AUVSI: Exelis unveils wide area sensor for UAV market

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Exelis (booth 1025) has launched a new wide-area, persistent surveillance system for commercial and military unmanned air vehicles (UAV) – the CorvusEye 1500.

The 15in-diameter turret ball uses four cameras to create a 3km-wide composite image with high-resolution quality.

The CorvusEye - based on the Latin for the crow family - weighs 75lb (34kg), allowing it to fit on a wide range of medium- and large-sized UAVs, ranging from the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout and MQ-5B Hunter to the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP, says Danny Rajan, director of regional surveillance systems for Exelis.

It is the latest product to emerge from Exelis’ seven-year-long pursuit of the wide area persistent surveillance market. The company supplied the wide area sensor for the Sierra Nevada Gorgon Stare pod, a 24-in diameter surveillance turret with 10 cameras, that is deployed by US forces in Afghanistan.

While the Gorgon Stare is tailored to high-end military missions, the CorvusEye 1500 is aimed at a broader market.

A frequent criticism of medium-altitude-class UAVs is the “soda straw” effect of narrow field of view surveillance sensors. The CorvusEye 1500 is an attempt to offer a wide area surveillance system for such UAVs, while not sacrificing resolution quality.

Moreover, Exelis is seeking to offer the new pod at a price point that should be competitive with the narrow field of view sensors systems, says Lori Thompson, Exelis’ vice-president of innovation, technology and corporate planning.

The CorvusEye 1500 also opens the door to civil UAS applications, such as border security, critical infrastructure protection, maritime patrol, coastal surveillance and law enforcement, says Rajan.

Exelis is in close talks for a direct commercial sale of the CorvusEye 1500 with a potential international buyer, Rajan says. The US government has approved Exelis to offer the export-controlled version CorvusEye 1500 to nine countries. Rajan also says Exelis is in talks with the army about adding the system to the MQ-5B fleet.

Exelis is working on developing a version of the CorvusEye 1500 that is not covered by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Thompson says.

The version of the CorvusEye 1500 displayed at AUVSI included only daylight cameras, but Exelis plans to complete development of a new version – the CorvusEye 1500CM – in the fourth quarter that includes thermal imaging sensors for night vision.