Navy asks Arete to build additional multispectral sensor systems for mine detection on invasion beaches

Oct. 12, 2020
COBRA uses multispectral sensors on unmanned helicopters to detect mine fields and obstacles in the surf zone prior to an amphibious assault.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Electro-optics experts at Arete Associates in Northridge, Calif., are building additional multispectral unmanned aircraft sensor payloads to help unmanned helicopters detect and pinpoint enemy mines and obstacles in beach surf zones to help keep Marines safe during amphibious landings.

Officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Fla., announced an $18 million order on Thursday for Arete to build AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block I systems.

Carried on the Navy Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, the sensor system has limited detection capability in the surf zone. It enables operators and personnel to remain at safe distances for mine detection. COBRA will be deployed from the littoral combat ship and is an integral part of the ship's mine countermeasures mission package.

COBRA uses multispectral sensors to conduct unmanned aerial tactical reconnaissance to detect and localize mine fields and obstacles in the surf zone and beach zone prior to amphibious assault.

Related: Wanted: electro-optics companies able to build multispectral sensor for persistent surveillance

A multispectral image contains data within specific wavelength ranges to extract information the human eye fails to capture with its receptors for red, green, and blue. It measures light in 3 to 15 spectral bands to help detect otherwise-invisible mines.

The AN/DVS-1 COBRA passive multispectral sensor system is for unmanned helicopters to perform daytime surface-laid mine line and obstacle detection in the beach zone, and has off-board processing, Arete experts say.

The COBRA payload includes stabilized step stare digital gimbal, high-resolution multispectral imaging digital camera with spinning six-color filter wheel, a processing unit, and a solid-state data storage unit.

The gimbal is about 19 inches long and 11 inches in diameter, and collects six different color-band images across a large area using a step-stare pattern. At the mission, personnel load its data storage unit into a post mission analysis station.

Related: Navy asks BAE Systems to develop airborne mine-hunting lidar for manned and unmanned aircraft

The COBRA Block I system has two airborne payloads, the post mission analysis station, and the tactical control system segment for the UAV ground control station to plan the flight tracks for the COBRA mission, monitor the mission, and reprogram the flight path if necessary.

COBRA began as a U.S. Marine Corps advanced technology program in the 1990s. The system uses incremental development, with three initial blocks of development planned with each introducing new or enhanced capabilities. COBRA Blocks II and III are in concept refinement and technology development.

On this order Arete Associates will do the work in Tucson, Ariz.; Destin, Fla.; and Santa Rosa, Calif., and should be finished by September 2021. For more information contact Arete Associates online at, or the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division at

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