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Binocular System Improves Target Tracking

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1997
Ruth A. Mendonsa

Initial target acquisition presents problems for operators of portable video trackers. With a portable tracker, the operator cannot sit on the mount, but typically acquires the target with a joystick. In a featureless sky, it is often difficult to know exactly where the tracker's field of view is pointing, so the operator may waste time scanning the sky for the target, acquiring it too late. In military applications, this can be fatal.
An Asian military agency has improved its tracking capabilities with the purchase of multiple networked Imago 100 trackers from Ottawa, Canada-based Imago Machine Vision Ltd. They are equipped with laser rangefinders that can precisely measure the position and velocity of aircraft. The agency uses the systems to calibrate the instrumentation on high-speed fighter aircraft and attack helicopters. Challenges to be met in this military application include high target speeds, unknown flight paths, and near and far acquisition ranges.
The agency chose the Imago 100 in part because of its portability. In some cases, the setup, live tracking and takedown must be done in one day. A single operator can transport the Imago 100 to the site in a sport-utility vehicle or, if necessary, hand carry it to the site. Once at the site, the device is ready to track in less than an hour.
To eliminate the problems associated with cueing, such as equipping test sites with expensive radars that are difficult to transport and set up, dealing with inaccurate data from the target's on-board navigation system and having to set up way points along the target's flight path, Imago has developed the Imago Binocular Cueing System (IBCS). This system consists of handheld binoculars with an electromagnetic compass. The tracker operator finds the target using the IBCS, and the Imago 100 automatically follows the binoculars.For applications involving several high-speed targets that must be tracked in rapid succession from multiple trackers, the IBCS could be the solution.

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