The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Lockheed Martin a $4m contract in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search-While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) programme. LACOSTE is a tactical surveillance and rapid response sensor.
The 18-month Phase I effort is intended to prove the core concept of image formation using an electronically controlled array of apertures. The electronic control varies which apertures are open or closed to change the direction and resolution of the sensor. This allows a smaller, less expensive system to provide high-resolution coverage over a large area.
According to Dr. Abhijit Mahalanobis, manager and technical lead for the Automatic Target Recognition programs at Lockheed Martin, LACOSTE is a ‘first-of-a-kind sensor that takes full advantage of high-altitude platforms, such as the High Altitude Airship, to provide continuous surveillance capabilities. It employs novel sensing concepts for high and variable resolution imaging over very large areas, equivalent to an entire urban area. It automatically allocates sensing resources to different regions, as needed, to maintain detection and tracking on a large number of objects. This sensor can provide day/night, persistent tactical surveillance of all moving vehicles in a large urban battlefield.’
Lockheed Martin, as prime contractor, is responsible for system engineering, systems and software integration, tests and demonstration. Subcontractors include