Goodrich is proposing development of a compact DB-110 long range imaging pod for the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems International Predator B UAV based on lessons from the demonstration of that sensor as part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Joint UAV Experimentation Programme (JUEP).
The new DB-110 pod would be smaller and lighter than the system used during the JUEP trials, which were carried out between December 2005 and February 2005 in Southern California using a leased Predator B.
During those trials a DB-110 and tactical data link taken from a Royal Air Force RAPTOR targeting pod was integrated into a US Air National Guard stores pod normally carried by a Lockheed Martin F-16. The new configuration was carried on the inner port pylon on the Predator B wing with GAASI carrying out partial suite integration.
The proposed compact DB-110 pod would be optimised for carriage on a centreline pylon, and could provide the basis for a highly integrated cross cueing sensor suite says David Toms, director of business development at Goodrich.
“This is a very powerful instrument which could go in a smaller enclosure… We could make it quite a bit smaller, quite a bit lighter, put it on the centreline, and you would have a much more robust instrument.”
Unveiling the concept at last months Unmanned Systems North America conference in Orlando, Florida, Toms said that the JUEP trials saw “simultaneous operation of the DB-110, datalink, Lynx synthetic aperture radar, and Wescam Skyball on board the aircraft. “We wanted to do multi-sensor cross cueing, but it was a little bit beyond the scope of the test,” he says.
“We believe that with a little bit more work we could have used ground moving target indicator detections from the radar to cue the DB-110 or the Wescam. It would have taken a couple more weeks of integration to achieve that but it was a little bit beyond the scope of the test and we couldn’t quite get there; with a little more work we could. So multi-intelligence detection and cueing is a real possibility.”
The sensor suite, leveraging existing JUEP demonstration communications and image processing architectures, would have the potential to support a kill chain of “about five minutes” says Toms. That timeframe would include “target location, cueing from the radar or from off-board sensors, stand-off imagery collection and validation, reach back, connectivity to the UK and exploitation, targeting decisions, return whilst in transit to a target – so you can get validation of your target while in transit - and you can get post strike bomb damage assessment if required”.
Location of the new pod on the centreline would free up Predator B wing pylons for stores.
The cross-cueing capabilities could also potentially have a role in improvised explosive device (IED) detection Toms says. The JUEP trials saw DB-110 imagery, collected from 20,000ft in a swathe 380m wide with a ground pixel resolution of 50mm, processed using the US Army’s Night Vision Laboratory change detection work station. “We were able to locate an IED about 2ft (0.6m) long using this method,” says Toms. Goodrich has done further work with the Laboratory since the trials which suggest that better results are achievable.
The JUEP demonstrations have also highlighted the need for greater automation of imagery analysis Toms says, to reduce operator workload. “We would like to find an automated means of getting through a whole lot of imagery real fast looking for specific targets of interest.”