Air Warfare

Singapore Airshow 2020: MicroLite brings persistent surveillance to small UAVs

12th February 2020 - 10:30 GMT | by Tony Skinner in Singapore

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Rafael Advanced Defense Systems used the Singapore Airshow to unveil the MicroLite lightweight EO/IR sensor, which offers new capabilities for airborne wide-area persistent surveillance missions.

Developed for smaller UAVs and other aerial platforms, the MicroLite allows an operator to continuously monitor a large area while also being able to focus on specific targets of interest.

Gideon Weiss, VP of business development at the company’s Air and C4ISR division, said the development of the product was the first ‘publicly available opportunity to show the business and technical synergy of Rafael owning Aeronautics’, after the acquisition last year.

The MicroLite has been integrated onto the Aeronautics Orbiter 4 UAV to begin flight tests.

‘With MicroLite providing that wide-area persistent surveillance, you need a platform that can stay in the air for a long time and the Orbiter 4 aircraft has 24h flight time. The MicroLite only weighs 11kg so it’s a great fit for smaller UAVs,’ Weiss said.

He noted that the new technologies had been developed to allow the sensor to continuously monitor a large area but at the same time also enable high-resolution tracking and investigation of multiple targets.

‘Before you had to do this with a much bigger sensor or use lots of smaller sensors to cover the same area. The operator can monitor the entire area and focus in on particular targets of opportunity, not just the wide area,’ Weiss explained.

He said that the MicroLite has the option of being equipped with a laser designator, while the system also includes onboard data processing and storage unit for real-time image processing.

‘So, the operator can look at them in focus while the automated onboard system continues to process the wide-area data. It also records all the data so can distribute that to the weapon systems operators. Before, to do this you would need a much larger platform or a fleet of UAVs. Now it can be done with one UAV covering a huge area.

‘The MicroLite essentially provides a “server in the sky” with all the information preserved for later viewing if needed. For example, if someone becomes a target of interest, you can look back and see where he came from, what his route was, what his point of origin was. You can look back at the footage and review all that information.’

While the sensor has been a company-funded development, Weiss said that the capability is based on operator feedback and the company’s belief that Class 1 and 2 UAVs would increasingly be used for persistent surveillance missions, rather than the more costly and complex MALE or HALE platforms.

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