NRL Researcher Receives CAP Award For NRL-CAP Collaborative Effort

6/20/2005 - 6-05r
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Dr. John Kershenstein, a former research physicist and branch head in the Optical Sciences Division of the Naval Research Laboratory, has been recognized by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) for his efforts to transition the Navy's Hyperspectral Imaging Technology to support search and rescue operations being conducted by CAP. CAP representatives report the collaboration has been highly-successful in providing their organization a good opportunity to obtain the latest cutting-edge technology and tailor it to meet their particular requirements.

Dr. Kershenstein, who is a Lieutenant Colonel in the CAP, was awarded the CAP Distinguished Service Medal and the Exceptional Service Ribbon for his work in transferring an invaluable Navy technology and assisting in its integration in support of CAP and their partner, the U.S. Air Force, to meet their respective search and rescue requirements. The award citation reports, " Lieutenant Colonel Kershenstein's expertise was instrumental in ensuring that CAP's ARCHER Hyperspectral Imaging system would meet the demanding needs of Federal, State and local agencies. He was involved throughout the entire procurement process from the requirements identification phase to the acceptance tests. Simply, put, CAP could not have successfully completed this important project without his strong support and commitment."

According to Dr. Kershenstein, "This collaboration has provided a great opportunity for us at NRL to leverage a proven Navy technology for use by other members of the federal government to meet their specific needs. In retiring after serving more than 36 years at NRL and now serving as a re-employed annuitant in the same division, it is rewarding to take good Navy science and tailor it for the benefit of other agency requirements. Not only does the taxpayer get a double benefit from their money but, NRL benefits through this collaboration also by obtaining high-quality imagery from CAP's ARCHER for use in other NRL programs."

The NRL Hyperspectral Imaging Technology transferred through this collaboration started as a Navy program that evolved successfully over a number of years. It initially started as a four-year program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research in the early 1990's. The program, initially called the "Wide Area Reconnaissance Hyperspectral Overhead Real-Time Surveillance Experiment (WAR HORSE), was designed to demonstrate an autonomous, real-time, hyperspectral detection system capable of detecting both airborne and military ground targets for use by the Navy and Marine Corps. The program when coupled with other division reconnaissance/surveillance efforts such as TARPS-CD and SHARP, enabled NRL to develop a successful detection system for use on fighter aircraft and unmanned air vehicles providing users with the tools required to immediately recognize friend or foe platforms. Further research over the years enabled NRL researchers to develop a detection system that provided battlefield commanders with immediate, highly detailed three-dimensional mapping images of the battlefield. The program was designed to enable images to be obtained from great distances providing limited risk to aircraft or other military platforms used.

The reconnaissance imagery obtained by these platforms is taken using a framing camera and is simultaneously recorded in the air and linked to a tactical tracking station. The camera contains a global positioning system (GPS) and inertial navigation system (INS). The tracking station operator views the near real-time moving mosaic image of the ground. Any frame of interest to the operator can then be expanded to a full 25-megapixel resolution onto another monitor with electronic zoom by clicking on it with a mouse. The image stream is also recorded by the tracking station for later use. These images provide the battlefield commander with an up-to-the-moment view of a particular area of interest.

Dr. Kershenstein reports, "I was contacted by Col. Drew Alexa, CAP Director of Advanced Technologies, in 2002 to inquire if this system could be used in search and rescue operations. After meeting with him and others from CAP and discussing the possibility further, CAP entered into a collaborative program with NRL and was later joined by the U.S. Air Force which provides CAP with expertise and resources to meet its mission. This collaboration led to the CAP-sponsored ARCHER program that combined leading-edge hyperspectral imaging technology with advanced real-time data processing capabilities. ARCHER is designed to augment and enhance CAP missions for search and rescue, disaster relief and missions in support of other government agencies as appropriate. The CAP's ARCHER will be the first HSI system to be deployed operationally and in quantity (16 units)."

The ARCHER program is designed to operate much as the NRL WAR HORSE program did in meeting Navy applications. The equipment used mimics the Navy program, but is designed to meet CAP's specific requirements. For instance, at any time during the flight, pan-sharpened HSI target image chips with their location information can be transmitted to ground observers using the Satellite Digital Imaging System (SDIS) modem, which NRL Codes 5600 and 8200 helped CAP design. The pilot or flight crew receives flight situational awareness in the cockpit via the ARCHER TRAC display. This display is a thin flat screen knee pad computer a little larger than a notebook and shows the path flown by the aircraft and the exact ground area covered. This ground swath is then superimposed over an image of the current sectional map, so that both the details of the flight and the larger context can be seen by the flight crew.

After the mission flight is complete, the data obtained by the imaging systems can easily be transferred to a tracking station that has the same advanced data processing capabilities as the airborne station, and also has an additional high-resolution monitor. Immediately after a mission, the collected data can be replayed for further analysis, in-depth review, or training.

The entire ARCHER system, including the airborne and tracking stations, can be packed for shipment or storage in customized foam-lined hard shell cases. These are small enough and light enough to be transported for deployment aboard a Gippsland GA8 Airvan aircraft used by CAP. The entire ARCHER system has a 90-minute roll-on, roll-off capability.

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