Predator uses COTS video system

SAN DIEGO - Engineers at General Atomic Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, were looking for a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) video system for their Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program and chose a the RGB/View 600 from RGB Spectrum in Alameda, Calif.

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By John McHale

SAN DIEGO - Engineers at General Atomic Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, were looking for a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) video system for their Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program and chose a the RGB/View 600 from RGB Spectrum in Alameda, Calif.

The RGB/View 600, a video windowing system, is part of ground stations that control UAVs while they are in flight. The Predator UAV program was developed for the U.S. Air Force Combat Command, and is flown by the 11th and 15th reconnaissance squadrons out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Predator has a payload that includes synthetic aperture radar and satellite data link capability. The UAV routinely passed near real-time video of high visibility targets in Bosnia via Ku-band satellite links to theater commanders and to the Washington area. Synthetic aperture radars just recently installed give Predator an all-weather surveillance capability.

Control of the UAV and data transmission is via a C- or Ku-band links. With the RGB/View 600 ground control personnel are able to monitor multiple real-time video feeds coming from UAV.

During take-off and landing the pilot has a full screen display from a fixed camera in the nose of the aircraft. Once the vehicle is airborne, any of the on-board surveillance cameras can be switched to full screen, with a computer-generated heads-up display and artificial horizon bar.

However, size and weight constraints tend to eliminate any thoughts of COTS in some aerial applications. Predator uses approximately 60 percent COTS equipment - mostly in processor hardware, General Atomic Aeronautical officials say.

The RGB/View 600 is a 6U VMEbus system consisting of a mother board with daughter boards for the video inputs, using a high-resolution 1,280-by-1,024-pixel display showing as many as six real-time video signals from the UAV on the ground-based pilot`s display. The video images appear in windows that can be positioned, scaled to full screen size and overlaid with computer graphics.

The RGB/View accepts NTSC and PAL composite, or RGB signals from a camera, tape recorder, videodisc or teleconferencing system. As an additional option, the RGB/View can be configured to accept various high-line rate video signals from FLIR, medical imagers or other computers, providing a computer-in-computer display capability.

The system supports software control with RGB`s software toolkit library to manipulate the video windows, adjust video param- eters, control graphics overlays, and store video frames for further processing.

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The RGB/View 600 video windowing system from RGB Spectrum enables ground-control personnel to monitor several video feeds sent from the U.S. Air Force Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

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