Intelligence: Robot Eyes Never Sleep


April 14,2008: The U.S. Army has received the first five AURORA target recognition systems. These 35 pound units combine cameras and heat sensors, with computers and databases, to identify "items of interest" (usually targets of one sort or another), and alert UAV operators to do a visual check. This enables more UAVs to be put in the air, on automatic, without requiring a lot more personnel to control the aircraft and monitor the sensors. The five AURORA Generation IV units are being installed in army Shadow 200 UAVs. These aircraft weigh 327 pounds each and can carry 56 pounds of equipment (usually a day or night vision camera and a transmitter). The Shadow 200 is eleven feet long and has a wingspan of 12.75 feet. It can fly as high as 15,000 feet (out of range of small arms). The Shadow has a range of about 50 kilometers and can stay in the air for up to six hours. With AURORA, the Shadows can just fly a pattern, like checking a road for people trying to place roadside bombs.

The army is equipping each combat brigade with a Shadow system, to provide the brigade with its own aerial reconnaissance capability. The Shadow has been in use for eight years, and the troops are pleased with the ease of use and the quality of the video they get from it. The Shadow has been very reliable, with UAVs being available for use 95 percent of the time.


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