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Textron Systems Unmanned Systems, a Textron business, announced yesterday that the company will now offer the TK-7 FIREWATCH precision survey sensor on the AEROSONDE Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) after its recent successful demonstration in Blackstone, VA/USA.

Developed by Overwatch Imaging, the TK-7 FIREWATCH multi-spectrum precision survey payload features a nadir-oriented multi-megapixel color focal plane array (FPA) and co-boresighted infrared (IR) sensors. The integration of these sensors with an onboard image processing system provides advanced precision mapping and multi-image orthophoto capabilities that are able to quickly synthesize high fidelity aerial imagery and detect anomalies including hot-spots for wildfire mapping. Coupled with geospatial information systems knowledge workflows developed by Textron Systems, the TK-7 FIREWATCH payload capability is able to provide time-critical analytics and reporting.

We are honored to work with Textron Systems to accelerate the adoption of long-endurance UAS for civil and commercial roles,” Overwatch Imaging founder Greg Davis, said. “With FIREWATCH, we are delivering something much more valuable than video to wildland fire crews and forest health managers. We are delivering answers in the format those users need to see the data, in real time.”

By integrating this sensor onto the AEROSONDE SUAS, we believe this will be a differentiator in the emerging civil and commercial application space by providing a more advanced and cost effective method to complete precision survey,” Textron Systems Civil & Commercial Senior Director Dennis Racine, said. “By supporting real-time situational awareness, which increases the safety and effectiveness of our wildland fire incident responders, the TK-7 represents a new disruptive capability platform and fills a technology gap for a core area in multiple civil and industry applications.”

Overwatch Imaging TK-series camera systems are comprised of interchangeable imaging modules plus a processing module. The processing module is a supercomputer packaged for UAS integration, with incredible computational horsepower and storage capacity, and a Linux-based software environment for hosting custom image processing applications. Imaging modules hold application-specific sensors and optics, in a stabilised and weatherized mount. Each imaging module provides a customer-tailorable combination of cameras, filters and lenses to deliver the optimal spatial and spectral resolution for the intended UAS task. 

Overwatch camera systems include an integrated GPS-based INS with a 10-axis IMU and extended state Kalman filter for precise sensor pointing and geolocation accuracy. Frame-synchronous metadata is stored with each raw image, accelerating post-processing tasks necessary to deliver orthorectified maps and image-derived data products to customers. The TK-series imaging payloads use the Linux operating system, allowing Overwatch and its customers to rapidly leverage secure, robust image processing algorithms developed for autonomy and computer vision applications. Imagery captured with the TK-series camera systems integrates directly into industry-standard GIS and photogrammetry software for post-flight 3D point cloud generation, digital surface modeling, photo-derived measurement, and geospatial data management.

Overwatch processing modules include a flight-ready NVIDIA Jetson TX1, one of the world's most advanced systems for embedded visual computing. With over 1 TeraFLOPs performance, a 256 CUDA core GPU for parallel processing, and up to 1400 MP/s camera interface capability, the TX1 is ideal for computer vision and image understanding tasks.

The AEROSONDE SUAS has amassed more than 150,000 flight hours around the world. The AEROSONDE aircraft can be outfitted with sensors to give responders real-time data on fire growth, burn intensity, fuels and heat concentrations. The AEROSONDE SUAS is also equipped to carry numerous payloads in a single flight; for example, advanced electro-optic/infrared payloads for day-and-night persistent oversight of the impacted area, precision survey imaging, as well as communications relay to extend the reach of responders’ communications in difficult and dangerous terrain. (Photo: Textron)

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