Feeds

Boeing robo-chopper for DARPA's super-spyeye

Multi-channel perve platform gets whisper mode

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Arms'n'airliners behemoth Boeing has announced that its autonomous robotic stealth chopper, the A160T, will be the initial carrying platform for a new US airborne surveillance payload. The radical new spy system will not be so much an aerial camera as an all-seeing insect-style compound bugeye able to simultaneously look at many different things.

The spy machinery, dubbed ARGUS-IS*, is under development by DARPA** - the Pentagon deathboffin apparat where ideas need to be off walls, outside boxes, and well to the left of any field. ARGUS-IS is supposed to avoid the current "soda straw" effect suffered by existing flying spydroid platforms.

These machines' cameras can typically look at only one location in any detail, like a person peering down a drinking straw, which can mean that unfortunate choices have to be made. It's difficult to put lots of flying robots into the same airspace at once, even if there are enough to watch everything, so increased numbers aren't the answer.

The ARGUS-IS multiple spyeye concept

Not just one drinking straw to look down, but dozens.

As DARPA notes in its proposal document (pdf):

"Long-duration, complex operations involving the US military, other government agencies and international partners will be waged... Above all, they will require persistent surveillance and vastly better intelligence... [Existing] high resolution beams can enable observing dismounts entering and leaving a building of interest; however, if a dismount leaves the building, the [robot-handling] surveillance team is forced to decide if they wish to follow him or continue watching the building. If multiple dismounts leave the building, the choice becomes more difficult. This set of undesirable trade-offs is a fundamental result of the sensors not being able to simultaneously observe a wide area at high resolution..."

(A "dismount" is a suspicious weirdo who moves about without the use of a motor conveyance of any kind. This type of deviance is all too common among foreign insurgents and the type of American who must be constantly monitored from on high for the public good. Your beatnik, granola chomping treehugger commie, for instance.)

DARPA figures to solve this by deploying a "Gigapixel" wide-angle sensor which can monitor at least 50 places in full detail simultaneously, perhaps satisfying the needs of many different customers on the ground. Just one ARGUS-IS platform could monitor a whole district of Baghdad for the US military, or simultaneously spy on many different places in an American town for all the various cops, spooks or whoever. Some processing would be carried out in the aircraft, and then the info would be sent down to a ground station for further processing and distribution via a 200Mbit/sec datalink.

Thus far, the only thing lacking in the test programme has been a suitable flying droid to carry the kit; but now a decision has apparently been made. Flight International reports that Boeing has a $6.3m contract to provide an A-160T whisper-mode robochopper for the ARGUS-IS demo phase. The ARGUS-IS flight pod is supposed to be easily fitted to a variety of platforms, so it may be seen on other airframes if it becomes a success.

Still, an unescapable multiplex aerial spyeye package does seem like a suitable load for a silent robot helicopter. ®

*Autonomous Realtime Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance- Imaging System. We'd have gone for Ground Observation Gaze Gain Loiter Equipment (GOGGLE). Or Presence Expanding Endurance Patrol Enabling Robot (PEEPER). Or even Large-area Enhanced Effects Reconnaissance (LEER).

**Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.