Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and ITT Exelis announced in the context of this week’s Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference
that they are nearing completion and flight testing of Vigilant Stare, a manned aircraft-based Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance
(WAPS) concept demonstrator.
The companies note that
Vigilant Stare’s integrated electro-optical / infrared (EO/IR) sensor collects synoptic, day/night motion imagery of
city-sized fields of regard with multiple sub-views of the full field of view. From these broad fields
of regard, best-resolution tactical “chip-outs” can be pulled, in real time, from both centralized command centers
and to dispersed users employing commercial hand-held devices, including tablets and phones. This diversified dissemination
capability optimizes situational awareness across multiple echelons simultaneously.
Power-by-the-Hour Persistent Surveillance for DHS and beyond
Building on SNC’s heritage on the USAF Gorgon Stare program and leveraging ITT Exelis’ payload
and integration expertise, Dave Bullock, vice president
for SNC’s ISR Persistent Surveillance Systems
notes that the objective of the new offering is to extend Contractor Owned/Contractor Operated (CO/CO) persistent surveillance
services to many and varied “previously underserviced” civil and commercial markets.
Noting that the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection
(CBP) Directorate has been clear about its requirement for a WAPS capability for border surveillance, Bullock says
that DHS organizations including the CBP, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and even the Secret Service are
potential consumers of the type of affordable “power-by-the-hour” service that the industry team plans to provide.
Matt Pellechia, customer development manager, Airborne ISR at
ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems notes that providing
persistent surveillance capability for national security events such as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions,
and post-disaster assessment and recovery support are examples of where the CO/CO offerings might be most attractive.
Other relevant mission sets identified by the team include military contingency operations, border security surveillance
and networks characterization, surveillance/forensic analysis of suspected areas of illegal activity, port security surveillance,
and search and rescue efforts.
Commercially Derived, Platform
Making persistent surveillance affordable for users other than the
DoD will mean making it cheaper. Pellechia notes
that Vigilant Stare leverages proven COTS components and that there are key differences in the way in which the system handles
the video outputs. Pellechia notes that the differences, including the use of generic datalinks and common
commercial handheld displays rather than encrypted datalinks and militarized ground stations, provide for a significantly
less expensive system.
As to platforms, while the more complex, military-grade Gorgon Stare
payload is deployed on MQ-9 unmanned systems, Vigilant Stare is designed for manned aircraft deployment. Demonstrated
and presently hosted on a DHC 6 Twin Otter aircraft, Exelis and ITT note that Vigilant
Stare can readily be employed on platforms with greater endurance, including the Bombardier Q200, Dornier 328, King Air 350,
and Pilatus PC-12.
It is anticipated that Vigilant Stare initial operational capability will be achieved
within the next month and that the system may be available for operations by the end of 2012.
The company anticipates demoing Vigilant Stare in this fall’s Modern Day Marine
and Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) events near Washington D.C. Says Bullock:
“We're excited about the successful completion of our concept demonstrator flight test phase and look forward to a busy
demonstration and exercise schedule this fall.”