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SNC and ITT Exelis tout Vigilant Stare Persistent Surveillance Offering at AUVSI 2012

DHC 6 Twin Otter operated by SNC was used for Vigilant Stare testing

The Vigilant Stare Multi-Mode Sensor

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 Agnostic

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. 

Next Steps

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.”

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