By Major M. | AuxBeacon News Contributor
[Editor’s Note: We received this from a CAP member. Thank you for your contribution.]
MAXWELL AFB, AL — Civil Air Patrol is slated to become the first national organization to use airborne hyperspectral imaging for search and rescue, counterdrug and homeland security missions, according to Dr. John Kershenstein of the Naval Research Laboratory and one of the nation’s top spectral scientists.
Kershenstein advised CAP throughout the process of researching and testing hyperspectral imaging technology. On October 29, Kershenstein was present when CAP signed a $4.2 million contract with Innovative Technical Solutions (Tradename: NovaSol) for 15 hyperspectral imaging (HSI) systems. The units will be installed on CAP aircraft at strategic locations throughout the United States. Dubbed the “ARCHER” program, NovaSol’s acronym for Airborne Real-Time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance, it will greatly enhance CAP’s capabilities.
Funding for the program was provided to CAP by Congress under the 2002 Defense Appropriations Act.
Hyperspectral imaging allows operators to program the spectral “signature” for an object into a sensor and then search for that object from the air. The imaging system can pinpoint the object even through trees and foliage. It will work only in daylight and will not be able to pinpoint objects under the ground, underwater or buried in snow.
The purchase has drawn interest from all branches of government. Representatives from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army assisted CAP throughout the contracting process and are scheduled to help CAP evaluate its first delivered unit in early 2004 before the remainder of the order is supplied.
According to Gen John P. Jumper, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, “All breakthrough technologies are critical to the Air Force in maintaining information superiority. I am convinced that hyperspectral sensor systems have the potential of providing revolutionary enhancements to our information systems and will facilitate the transformation of our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance program.”
CAP has long been known for its successful search and rescue, disaster relief and counterdrug operations. Since Sept 11, CAP also has moved more prominently into the homeland security arena. According to Col Drew Alexa, coordinator of CAP’s Advanced Technologies Group, hyperspectral imaging will dramatically improve CAP’s ability to locate specific objects from the air.
NovaSol, which manufactures the new equipment, is a small company based in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to the CAP contract, NovaSol will deliver the first Model 1100-2 HSI unit by February 2004 for final evaluation. Upon approval of that unit, NovaSol will deliver the remaining 14 units over a period of nine months. Each unit will include a dual-sensor optical system with real-time processing, more than seven hours of recording and storage time for each use, and possible integration with CAP’s digital imaging satellite transmission system. NovaSol also will provide air-transportable ground processing units, training for each of CAP’s eight regions, and an online training Web site.
“This technology demonstrates CAP’s commitment to the homeland security arena,” said CAP National Commander Maj Gen Richard Bowling. “To support ARCHER, we’re purchasing Gippsland GA-8 Airvans for our aircraft fleet. With the increased capacity in these aircraft, we can carry more equipment and personnel.”
According to CAP Executive Director Al Allenback, “These technologies will increase CAP’s effectiveness in search and rescue, disaster relief, counterdrug, and homeland security missions. Hyperspectral imaging will allow CAP aircraft to identify an object on the ground as small as three inches in size from half a mile in the air, even if it’s partially hidden from view by trees or bushes. With this new capability, CAP is rapidly positioning itself to become a leader in lost-cost, on-demand aerial imaging technology for homeland security and emergency management.”