US Coast Guard Tests UAS-Mounted ViDAR For Search Missions

Sentient, a developer of computer vision solutions, has announced the successful completion of its live demonstration of ViDAR with the US Coast Guard. The trial was conducted off Cape Cod, MA, over a week with a team from the USCG Research and Development Centre, Hood Technologies and TacAero. The demonstration highlighted ViDAR’s capability to find objects of interest at great distance, whilst searching over wide tracts of ocean from a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The demonstration was part of the Coast Guard’s continuing evaluation of small UAS technologies and sensors currently available in the commercial market.

“Detection is critical to bringing reliability to the surveillance task. With limited size and power, small and tactical UAS are heavily constrained in what they can carry and are often therefore limited to observing what has already been found,” said Simon Olsen, Sentient’s Director of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships. “ViDAR is the first technology with the ability to conduct wide area search from a small/tactical UAS.”

The US Coast Guard demonstration of ViDAR involved an exhaustive series of search flights designed to find vessels and objects representative of Coast Guard missions. The targets were placed in the search area at locations unknown to the ViDAR operator.

Highlights from the demonstration include ViDAR successfully, and autonomously, detecting a fast boat at 17.7nm, a life raft at 3.7nm, a person in the water at 1.9nm and a shipping vessel at over 33nm. Each time ViDAR detected an object, a small image was sent to the ground automatically; allowing the operator to move from initial detection, to classification and identification in seconds.

ViDAR comprises a high-resolution digital camera that continuously scans the ocean in a 180-degree arc in front of the air vehicle. The ViDAR software autonomously detects any object on the surface of the ocean, providing the ground control station with an image and location coordinate of each object detected in real time. The zoom-able spotter sensor can then be cross-cued to the object for closer inspection, while ViDAR continues to provide ongoing situational awareness.

Operating in effect like an optical radar, ViDAR enables a wide field of view, resulting in over 80 times ocean coverage compared with existing optics.

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