"The original idea was to place the sensor on top of a pole for surveillance of a perimeter, like around the Green Zone in Iraq, or on a vehicle," Leahy said. "But, when we saw how well the sensor performed, the potential uses grew."
One primary application will be to equip the system on a unmanned aerial vehicles, which could help the unmanned aerial vehicle conduct surveillance of a broader area, providing greater visibility and better situational awareness.
The system has already been tested aboard a Naval Air Systems Command Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicle in late 2005, at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., and performed well according to Leahy.
Other applications could be in missile defense, early launch detection, missile typing, and bomb damage and kill assessment-as well as astronomy, space observation and nuclear testing verification, according to the engineers.
Leahy said the lab's classification of larger threats, including foreign and domestic long-range missiles that travel 20 to 30 kilometers, will begin in spring 2006.
According to Leahy, trust in the system will be immediate. "The certainty is above 95 percent, and that allows for less guesswork on the operator's part," he said.
The system's ability to deliver a continuous stream of information is also important to coordination of the battlefield and provides warfighters a larger map of an area.
"You can keep track of where you are and, more importantly, keep track of where the enemy is," said 1st Lt. Adam Goobic, an infrared applications development engineer with the Sensors Directorate. "It also will provide exact coordinates of an explosion in near real time, including longitude and latitude."
"With everything that we have seen so far, this technology will be a great benefit to the Air Force as well as other services," said Leahy.
The Cross Dispersion Prism sensor is under development by the Sensors Directorate here, with support from Solid State Scientific Corp, Hollis, N.H., and is sponsored, in part, with funding from Director, Defense Research and Engineering.
Final testing is scheduled for September 2006 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.