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Australia reports promising results in early hyperspectral trials for mine countermeasures

The ScanEagle UAV, on display at 822X Squadron’s booth at Pacific 2019 in Sydney.

The ScanEagle UAV, on display at 822X Squadron’s booth at Pacific 2019 in Sydney.

Australia has been conducting trials to understand if hyperspectral imaging technology can be adopted for shallow mine-countermeasures (MCM) operations and initial results are promising, said the country’s Department of Defence.

Early trials began in 2018 from Jervis Bay, and these involved a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was fitted with a hyperspectral imaging sensor from Headwall Photonics. This equipment was fitted into the airframe’s rear payload bay, a defence spokesperson told Janes on 5 June.

The trials were supported by the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) 822X Squadron, which was known as the unmanned aircraft systems unit when the trials began in 2018.

Hyperspectral imaging is a technique that examines a wider spectrum of light beyond the visible primary colours. Light in the hyperspectral bands behaves differently when striking and reflecting from different materials. As such, an analysis of these bands could reveal objects that may not be immediately visible to the naked eye, including concealed equipment under camouflage nettings.

However, there were difficulties faced with images collected during the first trials with the ScanEagle. “These were early stage trials, and there were challenges making use of the imagery captured due to technical difficulties experienced on the trials,” said the spokesperson.

But the department has described these issues as “soluble” and is confident that they can be resolved over time, and with more resources. “Preliminary conclusions are that hyperspectral imaging spectroscopy is a useful tool for shallow water mine-countermeasures sensing,” said the department.

The trials with the ScanEagle were conducted for about a year, and there have been no further test flights since then. But the service is confident that further trials with the ScanEagle is impending.


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