DARPA integrating sensor data on ‘elusive targets’

Nathan Hodge of Wired brings us news of DARPA’s plans for sensing:

It means stitching together information collected by different sensors to track a moving object.

Darpa’s 2009 strategic plan offers a fascinating overview of the different approaches the agency is taking to better track and identify these elusive targets. Some of these, like the Forester foliage- penetrating radar, tackle a specific problem: detecting enemy troops moving under the cover of dense jungle canopy. But another program, called NetTrack, would provide more persistent reconnaissance by linking together and comparing information from different sensors to track a target, even if it moves behind a solid obstruction.

The NetTrack overview on the Darpa website gives few details, but the strategic plan gives a better idea of how it might work. Using software tools, the system could stitch together information from a variety of sensors (synthetic aperture radar, optical, video, acoustic sensors, moving target indicators), and hand off to the right platform when appropriate. For instance, if a Predator lost a video feed on a vehicle that entered a forest, the networked system would cue a laser radar sensor to search for the target. Fusing or comparing sensor information can also help map out better routes for surveillance aircraft to ensure full-time coverage.

One big issue for us will be the extent to which the open source sensing principles apply to military sensors. Controversial! —Chris Peterson

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