Royal Australian Navy to Trial ViDAR Payload for Unmanned Aircraft Systems 

30 September, 2015 – Sentient today announced that the RAN has procured a license for its Kestrel Maritime ViDAR wide area maritime detection software to support RAN UAS activities. The software is designed to be incorporated into a purpose built ViDAR payload that can be modularly applied to the existing Block D Scan Eagle currently being flown by the Navy. 

"Kestrel Maritime ViDAR has the potential to be game changing for Naval UAS operations" said Simon Olsen, Sentient's Director of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships. "Small payload capacity and limited bandwidth restrict tactical UAS to primarily provide surveillance over objects of interest that have already been detected". Typically detection of objects in the ocean requires manned aircraft with much greater payload capacity – aircraft which are often expensive to operate and deploy. "Kestrel Maritime ViDAR now gives a UAS like the Scan Eagle the crucial capability to search as well as to conduct surveillance, dramatically increasing its usefulness to the RAN" said Olsen. 

"The Navy is looking at the Kestrel Maritime ViDAR trials to potentially support, among other systems, wide area maritime surveillance" said Captain Allen Whittaker, RAN. 

Insitu Pacific Ltd (IPL) will be trialing the Kestrel Maritime ViDAR payload for the RAN as a part of their support to ongoing Navy UAS experimentation activity. "ViDAR provides a critical point of difference for the Scan Eagle UAS enabling it to now scan significant areas autonomously in both blue water and littoral environments", said Andrew Duggan, IPL's Managing Director.

Kestrel Maritime ViDAR

Kestrel Maritime ViDAR consists of a 9 megapixel second sensor on board a Scan Eagle and onboard automation software designed to automatically detect objects on the ocean in real time. The 9 megapixel sensor works autonomously from the operator, scanning the ocean’s surface in a 180 degree arc around the front of the Scan eagle. It operates similarly to airborne radar, but in the visual domain. Objects detected are sent to the operator on the ground as images and map location points in real time. Once detected, the operator can select the objects of interest enabling the primary sensor to be cross cued for interrogation/classification. A Scan Eagle equipped with a ViDAR payload can autonomously cover over 80 times the ocean’s surface as compared with existing EO/IR sensors.

Sentient Awarded Contract for Kestrel EO/IR Automated Detection Software for NAVAIR MQ-8 Fire Scout Program

9 March 2015Sentient has delivered the first Kestrel automated detection software to NAVAIR for use within the Mission Control System package for the MQ-8 Fire Scout. The MQ-8 Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter that provides US Navy ships with reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. “Automated video analysis tools like Kestrel help maximize the value of the EO/IR sensor package to the tactical operator.” Captain Jeff Dodge, Program Manager from NAVAIR said.

Kestrel automatically detects hard-to-see objects within the EO/IR sensor data feed in real-time. Kestrel specializes in detecting small objects on the surface of the ocean including boats, rubber rafts and people overboard or vehicles and people moving on land. “With well over 15,000 hours of operational in-theatre experience on both manned and un-manned ISR platforms, Sentient has optimized the Kestrel software to perform effectively in the most challenging conditions. “Tom Bleier, Director of Business Development at Sentient said. He added, “Kestrel has been recognized by a growing number of agencies and operators as the Gold Standard in ISR video analytics. We are pleased to reach this milestone with an important program of record.” 

Fire Scout uses on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, identify targets and distribute information in real time to various users. This allows ship-based commanders to maintain awareness of a specified area or keep an eye on a target of interest for long periods of time. Kestrel provides visual cues to operators of distant targets allowing for faster classification and the dissemination of actionable intelligence. 

Kestrel complements the EO/IR sensors by resolving many of the human factor limitations that hinder long surveillance missions in challenging environments. “The goal is to improve sensor operator performance which extends the capabilities of the entire platform in certain ISR modes of operation”, said Robert S Murphy, Ship Integration IPT Lead, NAVAIR.

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