Army gets a look at FCS' 'eyes'

Information Exploitation Office: Jigsaw

A trio of vendors recently demonstrated a solution that could be the "eyes" of the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS), identifying obscured military targets without putting soldiers in harm's way.

The Jigsaw project, which is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Projects Office and the Army, aims to be the eyes of FCS.

It will develop advanced airborne laser radar (LADAR) sensor systems for human identification and target verification, according to DARPA documents. It is being developed to work on various FCS platforms, including ground-based unmanned autonomous vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

FCS will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to give soldiers capabilities for command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and nonline-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

LADAR sensing is being used because the sensor can "poke through" holes in obscuring material and because the sensor provides 3-D information. Jigsaw can integrate information from different viewpoints into a single, comprehensive image to assist the soldier in making targeting decisions, according to DARPA.

"The goal of the Jigsaw project is to enable human analysts to quickly see and characterize potential targets as well as nontarget objects," Robert Hauge, DARPA's Jigsaw program manager, said in a statement. "FCS platforms will position the sensor in the vicinity of candidate threat areas. It is our job to sense critical targets of interest and to pass the information necessary to enable the analysts to make targeting decisions."

Harris Corp., along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) and Sarnoff Corp., demonstrated a LADAR transmitter/sensor and sophisticated image processing and visualization software. The demonstration used LADAR to penetrate dense trees and camouflage to detect, identify and characterize targets — including tanks and armored personnel carriers — on the battlefield.

The Jigsaw team designed a system that can be flown on small vehicles, such as regular UAVs or larger, higher-altitude tactical UAVs, according to Bob Henry, president of Harris Government Communications Systems Division.

To demonstrate that the solution works and to ascertain performance parameters, the vendor team recently fielded a larger-scale prototype that was carried onboard a UH-1N Huey helicopter and flight-tested against real, hidden targets at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. During the initial flight tests, obscured targets were clearly identified, Henry said.

Henry acknowledged that the tests are preliminary and that "additional refinements" must be performed, but he said "the initial results completely validate the system design and viability of the technology."

Hauge said many challenges make achieving the Jigsaw program's mission difficult, including targets that are fully or partially hidden by foliage, camouflage or other obscuring materials, as well as cultural conditions, such as urban environments, that increase the complexity of the combat identification problem.

Harris is the systems integrator for this project, which is composed of:

* A small, rugged laser with a highly sensitive detector from MIT/LL.

* A complex, 3-D image registration, from Sarnoff.

* A sophisticated, 3-D image processor from MIT/LL and Harris.

* A 3-D visualization and user interface from Harris.


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