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Low-Cost Reduced Size, Weight and Power RF Sensor for Short-Range Target Tracking in Degraded Visual Environments


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics 

OBJECTIVE: To develop low-cost man-portable RF sensors with reduced Size, Weight and Power consumption (SWaP) for short-range target tracking in degraded visual environments in support of mobile Army tactical platforms. 

DESCRIPTION: Many military weapon systems rely on passive mid-wave infrared (MWIR) technology for wide-field of view acquisition and precision tracking of targets. These MWIR sensors were selected for operation in clear visibility conditions and provide performance margin down to hazy and light fog conditions, but are severely degraded under heavy fog, rain, snow, sand and dust storm conditions. Recent studies have shown that radio frequency (RF) sensors can perform the same functions as the MWIR sensors, but do not suffer the same performance losses in these degraded visual environments (DVEs). However, current RF technology is too expensive, too large and requires too much power to use as a replacement for these MWIR sensors. The challenge is to develop a truly low cost RF acquisition and tracking sensor with reduced Size, Weight and Power (SWaP). Performance examples are acquisition and tracking of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM) on the order of 5km or less in clear weather and DVEs. The proposed system must have a field of view and angular accuracy that would enabled replacement of a passive wide-FOV MWIR sensor (>3° FOV; <300 urad accuracy). Interferometers are preferred (in order to achieve the angular resolution needed), but other RF concepts will be considered. Because these RF sensors will be used to replace infrared cameras, which require very little SWaP, reducing the total system footprint is extremely important. Man-portability would be ideal. The proposed sensor must be capable of integration onto a mobile platform with other military capabilities such as a Stryker, and require minimal power that can be supplied through the vehicles on-board power system. For example, multiple small flat panel RF arrays can be integrated into the side of a tactical vehicle. If successful, low-cost reduced SWaP RF sensors would significantly benefit many military and commercial applications such as High Energy Laser weapon platforms, small-satellite tracking applications, and the commercial aviation industry. Requirements: - Detection Range (RAM & UAV) “ T: 5km; O: 10km - FOV (Search Volume) - T: 3°; O: 90° - Angular Accuracy “ T: 300urad; O: 30urad - Size & Weight “ T: Mountable on Mobile Vehicle; O: Mountable on a Beam Director - Power Consumption “ T: 1kW; O: 500W - Low-Cost 

PHASE I: The phase I effort will result in the analysis and design of new SWaP and cost reducing technologies for RF sensors. The selected RF sensor architecture, measures of expected performance and laboratory testing results will be documented in a final report. The phase I effort shall include modeling and simulation results supporting performance claims. 

PHASE II: The Phase I designs will be utilized to fabricate, test and evaluate a breadboard system. The designs will then be modified as necessary to produce a final prototype. The final prototype will be demonstrated to highlight the SWaP and cost reductions as well as acquisition and tracking performance parameters. 

PHASE III: Civil, commercial and military applications include short-range counter-RAM and UAV target tracking, remote sensing, small-satellite tracking, satellite communication, and other communication efforts. High energy DoD laser weapons offer benefits of graduated lethality, rapid deployment to counter time-sensitive targets, and the ability to deliver significant force either at great distance or to nearby threats with high accuracy for minimal collateral damage. Future laser weapon applications will range from very high power devices used for air defense (to detect, track, and destroy incoming rockets, artillery, and mortars) to modest power devices used for counter-ISR. The Phase III effort would be to design and build a low-cost reduced SWaP RF acquisition and tracking sensor that could be integrated into the Armys High Energy Laser Mobile Tactical Truck (HEL-MTT) vehicle. Military funding for this Phase III effort would be executed by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center as part of its Directed Energy research. 


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KEYWORDS: Phased Array; Interferometer; Flat Panel; Low Cost; Man Portable; Reduced SWaP; Acquisition; Fine Tracking 

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