Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: ITT’s Gorgon Stare’s “Unblinking Eye” Providing Intelligence from Reaper UAVs in Afghanistan

 - June 21, 2011, 1:56 AM
MQ-9 Reaper (USAF)

The Gorgon Stare wide-area surveillance system has overcome early integration problems and is delivering actionable intelligence to warfighters in Afghanistan as envisaged.

Danny Rajan, director of geospatial information solutions for ITT Defense and Information Systems, told AIN that the new electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) video sensor provides unique dissemination and interpretation options, as well as unprecedented area coverage.

Gorgon Stare was designed to provide “unblinking eye” coverage of city-sized areas when fitted to U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. Sierra Nevada Corp. is the prime contractor for the quick-reaction capability (QRC), which was developed in just 18 months. ITT is the sensor integrator.

The imagery from five EO and four IR cameras housed in a turret is joined together in onboard processing and compressed to enable streaming transmission via various datalinks to users on the ground. Those users can be carrying portable remote optical video enhanced receiver (ROVER) terminals, or be sitting in front of larger interpretation systems housed in a ground station.

“The real key to this capability is the packaging,” Rajan explained. He said that over the past several years, ITT leveraged its previous experience in airborne and space surveillance programs to adapt commercially available cameras to the task. “We have a long history of understanding the image chain,” he added.

One key advantage of the dissemination architecture devised by ITT for Gorgon Stare is that, while the video streams down, a number of different users can view that geographic portion of the imagery that most concerns them. The user can also rewind the video even while the current scene is still being collected. The imagery is fed to ROVERs on small-capacity datalinks, and in higher resolution to ground stations via the tactical common data link.

Initial suitability testing by the U.S. Air Force was done before the sensor alignment had been calibrated, and all the software had been completed. This contributed to an adverse draft report from USAF testers, Rajan said.

“We delivered the 100-percent system early last December and it was then approved for deployment. We’ve had some key mission successes since then,” he added.

The Gorgon Stare system is not currently exportable, but Rajan said ITT is exploring its application to other U.S. platforms. The new generation of surveillance airships is one possibility and a smaller version could be fitted to the Army’s Shadow UAV.