Unattended sensors have evolved through the years, from hand emplaced and retrieved systems inserted and retrieved from enemy area by special forces, to lightweight, expendable sensors that could be dropped from the air and tapped, via wireless links to report on enemy movements in an area under surveillance. In recent years, unattended ground sensors (UGS) have evolved with the progress made in the miniaturization of cameras, processors, wireless communications and power management, offering such systems extremely long endurance. However, the cost of such system remains high. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA) is seeking to make these sensors much more affordable, by employing Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) using an original design manufacturer (ODM) process, similar to that used in the commercial smartphone industry. The goal is to develop low-cost, rapidly updatable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors in less than a year, a marked improvement to the current three-to-eight year development process.
Since DARPA embarked on the program in 2012 the core ADAPT hardware and software package were developed, using a customized Android Operating System (OS) to provide capabilities common to all ISR sensors. The program recently completed its first reference design and developed application-specific software for an unattended ground sensor (UGS) that uses the ADAPT core. This new UGS could provide users with a cost-effective ground sensing capability. A number of ADAPT based UGS will be available to begin field testing this summer. Defense-Update reports.
Packed in small cylinder the UGS features applications to remotely sense ground activity for a number of potential military applications. “You take the ADAPT core and easily plug it into any number of ISR sensor reference designs” said Mark Rich, DARPA program manager. The sensor is self-powered and can wirelessly network with other sensors or user interfaces, such as a video monitor at an operations center. “We believe that the ADAPT building block approach will transform how the military Services and the defense industry approach ISR sensor research and development. This method has the promise of being much more cost-effective, faster to the warfighter, and easier to refresh with technology upgrades.”
DARPA may develop additional reference designs that integrate the ADAPT core and sensor-specific apps into airborne, sea and undersea sensor designs. To demonstrate this capability researchers recently removed the control interface of a small quad-copter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and replaced it with the ADAPT core. This successfully provided flight control input to the UAV and marked an initial step in applying the ADAPT core to other sensor reference designs.