideally placed to transition this capability into the ISR market.