TEL AVIV — The Israel Air Force is evaluating a hyperspectral measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) system sensor designed to add an entirely new dimension to Israeli intelligence-collection capabilities.
Developed by Haifa-based Elbit Systems and deployed in the belly of a company-built Hermes 450S Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the system — Chariots of Fire — promises to detect uranium trace elements and other materials by the radiation of their unique spectral signatures.
Because the system detects signatures rather than electro-optic or radar images, it is also expected to locate and identify camouflaged, submerged or buried targets, sources here said.
Defense and industry sources here said the Israel Air Force and Defense Ministry technical experts have been testing the UAV-unmanned-aircraft deployed system for several months, validating collection data against a bank of target signatures built up over many years.
Initial procurement funding to equip at least one of the Israel Air Force’s Hermes 450S-squadrons could be included in the Israeli military’s upcoming five-year budget plan, they said.
Adi Dar, president of Elbit’s Electro-Optic Elop, Ltd., declined to discuss the Israeli evaluation program, yet agreed to speak in general terms of the benefits offered by the new hyperspectral MASINT system.
“Until today, this tool didn’t exist on UAVs. All UAV electro-optical sensors are looking at the visible, and it’s very easy to mislead the eye. But now we can do remote sensing not of what you see, but of what is physically out there. It automatically captures the spectral signature of imaged materials, which is unique to every material in nature, just like a fingerprint,” he said.
“You’re not seeing a picture, but a source of radiation. It’s a different type of intelligence where interpretation is more exact since it’s directly related to physics. ... Once you succeed in creating a data base of spectral signatures, you remove the doubt by matching the targeted object to its unique signature.”
Dar said the Chariots of Fire system was based on hyperspectral imaging technology initially developed for remote-sensing satellites. The fully autonomous system is designed for use on a range of unmanned planes UAVs or light aircraft and can be applied to a multitude of civilian and scientific uses, including water sampling, pollution detection and vegetation tracking.
Housed in a pod weighing less than 60 kilograms, the system comprises a primary hyperspectral sensor and a secondary camera capable of stereoscopic imaging as well as a ground-based mission management and data interpretation systems.
According to Elbit technical data, the system is designed to cover 100 square kilometers an hour from 15,000 feet, providing high-resolution hyperspectral imagery in a wide span of wavelengths.