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Software Innovations Boost Australian UAV Tracking Capabilities

Oct. 29, 2013 - 08:10AM   |  
By NIGEL PITTAWAY   |   Comments
General Dynamics Mediaware developed a processing and dissemination capability for the Australian Army Shadow UAV. (Australian Army)
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Innovations by Australian software companies have improved the military’s ability to track targets in difficult environment and rapidly disseminate data to analysts and deployed units.

More recently, Sentient Vision Systems and General Dynamics (GD) Mediaware combined forces to develop capabilities for UAVs to spot hard-to-see targets and to provide near real-time data analysis.

Sentient first developed its Kestrel Land MTI software under an Australian Defence Force Capability and Technology Demonstrator program in 2008 for use with the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle UAVs, then being used in Afghanistan. Today, it is used on the Australian Army’s AAI RQ-7B Shadow 200 unmanned systems in theater, as well as the fixed-wing Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orions flown by the Air Force.

The latest version, Kestrel 3.0, was released in March 2012, and improvements include a tracking capability that allows operators to determine from where a target of interest has moved since it entered the field of view of the electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors.

A maritime version has been developed for operations over water, and on Oct. 8, Kestrel Maritime won a Civil SME Innovation Grant at the Maritime Australia Limited Innovation Awards, held in conjunction with the Pacific 2013 Maritime Exposition.

“The maritime environment is very challenging for aerial surveillance. The constantly changing surface of the sea makes detection and tracking of small objects very difficult for both humans and automated analysis systems,” noted Sentient Managing Director Paul Boxer.

“With Kestrel Maritime, we have developed a software solution that automates the detection of small objects on the surface of the ocean. Taking into account environmental effects such as whitecaps, clouds and sun glare, the software reliably detects small objects, including those with low electronic signatures such as wooden boats or people in the water,” Boxer said.

GD Mediaware, a division of GD Advanced Information Systems, developed a processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) capability for Australian Army Shadow UAVs, replacing an interim arrangement delivered when the systems were purchased through the US Army.

Using D-VEX video exploitation software, the PED is housed in a ruggedized box plugged into the Shadow’s ground control station and converts analog EO/IR feed into NATO-compliant digital information, which can be tagged, archived, searched and distributed throughout the Army’s command-and-control networks.

Such was the urgency of the requirement, the Shadow PED was designed, developed, tested and deployed to Afghanistan in less than a year.

In June, Sentient and GD Mediaware formed a technical partnership to combine the Kestrel land and maritime software with D-VEX, allowing operators to identify small, hard-to-find moving targets in EO/IR aerial live video streams and rapidly transform raw video data into actionable intelligence.

In August, the Kestrel/D-VEX combination was integrated with the GD Tactical Multi-INT Analysis and Archive System (TAC-MAAS), which offers real-time and near-real-time analysis to deployed units. TAC-MAAS can detect and identify difficult-to-see targets and then extract time-critical intelligence from the multiple sensors available to mission commanders.

GD Mediaware announced Sept. 10 that it had partnered with Chemring Technology Solutions to combine D-VEX with Chemring’s Visual Target Analysis (VTA) 2.0 MTI system

“We are committed to continuously improving the capabilities of D-VEX to solve the complex data challenge of extracting actionable intelligence from thousands of hours of video footage,” said Kevin Moore, General Dynamics Mediaware’s chief technology officer. “Chemring Technology Solutions’ unique approach in VTA 2.0 gives D-VEX the enhanced ability to track and map vehicle and personnel movement, providing the operators and analysts who are working under extreme pressure with mission-critical actionable intelligence in near-real time.”

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