New monitoring system to help direct troops on the battlefield

August 12th, 2008 - 4:42 pm ICT by ANI  

London, August 12 (ANI): A defence firm has developed a monitoring system that can spot gamma ray bursts, thus helping direct troops on the battlefield.

According to a report by BBC News, Defence firm Qinetiq has developed the system.

The futuristic system manages to track thousands of targets without using lenses to gather light from the scene it is watching. Instead, it employs a sensor array, a special mask and image processing software to picture a scene.

Astronomers had been attracted to such devices because they coped much better with harsh conditions when a spacecraft is launched and in space, according to Dr Chris Slinger, Qinetiqs principal investigator on the system.

Its hard using lenses and mirrors up there, he said.

Instead of lenses, the imaging system uses an array of microscopic sensors in front of which is a specially made mask randomly punctured with holes in a particular pattern.

Light from the scene over which the detector is passing hits the mask and casts a distinctive shadow on the array behind it.

If you design your coding pattern well, its possible to take this mishmash pattern and use digital signal processing to decode the pattern to pull out an image of the scene, said Dr Slinger.

This coded aperture helps Swift spot gamma ray bursts.

By doing away with lenses and mirrors to focus light, it is possible to produce an imaging system that is very sensitive but also light and durable.

Because the image the device is picking up is spread across many thousands of sensors, damage to one in the array does not significantly degrade the entire image.

Shifting the systems focus of interest was much easier than with bulky lens-based equipment because it was so light, said Dr Slinger.

The system should also have a super resolution mode that can dial into a scene to produce very detailed pictures of one location in its field of view.

Qinetiq is developing the imaging system for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) as part of a project known as Lacoste - Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage.

The Lacoste project aims to produce an imaging system that will fly on a drone or airship to keep an eye on a battlefield or a huge swathe of a city.

Hardware with these abilities would be helpful for peace-keeping forces who want to wind images back from an incident, such as a car bomb exploding, to gather useful intelligence about where the vehicle began its journey. (ANI)

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