DARPA’s New High Resolution Camera

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a camera with unprecedented resolution, of 2.3-gigapixel. The new camera should be able to create super-wide aerial photos, and is built primarily for surveillance purposes, as part of the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) program.
 Illustration: The ARGUS-IS (Credit: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Illustration: The ARGUS-IS in action
(Credit: DARPA)

According to DARPA, a 1.8-gigapixel (approximate 1800-megapixel) camera exists and already functions as part of the ARGUS-IS project. And yet, the next model, which offers 2.3-gigapixel resolution, is already under way: the US Army has solicited proposals for its design and manufacturing.

Although preliminary design plans for the new camera exist, it is still quite far from becoming a reality. However, the US Army already holds high hopes for the system. For instance, engineers involved in the project are saying that the final version will be both smaller and lighter than previous systems, work in the infrared range to boot, and capture images at a rate of two frames per second.

The mission of the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) program is to provide military users a flexible and responsive capability to find, track and monitor events and activities of interest on a continuous basis in areas of interest. This future camera is a major part of the system.

Thanks to its 2.3-gigapixel sensor, the camera should allow the system to continuously cover a range of about 161 square kilometers. This high resolution could zoom in up to 30 centimeters – just enough to make out the outline of hand-held weapons, for instance.

The overall objective of ARGUS-IS is to increase situational awareness, and to give the ability to find and fix critical events in a large area during a short period of time. The system is specifically useful for tactical users in a dynamic battle-space or urban environment.

TFOT has covered another part of the ARGUS-IS project: the Boeing A160T Hummingbird, an unmanned, super-quiet aerial vehicle. Other related TFOT stories include the Spy Blimp, a surveillance airship developed by the US Air Force and DARPA, and the Global Hawk, the world’s first fully autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft designed for environmental science, which was sponsored by DARPA.

For more information about the ARGUS-IS project, see DARPA’s website.

Icon image credit: Image Gallery of the Agricultural Research Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)