Armed Forces International News - April 2012

Fire Scout UAV Helicopter Gets Pirate Seeker

Posted by Armed Forces International's Aviation Expert on 10/04/2012 - 11:30:00

Fire Scout UAV

Hi-tech target recognition software will soon help unmanned US Navy helicopters locate pirate vessels in busy waters, the USN has reported.

Together, the combination of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV helicopter and the MMSS (Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker) system will be able to detect security threats amidst regular, innocent sea traffic.

The Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker system combines together various devices including infrared sensors, HD cameras and LADAR (laser-radar) technologies and, once in operation, it'll reduce the workload presently placed on naval personnel tasked with identifying hostile threats from ship-based command centres.

Pirate Seeker System

"Sailors who control robotic systems can become overloaded with data, often sifting through hours of streaming video searching for a single ship", the Office of Naval Research's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department's program officer, Ken Heeke, explained in a 9 April US Navy press release on the pirate seeker system.

He continued: "The automatic target recognition software gives Fire Scout the ability to distinguish target boats in congested coastal waters using LADAR, and it sends that information to human operators, who can then analyze those vessels in a 3-D picture."

"With LADAR data, each pixel corresponds to a 3-D point in space, so the automatic target recognition algorithm can calculate the dimensions of an object and compare them to those in a database", NAWCWD (Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division) representative Dean Cook added.

Fire Scout UAV Helicopter

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV helicopter is an autonomous design first flown in 2002 and deployed by the US Navy from September 2009 onwards.

The US Navy should ultimately get 168 Fire Scouts and, so far, in-service examples have carried out operational sorties in both Afghanistan and Libya. Powered by a single Rolls-Royce M250 turboshaft engine, the Fire Scout has a top speed of 115 knots, a maximum endurance of eight hours and it can fly at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet.

Already trialled from shore-based systems, the Multi-Mode Sensor System's now being blended into a BRITE Star II turret for planned future manned helicopter-based trials, which will take place in late summer 2012.

Fire Scout image copyright US Navy

See also - 

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MQ-8B Fire Scout LCS Sea Trials Successful

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Companies supplying Helicopter Equipment and Technology

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