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ONR funds further development of PILLS LIDAR sensor

Schiebel and Areté Associates last year showed the integration of the Camcopter S-100 UAV and the PILLS sensor package in a demonstration sponsored by the ONR. (Schiebel)

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has confirmed a contract award to Areté Associates for the further development of its Pushbroom Imaging LIDAR for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) airborne sensor system.

PILLS is a lightweight, low-power, expeditionary sensor able to produce accurate, high-resolution topographic and bathymetric maps from manned and unmanned airborne platforms to greater depths than commercially available legacy systems. Mounted on a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the PILLS payload enables rapid surveying of a terrain or body of water for navigation hazards or other operationally relevant features. The platform is particularly effective in environments inaccessible to larger surveying ships and systems.

Areté Associates is the original developer of PILLS, which employs a pulsed laser fan beam using an extremely accurate streak tube imaging LIDAR receiver. For each laser pulse, PILLS maps out an image of objects within the fan beam – as the air vehicle moves forward, the system maps out a three-dimensional image of objects along the flight path.

PILLS has been incrementally developed by Areté Associates in the past 12 years using Small Business Innovation Research funding. The new ONR contract, awarded on 17 March and valued at USD15.4 million, will see the company tasked to extend, adapt, and optimise the PILLS sensor for navy-specific performance metrics. The PILLS sensing technology and signal processing/data fusion algorithms will also be extended to address additional future navy capabilities, the contract stated.

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