Turning raw data into actionable intelligence UAV and their sensors are only part of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) "big picture". Completing that concerns processing, storing and retrieving the data into actionable intelligence. Utilizing modern commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology, sensor data can be rapidly processed. Correlated to geographical grid, and merged with live and stored images, imagery and spatial information including EO, SAR, MTI maps, SIGINT and ESM can be fused and presented over common map display, showing a detailed and accurate multi- dimensional situational picture. The use of ISR products is not limited to intelligence analysts, but can also be used by warfighters in the field, using tactical computer terminals and PDAs. Prior to delivery products are trimmed, wrapped, and compressed to adapt to narrow-band wireless communications. Presently, "stovepipe" systems are employed to provide intelligence. These include various airborne and ground based sensors, such as Global Hawk and Predator UAVs, Joint STARS ground surveillance systems and various ELINT/COMINT assets. Each system is operated separately, utilizing specific sensors, airborne and ground based processing and exploitation systems. The refined intelligence is shared at a higher level, where it supports operational planning and ongoing operations. Enhanced Vision Systems By using state of the art technology, much of the information can be shared, fused and used to improve the final product. For example, scanning a wide area for time critical targets cannot rely only on EO means alone. By merging GMTI and Stripmap SAR images, wide areas can be scanned rapidly for moving targets, man-made objects and potential targets. Such elements can be anything from a pick-up truck to a transportable missile launcher. When potential targets are detected, Spot mode is used to automatically scan through each location in an attempt to distinguish differently shaped targets such as a specific type of tank or truck. Known targets can be tagged by their distinct signature, or actively marked for automatic detection and tracking. SAR imagery is sufficient for identification of military targets, identifying the distinctive 3D signatures and object shapes of specific vehicle types; further investigation of the target is required for engagement of typical targets in asymmetric warfare. EO sensors are employed to further examine specific locations or suspicious objects detected by the radar. By fusing SAR, IIR, thermal and EO images, analysts can now focus on the potential "needles", which automatic processes have weeded out of the larger "haystack". As all data is geo-referenced, target coordinates can be extracted immediately for rapid response. The fusion of signals from different spectral bands enable better visualization of information which could be not be seen in by visible means. The US Air Force pursues several Foliage Penetrating (FOPEN) concepts, including processing of hyperspectral sensor data, for collection, location, and identification of camouflaged and concealed targets and foliage penetrating SAR. Target Geolocation Simple geolocation (currently supporting 90 and 30 meter positioning accuracy) could be sufficient for general orientation but will not be suitable for targeting of GPS guided weapons, such as JDAM. This level of accuracy is yet to be provided by unmanned systems. At present, the US Air Force is operating systems such as the Gridlock advanced concept technology demonstrator, integrated with the Global Hawk system. Gridlock uses a high precision navigation system generating a digital terrain database with 10 meter accuracy. Even these levels of accuracy are insufficient for precision engagement by unmanned systems - future unmanned combat systems will be required to deliver targeting accuracy of 1 – 3 meters. Accurate location is not the only factor needed for precision engagement - cruise missiles, and EO guided weapons such as Storm Shadow, Taurus 350 and SPICE requires precise and detailed imagery for navigation and terminal guidance. Live video is required for "man in the loop" control of guided weapons, such as Hellfire and SPIKE, to avoid fratricide and collateral damage. Users requiring such live imagery can link directly to the sensor, using "tactical video receiver" which receives analog video streams. UAV images can be shared by multiple users, including helicopter pilots, field commanders as well as dismounted troops. More advanced systems enable active control of the payload. Computer Mapping & Modeling For hundreds of years, maps and cartography provided critical means for command and decision support. Their value was derived from the accuracy, timeliness and relevance of their data sets. Maps are still valuable command tools, but today their production is faster, the data is much more accurate and most important – when embedded into digital processing and presentation environment, they provide a common denominator for command and control. With new technology geographical information systems (GIS) are used to process sensor information; generate spatial presentation of intelligence products. Geospatial products are also used for presentation of terrain measurement data, as input from SAR, LIDAR and LADAR sensors is processed and represented as realistic 3D models, used for operational planning. Rectified over a common grid, ISR data can automatically