Published on: December 2017

Panoptes interrogates the digital feed from EO/IR sensors and highlights contact from clutter.

Taking the guesswork out of moving target indication

The human factors that compromise a military vehicle’s ability to be an effective reconnaissance platform are no less apparent with the digital age.

In history those tasked with observation from a platform sought the highest spot, to have the widest possible field of vision and see to the horizon. So was born the legend of the sailor who could outclimb his rivals to the ship’s crow’s nest, spying the mast tops of approaching vessels long before their hulls became visible above the curvature of the earth.

The logic held until projectile weapons, first bows and arrows, then guns, gave an adversary the range and aim to pick off those in high places, often silhouetted as they were against the horizon. And as the “early warning” eyes of the unit, the observer was always a prize target.

From that day on personnel on vehicles going in to harm’s way have “buttoned up”, retreating inside and closing hatches against flying projectiles and shrapnel. But with field of vision limited to that through a small slit in an armoured hull, safety has compromised situational awareness.

Even with the digital age today’s armoured vehicles and trucks face a compromise. Buttoned down, modern warriors rely on external infrared and daylight TV cameras projecting the world around their vehicle on to digital displays inside. But few would argue that a two-dimensional visual display gives the same situational awareness as a person’s own three-dimensional spatial abilities. Add dust, rain,darkness  and fatigue and operators are often reduced to trying to discern whether this collection of screen pixels really moved, or whether that shape is an armed soldier or a tree.

Which is why Australia’s Sentient Vision developed a tailored version of its moving target indicator software aimed at taking the guesswork and effort out of knowing what is happening outside.

Named for Panoptes, the hundred-eyed giant of Greek legend who never slept, Sentient’s Panoptes Land system interrogates digital input from IR and optical cameras and spots pixel shapes that indicate a moving vehicle or human. Operators no longer need to focus on every pixel on screen, as Panoptes indicates each identified contact with a red box that simply moves with the subject.

With the ability to scan every pixel, Panoptes gives almost instant results in any field of view, removing the need for vehicle personnel to “mow the lawn” with their eyes to spot a moving target against a potentially vast background. In doing so it negates the human factors issues that have shown operators to miss around 95% of activity after staring at the same screen for as little as 22 minutes.

Panoptes has already proven itself in protecting high value assets such as industrial sites, oil pipelines and mines, where the system has allowed surveillance of large areas with a small team of operators. One African mine installed Panoptes Land to operate with its existing surveillance camera system and almost immediately halted iron ore theft that had been costing the company around $2 million per year.

For military use the system is equally adept at “stop and stare”, allowing vehicle or pole mounted cameras to peer across a border, protect a forward operating base, reconnoitre a route or provide 24/7 “never sleeps” coverage of an adversary’s suspected path.

But the system is much more than a simple visual alert. Panoptes is a fully functioning surveillance software system that can track a target, provide a visible history of its movement and predict its future path. The system also allows extraction of data such as size, speed and direction of travel for each contact, plus geolocation metadata that is compliant with the internationally recognised STANAG 4609 and MISB 0601 in MGRS and Latitude/Longitude.

“Panoptes removes issues of operator fatigue, of the difficulty of scanning large areas of real estate with cameras that must be zoomed in to visually identify a possible contact,” said Simon Olsen, Sentient Vision Systems Director of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships.

“By interrogating the digital feed with fidelity down to a few pixels in size it sees things that human operators may miss, either through the physics of digital screens, or through fatigue, indicates the contact clearly and simply and then allows extraction of useful data about the contact for transmission and response planning.

“Defence forces and law enforcement agencies around the world could be forgiven for wishing the Panoptes of Greek legend was real. We could all use an observer that sees everything and never sleeps. But with our Panoptes system we believe Sentient Vision has given them the next best thing.”