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  • ARGUS - DARPA's All-Seeing Eye
    Posted by Graham Warwick 3:22 PM on Feb 10, 2010

    BAE Systems has finally acknowledged that it has flown the ARGUS-IS gigapixel surveillance sensor developed for DARPA. The flights took place between June and November last year, with the ARGUS pod slung under the US Army's long-legged YEH-60-60B testbed.

    blog post photo
    Photo: BAE Systems

    ARGUS is designed to overcome the narrow "soda-straw" field of view of conventional surveillance sensors by providing multiple real-time video streams without the weight of the multi-camera systems fitted to aircraft like the Project Liberty MC-12W. DARPA says ARGUS can provide up to 65 "Predator-class" steerable video streams.

    The 1.8-gigapixel sensor has four optical telescopes, each with 92 5-megapixel focal-plane arrays - cellphone camera chips, says BAE. The airborne processor combines the video output from all 368 arrays together to create a single mosaic image, with an update rate of 12-15 frames a second.

    blog post photo
    ARGUS-IS sensor (Art: BAE Systems)

    On the ground, the operator can create windows around stationary or moving targets within the image and ARGUS will down-link the video for these windows in real time. The system provides up to 65 640 x 480-pixel video streams simultaneously, limited only by datalink capacity. Also a "global motion detector" mode looks at the entire image and tags potential targets with low-res image "chips".

    Take a look at the image below (click on it to enlarge, but I had to reduce the resolution to upload it). It is taken by ARGUS-IS with the YEH-60B at 17,500ft over Quantico in Virginia. Each of the small yellow boxes on the mosaic image corresponds to one of the video windows down the right hand side.

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    Image: BAE Systems

    ARGUS-IS is a daylight-only sensor. DARPA is kicking off a follow-on program, ARGUS-IR, to develop an infrared sensor with day/night capability. This will focus on developing an IR camera with up to 600 million pixels, as you can't pick up cellphone IR chips off the shelf.

    Tags: ar99, DARPA, BAE, UAV

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