Eagan, USA, 5 December 2006 – Lockheed Martin recently accomplished a first for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), demonstrating that high-resolution, broad-area imaging from a Miniaturized Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) could effectively be delivered by a UAS into the hands of tactical unit commanders, regardless of smoke, dust, heavy rain or nighttime conditions
During a successful field exercise at the Minnesota National Guard test facility on October 19, Lockheed Martin’s small SkySpirit UAS – with a Sandia National Laboratories developed MiniSAR sensor – soared to nearly 3,000 feet and, in near real-time, became the first UAS to successfully transmit four-inch resolution SAR imagery.
During four different mission demonstrations, the SkySpirit transmitted MiniSAR images capturing actionable data in two operational modes: focused area circle-mapping and broad area strip-mapping. Multiple imaging passes were post-processed to demonstrate coherent change detection used to identify changes over time.
This demonstration was the first time that an autonomous flight of a small tactical UAS has captured SAR data of this type and resolution. The use of a MiniSAR, which is being produced by Rockwell Collins, Inc., could greatly enhance a ground unit’s surveillance capabilities with a UAS, delivering high resolution images to ground units in all-weather, day or night conditions, as well as operating in various modes, including ground-moving target indicator and coherent change detection.
In its current configuration, Lockheed Martin’s SkySpirit UAS has a gross take-off weight of 180 pounds and a payload capacity of 75 pounds. SkySpirit was designed to allow flexible payload and fuel-weight combinations, as well as extended endurance profiles and persistent surveillance capabilities.