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What if your 12 gauge could fire mini-cameras, instead of buckshot? The question crossed Pentagon-funded researchers' minds, as they looked for a new way for the military to keep watch over cities.
Objective: Prepare a Phase I feasibility Study for research and development of Expendable Local Area Sensors in a Tactically Interconnected Cluster (ELASTIC) - a set of small, ballistically distributed optical imaging sensors that form an ad hoc wireless network, and optionally, a hierarchical network for aggregating and up-linking hi-bandwidth image and other sensor data directly to the personnel on the scene responsible for making tactical decisions. The sensor network reports back to a local node where the information is immediately used to guide tactical decisions.
Description: In many tactical situations, there is a critical need for a method of projecting situational awareness into high-risk or inaccessible locations. Examples include: · A squad of soldiers preparing to move into a building, street, or other confined area where an ambush might be waiting. · Establishing a “trip-wire” barrier or perimeter in areas not easily or safely accessible: roofs of buildings in urban areas, across inaccessible or dangerous terrain, etc. · Leaving “sentinel” sensors in areas where it is not feasible or desirable to maintain a continuing human presence. These tasks are usually preformed by humans at considerable risk. In some circumstances robots are used, but these are usually expensive solutions that are not always readily available. What is needed is an easily transported, always available method of obtaining critical situational awareness to help shape the tactical decisions of the people on the scene or front lines. One concept may be Expendable Local Area Sensors in a Tactically Interconnected Cluster (ELASTIC). The ELASTIC concept is a set of small, ballistically distributed sensors that form an ad hoc wireless network, and optionally, a hierarchical network for aggregating and up-linking hi-bandwidth image and other sensor data directly to the personnel on the scene responsible for making the tactical decisions. The sensor network reports back to a local node where the information is immediately used to guide tactical decisions. There will also be a lower-bandwidth down-link capability from the tactical operator back to the sensors to support multiple modes of operation-alert level (including hibernation), region of interest (ROI) selection, limited motion of sensor, etc. This requires the design of imaging systems using only simple molded plastic lenses that are nevertheless capable of quality imaging over a large volume; including a large depth-of-focus (DOF) and wide viewing angle. Simple signal processing at the other end of the Up-Link produces high-quality images from the sensor data. More elaborate processing can produce increased resolution (“Super-Resolution” or SR) for regions of interest (ROI) selected by the operator. This is a “digital zooming” capability. Multiple sensor modes are also possible, with some sensor units reporting sound, motion detection (optical, sonar or radar), vibration, etc. The ELASTIC concept envisions using wireless capabilities within the current state of the art for the networking of the sensors: a. Peer-to-peer ad-hoc network capability would suffice for low-bandwidth sensor information and schemes for locating the distribution of the sensors in the target area. This capability would be two-way and would allow instructions to flow from the operator to the sensor net. Average power consumption on the order of several 100 nanowatt (nW) is easily achievable using current technology. b. High bandwidth uplink-only capability for primarily image data sent from the sensors to the local operator. A transmit only capability for full motion video would require a power consumption of approximately 1 milliwatt (mW). This requirement can be reduced by compressing or otherwise reducing the data sent (for example, only sending the data in each frame which has changed from the previous frame), or by including a separate, non-sensing, unit which aggregates data from the local sensors and re-transmits it at higher power. It is possible that custom Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) imaging chips could perform the frame-differencing operation during readout.
PHASE I: Prepare a feasibility study ELASTIC concept: a.) Design suitable imaging systems, b.) Identify and evaluate capabilities of low-power wireless network technology, c.) Identify and model signal processing requirements. Explore methods of spatially locating deployed sensor network.
PHASE II: The designs from Phase I shall be finalized for ELASTIC concept, in conjunction with imaging demonstration - fabricate and demonstrate image sensors and design, fabricate, and demonstrate wireless imagers capable of ballistic deployment in a benign operational environment.
PHASE III Dual Use Applications: Several prototype units of imaging sensors for ELASTIC concept will be fabricated and demonstrated in numerous tactical battlefield and urban military operations environment. There are both military and commercial applications for mid ELASTIC Concept. The technology is applicable to surveillance of critical infrastructure and reduces manned operations at perimeter surveillance of commercially vulnerable assets.
References: None. This concept evolved from technical discussions with numerous technical experts in the area of miniaturized optical sensors that are networked.
Keywords: Optical Imaging Sensors, Distributed Sensors, Wireless Networks, Signal Processing