Recent success with 3-Dimensional (3-D) LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the current maturity level of the technology indicate a need to investigate designs and a more definitive way-ahead for future Air Force airborne LIDAR capabilities.
The Geospatial Intelligence Capabilities Working Group has initiated a study on the utility of airborne 3-D LIDAR in support of the Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, released a Request For Information (RFI) last month to begin an “Airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) Design Study Plan” for the Air Force.
“The overall objective of this study is to identify potential materiel solutions, design concepts, key technologies, and cost/schedule/performance parameters for an enduring DOD LIDAR capability,” the Air Force said in the RFI. “Additionally, the Air Force is interested in the different types of products derived from airborne LIDAR data and how they could support or enhance Air Force operations. Air Force operations can include supporting DOD military and peacetime operations such as disaster relief and assessment.
“The intent of this RFI is to solicit information on airborne LIDAR technology and the capabilities of industry to produce LIDAR systems and products. Systems should meet the study operating conditions and performance requirements in support of both airborne tactical and strategic missions.
“A baseline assumption for the study was that any LIDAR concept would deliver the required performance mounted on the MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft for medium altitude missions, and on the RQ-4B Global Hawk, or the U-2 for high altitude missions. The system might be mounted in either a pod (preferred for the MQ-9 application) or in an internal configuration. For the high altitude missions, it should be noted that an internally- mounted sensor system is expected. It is anticipated that the LIDAR systems would be required to operate at the nominal altitudes and airspeeds at which these aircraft normally fly. For the purposes of this RFI, altitudes of 20,000 feet and 50,000 ft above ground level are of interest.”
In the RFI, the Air Force invites interested parties to submit a short white paper and describe the LIDAR sensing mode or design they use.
The Georgia Tech Research Institute is under contract to develop and publish the Airborne LIDAR Design Study Plan.
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