QinetiQ wins DARPA contract to explore new sensors

By Annie Turner

FARNBOROUGH, England - QinetiQ in Farnborough, England, has secured a two-year, $5 million research contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) program.

The LACOSTE program will investigate using first-of-their-kind sensors, like lensless imaging, to provide persistent tactical surveillance and precision tracking capabilities.

The concept is to develop a suite of sensors that can be operated at altitudes as high as 20 kilometers possibly on an airship or endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The sensors are designed to detect and track large numbers of moving vehicles in dense urban areas with a high degree of accuracy, 24 hours a day.

The sensors need to be high resolution, highly sensitive, and have a wide field-of-regard with a variable field of-view that can be reconfigured almost simultaneously.

QinetiQ’s lensless imaging solution is the basis of this approach, which the company describes as a disruptive camera technology with a wide range of defense, security, industrial, and commercial applications. QinetiQ is being assisted in delivering the LACOSTE program by subcontractor Goodrich Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems in Chelmsford, Mass.

The first phase of the program is intended to provide a complete description of the initial objective system to meet the LACOSTE goals. This includes mechanical design (mass, volume, power, cooling), digital signal processing (decoding, gain, diffraction), and operational concept (resource management and tracking). It will also describe the critical technologies assumed and map out a technology development path, with scaled concept demonstrations supporting a decision for the next phase.

“Our long heritage in novel sensor systems, coupled with our understanding of the downstream systems and signal processing algorithms and our ongoing work on endurance UAVs, put us in an excellent position to be awarded this program,” said Chris Slinger, technical director in QinetiQ’s Optronics business.

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