Persistent surveillance with UAV-mounted infrared sensors is goal of DARPA ARGUS-IR program

By John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va.—Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop staring infrared sensors able to provide long-term persistent surveillance from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The program is called Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR; DARPA-BAA-10-02) for persistent wide-area, high-resolution infrared surveillance. The ARGUS-IR system will combine sensor and sensor-processing subsystems to produce high-resolution video streams.

To do this, DARPA wants to develop wide-field-of-view IR airborne sensors to provide 24-hour surveillance with frame rates and resolutions able to detect and track people on foot—particularly in cities at night. The sensor system must fit on Predator unmanned vehicles or smaller UAVs.

ARGUS-IR will provide real-time, high-resolution video surveillance over large areas at night, process sensor data on board, and transmit commands and data to remote operators at least five frames per second. Operators will control at least 65 independently steerable video streams.

The two components of ARGUS-IR will be a wide-field-of-view infrared sensor system, using long-wave infrared or mid-wave infrared spectral bands.

The infrared sensors must have minimum resolution of 200,000 pixels, upgradeable to 600,000 pixels in the program’s third phase. The sensor must weigh less than 400 pounds, and use less than 1,000 watts of electricity.

The sensor processing system must be able to process 200 million pixels from an infrared focal plane array, with two basic modes: video windowing and moving target indication.

Sponsoring this program is the DARPA Information Processing Techniques Office. Initial proposals are due by 16 Feb. 2010, and final proposals are due by 16 July 2009.

For technical questions, contact the DARPA ARGUS-IR program manager, Brian Leininger, by e-mail at, or by fax at 703-807-4907.

Additional information about the ARGUS-IR project is available online at

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