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U.S. Army Looks to New Ground-Based Sensors to Track Both UAS and Personnel Targets

The U.S. Army is exploring next-generation passive ground-based Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) that could be used to provide long range detection and tracking of both small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and personnel ground targets. Service interest in the combined capabilities was disclosed in a recent announcement released on behalf of the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD).

The U.S. Army currently fields sensor systems such as the Long-Range Advance Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3) which provides the ability to detect, recognize, identify and geo-locate distant targets. A new ground-based sensor would be automated to track UAS and personnel targets. U.S. Army photo

The U.S. Army currently fields sensor systems such as the Long-Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3) which provides the ability to detect, recognize, identify and geo-locate distant targets. A new ground-based sensor would be automated to track UAS and personnel targets. U.S. Army photo

With the stated intent of identifying potential capabilities for the development of stationary, mast-mounted, wide area Infrared Search and Track (IRST) systems, the late February market research announcement sought information on long range, ground-based, wide area coverage high resolution Electro-Optic Infrared (EOIR) sensor system designs that could be automatically cued by the detection and tracking system for man-in-the-loop confirmation of detected targets.

UAS targets of interest are identified as “Group 1 through 3,” corresponding to the criteria provided in U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Publication 3-30, “Command and Control for Joint Air Operations,” Jan. 12, 2010. The largest systems in these categories, Group 3, are defined as systems having a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 1,320 lbs., normal operating altitude less than 18,000 feet (mean sea level), and less than 250 knots indicated air speed.

Notional system level requirements against those targets include automated detection and tracking of multiple UAS targets flying tactical mission profiles at ranges of up to several kilometers against varying backgrounds over extended periods of time, and man-in-the loop classification of UAS targets at tactical ranges of up to several kilometers.

Similar notional system requirements are also identified for personnel targets.

Additional notional system parameters include:

  • Day and night sensor operation;
  • System mounting on a ground-based [government furnished] mast platform with a maximum height of 6 meters;
  • 360 degree azimuth coverage;
  • Minimum of 55 degree elevation coverage (nominally -5 to + 50 off of the horizon);
  • Maximum sensor size of 20 x 20 x 48 inches (not including mast);
  • Maximum sensor weight of 200 pounds (not including mast); and
  • Maximum sensor power draw of 300 Watts (not including mast).

In addition to UAS and personnel targets, the announcement notes, “Detection and tracking of other relevant military targets, such as ground vehicles, are also of interest to the government under this [request for information] but are not a primary focus.”

The announcement adds that the Army is interested in integrated, passive, system-level approaches that can address the notional capabilities and parameters “and could be ready for a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5/6 demonstration in Fiscal Year 2015.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...