Covering 60 degrees by 10, POPSTAR is mounted on a gimballed base that enables the system to cover up to 180 degrees in high elevations. Photo: IAI

An electro-optical passive surveillance system designed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the latest sensor innovation developed by Israel’s defense industries in their effort to contain the cross-border harassment by Palestinians militants in Gaza.

What began as innocent kites and balloons carrying messages, gradually turned to arson attacks using lighter than air incendiary devices, booby traps transferred over the border by balloons and, most recently, multirotor drones hacked into ‘flying IEDs’. All these threats utilize a known gap in situational awareness, that, until now, ignored small, slow and low targets that appeared to be what they should be – birds, balloons, kites or small drones operated by hobbyists, not improvised aerial weapons.

Named as innocent as the targets it is designed to detect, ‘POPSTAR’ uses passive EOIR sensors to automatically detect and track small, flying or moving targets in the air and on the ground, track those targets and designate the targets deemed suspicious and dangerous for engagement by countermeasures or weapons. Using multiple high-resolution cameras operating in the visual, low-light and IR, POPSTAR performs continuous surveillance of a wide area, in daylight and at night. The system successfully completed an operational evaluation and was demonstrated to customers in Israel and abroad.

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The system uses an Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) and tracking to detect, classify and track threats. The system combines input from multiple cameras staring continuously at the area under surveillance, processing the individual feeds into a cohesive situational picture indicating targets by parameters classified as type, track, etc., relying on the system’s passive yet precise azimuth and rangefinding capabilities. An optional eye-safe laser rangefinder can be added, delivering coordinates and altitude for integration with other systems.

Detecting multiple targets, such as drones, at ranges up to four kilometers covering 60×10 degrees in ultra-high resolution, POPSTAR can operate in a staring mode or use the pan and tilt to cover up to 180 degrees at high elevation angles. As such it can operate on borders, protect strategic sites and establish perimeter security around airports, augmenting the radar-based ground and air surveillance that often fail to spot such low-signature threats. The system is offered as part of counter-UAS systems, providing a passive, non-radiating element for such systems.[/wlm_ismember]