update a situational picture, or further process it with satellite or aerial imagery presenting realistic 3D models of an area, including updated man-made features. Such models are used for mission planning and rehearsal, briefing on a synthetic "sand- box", spatial orientation and training. Geo- registration is an essential capability for advanced image processing. Images are referenced to a common geographical grid enabling detailed comparison between different views of the same area. In the past, such referencing was done in a manual, a time consuming process prone to human errors. Today, geo- registration automation is done in a real-time process, performed on still images, including SAR and GMTI, and most recently on live video. This capability enables endless ways to manipulate the images, by merging them into wide-area mosaics, morphing them to suite the proportions of 3D models, correcting optical and perspective distortions etc. Accurately registered into a common grid, images are fused into common views, providing stereoscopic views (depicting height and depth of objects) and true, dynamic 3D computer generated models and "fly through", which can be generated in few hours, rather than weeks, offering realistic views of an object from different angles. Automatic Change Detection An important feature of image processing is the comparison of new and stored images to detect changes over time. This method is called Coherent Change Detection (CCD) and its uses are rapidly spreading throughout the military. By comparing live images with past images of the same area, systems can automatically detect and identify changes which can show placement of new objects such as hidden IEDs, faint signatures of recent movement, such as vehicle tracks, changes in foliage indicating human movements, or application of camouflage that could indicate suspicious activity. Through the image analysis and investigative process, these views can be superimposed with thermal images, showing latent signatures of recent human activity. When searching for a specific type of object, hyperspectral analysis can be performed, by dedicated sensors, which are designed to identify specific traces of chemical or organic materials, by their distinctive spectral reflections. Multi-spectral image fusing is also performed to enable target identification from very long range, particularly at night. For example, combining Near IR (NIR) with TV overcomes the visual reflection from a car windshield, to show people inside a car. Identifying these people from a long distance can be done by illuminating the target with an invisible laser beam, and using a special telescopic "gated CCD" sensor to view the target in great details. Progress is also evident in solving the "bandwidth bottleneck", transferring large files over communications networks. The US Marine Corps are planning to field the Video Storage Wide Area Network, which collects and provides information on situational awareness. The network uses multiple image collectors including Pioneer and Scan Eagle UAVs. The ground stations of these UAVs are streaming live video over satellite communications to a central repository which provides digitization, compression, editing and storage services. These video databases are then made available to multiple users in theater as well as worldwide. While the system supports multiple users and multiple streams, bandwidth availability becomes an issue when 128K "pipes" are used – typical streaming video requires around 400-Kbps bandwidth, which is not always available for field users. Convoy protection and IED patrols Patrolling highways in hostile area, while protecting convoys is part of the regular mission of UAVs in Iraq. Relying on continuous communications and positioning from blue force tracking systems, UAVs can cover a convoy, controlled from ground control stations at distances of up to 100 km. However, a more suitable solution is to use a small UAV loitering overhead, equipped with ground surveillance systems to monitor the area ahead of the convoy forewarn ambushes or suspected IEDs lying ahead. Such systems were demonstrated by several manufacturers at the UAV Battlelabs. One of the system, the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could be used for convoy protection in Iraq before the end of 2005. New sensor suits are evaluated for these missions, providing situational awareness and early warning of hostile intent. Such sensors are including close coverage by acoustic gunshot detectors, such as the ShotSpotter, which automatically slews the UAV's camera to source of fire; EO/IR imaging sensors offer coverage at longer range, and enable the UAV to fly ahead of the convoy, providing early warning about potential threats. Synthetic aperture radar can also employed by "sweeping" roadsides from long distance, detecting changes in the terrain, which could indicate IED locations. To better coordinate between the UAV and the convoy, the UAV or its sensor has to be controlled from the moving vehicles, providing continuous feed of video imagery while on the move. The UAV can perform several tasks automatically, including Continuous Change Detection (CCD) processing and moving target detection. Advanced operating modes enable the UAV to autonomously maintain a fixed distance ahead of a convoy, by following the route and GPS location of the ground station (security team).
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