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QinetiQ Awarded DARPA Contract To Explore 'First-Of-Their-Kind' Sensors

Artist's impression of lacoste sensor.
by Staff Writers
Farnborough, UK (SPX) Dec 04, 2006
QinetiQ has secured a two-year $5.0m research contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) programme. This will investigate using first-of-their-kind sensors, like lensless imaging, to provide persistent tactical surveillance and precision tracking capabilities.

The concept is to develop a suite of sensors that can be operated at high altitude (~20 km), possibly on an airship or endurance UAV, that detect and simultaneously track large numbers of moving vehicles in dense urban areas with a high degree of accuracy, 24-hours a day. In order to achieve this the sensors need to be high resolution and sensitivity and have a wide field-of-regard and a variable almost instantaneous reconfigurable field of-view.

QinetiQ's novel lensless imaging solution is the basis of this approach and is itself a disruptive camera technology with a wide range of defence, security, industrial and commercial applications. QinetiQ is being assisted in delivering the LACOSTE programme by subcontractor Goodrich Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems.

The first phase of the programme is intended to provide a complete description of the initial objective system to meet the LACOSTE goals. This includes mechanical design (mass, volume, power, cooling); digital signal processing (decoding, gain, diffraction) and operational concept (resource management and tracking). It will also describe the critical technologies assumed and map out a clear technology development path, with scaled concept demonstrations supporting a decision for the next phase.

"This contract award is an important endorsement of QinetiQ's novel lensless imaging approach," explained Dr Chris Slinger, Technical Director in QinetiQ's Optronics business. "Our long heritage in novel sensor systems, coupled with our understanding of the downstream systems and signal processing algorithms and our ongoing work on endurance UAVs, also put us in an excellent position to be awarded this programme. The benefits of being able to identify and track multiple moving targets over very large urban and open areas is crucial today, whether it be a modern mechanised battlefield or a large city conurbation."

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