Australian company Sentient Vision Systems recently successfully demonstrated the ability of its ViDAR (Visual Detection and Ranging) system to autonomously detect small objects on the ocean surface over wide areas during the UK’s recent “Unmanned Warrior” exercise.
Mounted on an Insitu SCANEAGLE unmanned aerial system (UAS), ViDAR performed over 55 hours of surveillance, detection and tracking missions during the exercise. In a challenging environment, including sea states up to 6, ViDAR registered autonomous detection of RHIB/jet ski-sized targets at over 5nm range, naval vessels at 10nm and a freighter at over 30 nautical miles.
“In one mission ViDAR was called upon to find a small commercial fishing vessel transiting towards the northbound NATO naval MCM group. The vessel was not registering on radar, but was on AIS. ViDAR successfully detected and identified the vessel within seconds” Simon Olsen, Sentient’s Director of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships, said. “In another, ViDAR was tasked [to] find Fast Attack Craft (FAC) at ranges in order to provide early warning to a vessel of small inbound threats. The SCANEAGLE was positioned at the extent of its range within the airspace allocated for the mission. Within moments of starting its run, ViDAR autonomously detected the FAC out beyond 13nm. This fast detection and identification of such a small threat gave the protected vessel over 30 minutes of advance notice in which to act – game changing in terms of the extra time it provides to vessels to respond to potential threats.”
As a modular slice onboard the SCANEAGLE, ViDAR comprises a high-resolution digital camera that continuously scans the ocean in a 180-degree arc in front of the air vehicle. The ViDAR software then autonomously detects any object on the surface of the ocean, providing the ground control station with an image and location coordinate of each object detected in real time. The spotter sensor can then be cross-cued to the object for closer inspection.