Nightlighter Airborne Imaging System Successfully Tested by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

LAS VEGAS – Successful flight testing and demonstration of the Nightlighter airborne imaging system, a night-time Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection instrument, was announced today by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) at AUVSI. The prototype Nightlighter system completed testing on a Twin Otter aircraft during the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)-sponsored Olympus Flight Test at Cactus Flats in China Lake, California in September of 2011, and is scheduled for deployment in the King Air 350 aircraft.

Leveraging advanced night imaging technology and standard cameras, the high-altitude Nightlighter system collects high-resolution imagery to detect IEDs in daytime or nighttime conditions that “can be processed rapidly into precision, wide-area, three-dimensional relief maps of terrain and structures,” comments GA-ASI’s Reconnaissance Systems Group Vice President Michael Perry.

Further testing in both day and night conditions is scheduled for additional validation of the Nightlighter’s effectiveness against IEDs and other devices implanted alongside thoroughfares.

The Nightlighter system is based the GA-ASI Highlighter electro-optic sensor system deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and has been under development since 2010.

Photo: The Assembly Area at the Olympus test site in Cactus Flats, China Lake, Calif., in Sept. 2011. The night imagery contains no shadows, and NIR has different reflectivity than Visible. The dark tire marks in the night imagery (right) is moist soil, which strongly absorbs the laser energy at 880 nm. (Photo courtesy GA-ASI)