The U.S. Army has enlisted the help of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. to improve technology to find roadside bombs.
GA-ASI recently announced the successful test of an imaging device called Nightlighter in the California desert at China Lake. The maker says it lets soldiers detect roadside bombs at night.
Testing continues, GA-ASI said.
The electronics go aloft on an airplane and produce ultra-high resolution images of the scene below.
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are a chronic problem for U.S. forces in the Middle East. USA Today reported in January that in the prior year, a record 16,500 IEDs were cleared or detonated in Afghanistan. IEDs are becoming a problem in other parts of the world.
GA-ASI’s technology builds on an earlier technology called Highlighter. The Highlighter electro-optic sensor system was developed in 2005 and used in Iraq.
While Highlighter works in the day, Nightlighter is able to produce ultra-high resolution images at night. A nighttime aerial picture supplied by GA-ASI showed dark streaks on a road, which GA-ASI identified as tire tracks. Moisture in the soil absorbs the energy put out by Nightlighter’s laser, company materials said.
The China Lake test was sponsored by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. The electronics went aloft in a Twin Otter aircraft, a two-engine propeller aircraft first built by de Havilland Canada. GA-ASI is working to put the electronics into a Beechcraft King Air 350 propeller plane.
The Highlighter weighs 1,600 pounds. The resolution of its cameras is classified.