Home / Technology / AI & IT / ARGUS-IS, and ARGUS-IR are DARPA’s Real-Time, Day/Night, Drone Gigapixel Imaging and Surveillance systems in the sky

ARGUS-IS, and ARGUS-IR are DARPA’s Real-Time, Day/Night, Drone Gigapixel Imaging and Surveillance systems in the sky

Our military forces are becoming increasingly dependent on current and reliable video data for the conduct of day-to-day operations. Our deployed forces are faced with many challenges to provide real-time situational awareness across their expansive areas of responsibility (AOR). Among the highest ISR requirements of our military services is the need to find, track, monitor and analyze activities of interest on a continuous basis.


However, many of the tactical commander’s airborne ISR assets are narrow FOV, low resolution sensors that are generally able to find and track a single target, usually vehicles, within the FOV. This presents a great number of challenges given the limited number of ISR assets at the commander’s disposal. Overcoming these challenges is far more difficult when attempting to conduct ISR operations at night.


DARPA’s has developed advanced drone surveillance system ARGUS-IS (Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System), through a 30 month, $18.5 million contract awarded to BAE . The mission of the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) program is to provide users a flexible and responsive capability to find, track and monitor events and activities of interest on a continuous basis in areas of interest.


The overall objective is to increase situational awareness and understanding enabling an ability to find and fix critical events in a large area in enough time to influence events. ARGUS – IS provides military users an “eyes-on” persistent wide area surveillance capability to support tactical users in a dynamic battlespace or urban environment.


The system uses 368 cell phone camera sensors, 5 megapixels each which are focused on ground through four telescopic lenses.  Together, these cameras makeup to a resolution of a staggering 1.8 gigapixel allows observation of targets as small as 6 inch— good enough to resolve humans, animals, and even birds from an altitude of 6000 metres.


Consecutive frames from all 368 sensors are stitched into a seamless video footage with a frame rate of 12 fps. In a day, about 6 petabytes (6000 TB) of data is said to be recorded and transmitted.  ARGUS-IS is capable of tracking about 93 square kilometres of area in real-time. It can observe and record area of 25 square kilometers (10sqmi) at any one time. The system can capture and stream 1 million terabytes of video per day.


The hard bit, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is the processing of all that image data. 1.8 billion pixels, at 12 fps, generates on the order of 600 gigabits per second. This equates to around 6 petabytes — or 6,000 terabytes — of video data per day. From what we can gather, some of the processing is done within ARGUS (or the drone that carries it), but most of the processing is done on the ground, in near-real-time, using a beefy supercomputer.


The video feed is then processed by a software called Persistics, which automatically tags and track vehicles and people in the footage — resulting in a sort of pattern-of-life metadata collection with geo-location chronographs of all the movements.


In early 2014, the ARGUS-IS achieved initial operating capability (IOC) with the U.S. Air Force as part of Gorgon Stare Increment 2, giving the MQ-9 Reaper the ability to survey an area of 100 sq km (39 sq mi). The system may be flown on a predator or Global Hawk class of UAV



Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night.


The objective of the ARGUS-IR program is to develop an IR system that provides a real-time, high-resolution, wide area video persistent surveillance capability at night that allows joint forces to keep critical areas of interest under constant surveillance with a high degree of target location accuracy.


ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness. The data is collected and processed onboard. Commands and data are transmitted to and from the sensor via the data link at a minimum frame rate of 5Hz.


The packaging of the airborne subsystems would be compatible with a variety of UAS’s including MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C Warrior, Aerostat, and A-160 (Hummingbird).


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