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Mortar Round Snaps Recon Imagery

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2003
A team of scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology's research institute in Atlanta has constructed a reconnaissance system that can be fired from conventional mortars and that offers tactical imagery in a fraction of the time and at lower cost than satellites or current unmanned aerial vehicles. In the second year of development for the US Office of Naval Research, the reconnaissance round is pending approval for full-scale engineering development.

Mechanically similar to an illumination round, the 2-pound, 6-inch-long device deploys a parachute at an altitude of 1800 to 2000 feet and takes images as it floats back to the ground. Off-the-shelf digital camera components and a fixed-lens system keep the costs of the system to approximately $1200 but enable it to transmit four to five images with a field of view of 600 X 400 feet at a range of up to 3.1 miles before it self-destructs upon landing. A standard-issue laptop computer carried by infantry units receives the images, which may be taken in black-and-white to enable faster transmission.

The scientists have successfully fired the reconnaissance round from an 81-mm mortar on a military firing range and are continuing development using a nitrogen-propelled launcher at local sod farms. The final device is expected to be compatible with the 60-mm and 4.2-inch mortar and 40-mm grenade launcher.


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