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Boeing to supply A160T for DARPA gigapixel sensor demo

Boeing is to supply an A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopter as a platform for the demonstration of a "gigapixel" sensor able to provide real-time, high-resolution video surveillance over a wide area.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's autonomous real-time ground ubiquitous surveillance imaging system (Argus-IS) is intended to overcome the narrow "soda straw" field of view of the high-resolution sensors carried by medium-altitude unmanned air vehicles such as the General Atomics MQ-1/9 Predator.

Argus is intended to provide a minimum of 50 Predator-like steerable sensor "beams" simultaneously to enable real-time monitoring and tracking. Carried in a pod under the 18h-endurance A160T, the stabilised gigapixel sensor will image a 3km (1.6nm) radius from 13,000ft (3,960m) with a beam resolution of 0.11m and frame rate of at least 10Hz.

DARPA expects the sensor to have between 1.4 and 2.5 gigapixels, providing a field of view of at least 45°. A likely approach to meet the requirement is to have four commercial CMOS high-density focal plane arrays sharing a single set of optics and forming a mosaic image. Data will be processed on board to provide video windowing and moving target indication, and video will be downlinked at 200Mb/sec.

Boeing has received a $6.3 million contract to deliver the A160T to carry the roughly 230kg pod for the Argus demonstration in 2009.

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