On the battlefield, commanders need actionable intelligence to make real-time decisions. Intelligence collection missions are many times conducted near air defense threats that risk the platform being shot down. Operating away from these threats at increased stand-off ranges improves platform survivability, especially important in manned ISR aircraft. Adding to these complexities are the effects due to smoke and haze in limiting the applicability of standard short-range EO/IR systems. Multi-Spectral Imaging (MSI) technologies can address these complex operational needs.
“Multi-spectral imaging sensors provide intelligence by looking at scenes and manmade objects through individual bands of the EOIR and infrared spectrum, and then assembling them into an image”, Gavin Dyer, Technical Fellow for Collins Aerospace, told us in a recent interview. “That intelligence is unlike any other. It can detect heat, see through smoke and haze, providing a clear picture — even at nighttime — that you just can’t get from an image produced by a basic high definition camera. Adding the ability to do this at stand-off ranges increases platform survivability and clandestine operation.”
Viewing the scene through selected individual bands (red, green, blue, near, short and medium wave IR) allows different things to be detected, and when combined using processing techniques into a composite image an information rich high-resolution picture is produced.
The US Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft has flown for many years with a highly effective MSI sensor called the Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS). SYERS has serviced combatant commander’s intelligence needs for over 20-years and has regularly been enhanced to keep pace with evolving war fighter threats. The latest SYERS variant, called the SYERS-2C, has proven capabilities for both land and sea missions, during the day or through the night.
According to Dyer, the next-generation of Collins’ MSI solutions are the MS-177 / MS-177A sensors and the smaller size MS-110. MS-177 and MS-177A expand the SYERS modes of operation to service war fighter needs, as well as incorporate producibility and supportability improvements. MS-177 and MS-177A are easier to mount on a broader variety of ISR platforms.
“The RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 UAS will go operational with the 7-band MS-177 sensor in 2020, soon followed by deployment of the 10-band MS-177A sensor,” Dyer said. Based on the MS-177A’s unique maritime mission capabilities, the US Navy is planning a maritime experiment of the MS-177A on a flight test maritime patrol aircraft.
The smaller MS-110 sensor, which incorporates MSI technology into the widely produced dual band DB-110 sensor form factor, comes available in a variety of carriage pods and under-belly modules for platforms such as the MQ-9 UAS, MQ-25 UAS, international F-15 and F-16 fighters, and ISR business jets.
Collins provides MSI sensor mission support and training, as well as advanced technology work in image processing, autonomy/artificial intelligence and Open Mission System (OMS) standards and will continue to support DoD and coalition partners with their future needs.
To learn more, watch this video.