NRL Demonstrates In-Flight Hyperspectral, Real-Time, Autonomous Detection & Cueing

12/17/1997 - 74-97r
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Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have successfully demonstrated autonomous, real-time, hyperspectral detection of airborne targets and military ground targets. This was achieved with realtime autonomous cueing of a high resolution imager and designation of targets with pointing optics and a pulsed laser. The work, performed under NRL's "Dark Horse" Program, demonstrated the potential capabilities needed for autonomous Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV).

According to Dr. Tom Giallorenzi, head of the NRL Optical Sciences Division, "This is the first actual demonstration of realtime autonomous capabilities consistent with the concept of UCAV. The demonstration marks the first step toward a realizable UCAV system."

The flight tests were conducted aboard a P-3 aircraft provided by NRL's Flight Detachment Group, Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland. Land targets were located at the U.S. Army's Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia. Hyperspectral detection algorithms developed by

NRL under the Joint Multi-Spectral Program (JMSP) were implemented on a realtime processor built by Space Computer Corporation in Los Angeles. Two algorithms, operating simultaneously in an "AND" mode to reduce false alarms, produced a cueing signal upon target detection. Cued high resolution imagery was obtained using NRL's Recon Optical Inc (ROI) CA 260 25-megapixel camera and data were transmitted to a ground station at NRL in Washington, DC, using Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) Common Data Link (CDL). In addition to ground targets, the capability to autonomously detect and to cue on moving targets in realtime was demonstrated for a target aircraft flying 4,000 feet below the P-3.

The NRL "Dark Horse" Program funded by NRL/Office of Naval Research (ONR) is a four year effort to develop and demonstrate realtime hyperspectral detection, cueing, target location, and target designation capabilities. The program will provide enabling technology for future manned, reconnaissance, and UCAV systems.

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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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