Raytheon revealed a hyperspectral sensor, which has been adapted to the MQ-1 Predator UAV, at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday. The airborne cueing and exploitation system hyperspectral (Aces HY) is believed to be the first such sensor to enter series production for a tactical airborne platform.
“This technology has been a long time in development, but it’s now mature enough to be fully militarized,” Tim Carey, v-p of ISR Systems for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, told AIN.
Aces HY completed flight tests on a Twin Otter airplane last September. The nine systems now being produced for the Predator weigh 100 pounds each.
Hyperspectral sensors capture light across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum. They have the potential to detect features or activity that cannot be identified by conventional optical or infrared (IR) sensors.
Every material has its own unique signature, and the right sensor can identify it from as little as a single pixel of information. The sensor collects the spectral signature and compares it against a library of known objects.
For example, midwave IR sensors can identify faint heat signatures from space, while long-wave IR sensors can identify effluents, such as factory plumes. Gaseous emissions from a building, such as the storage of explosives or drugs or the manufacture of chemical or biological weapons, can be detected with the right sensors. Concealed military targets may also be revealed.
Raytheon previously developed the advanced responsive tactically effective military imaging sensor (Artemis) covering visible to shortwave infrared wavelengths. It was launched into space as piggyback payload on the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory TacSat-3 in May 2009.
Artemis is now generating some 100 hyperspectral images per month that are providing “key intelligence within hours after sensor tasking,” Raytheon revealed.
Raytheon already produces the multi-spectral targeting system that is the primary sensor on U.S. Air Force Predators.