Raytheon, BAE, and University of Utah prepare for Navy robocopter exam
While students at the University of Utah gear down from their scholastic regimes this summer, the university’s technologists – along with Raytheon, BAE Systems, FLIR Systems, and NAWCWD – will be gearing up for an important airborne exam to benefit the Navy’s unmanned “robocopter” robotic helicopter dubbed “Fire Scout.”
What brings Fire Scout to the head of its class is the vessel’s ability to autonomously identify a single pirate ship in boat-congested waters. The goal is to relieve already-overburdened sailors from the need to manually scour through hours of streaming video looking for one pirate vessel.
The key to Fire Scout’s success is the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker (MMSS) – funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) – which melds laser-radar (LADAR) with mid-wave IR sensors and high-def cameras. The LADAR collects 3D data, which is then exploited by target recognition software algorithms spawned by the Navy and residing upon Fire Scout. Next, the 3D images collected are compared (by the software) with schematics or vessel templates preloaded into the robocopter’s system memory.
The final step is for Fire Scout to transmit a 3D image of the identified boat to human operators for analysis.
This summer’s test features the software, integrated into a turret called “BRITE Star II” and created by the aforementioned scholastic and industry team. Having already passed its exam in shore-based systems, this summer’s manned helicopter airborne test will occur off the California coast.
All this testing, of course, helps Fire Scout get one step closer to the brass ring: its true (airborne, unmanned) purpose.
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