Lockheed Martin has tested a new infrared sensor turret aboard its hand-launched unmanned aerial system (UAS) Desert Hawk III. According to the company, this is the first time a UAS of this size has flown with a 360-degree infrared sensor.
The Desert Hawk III, which can be launched by hand, is currently being used by the British Army to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The 54-inch wingspan UAS is designed to operate at high altitudes, in high winds and extreme temperatures.
The recent tests were aimed at validating the Desert Hawk's ability to improve nighttime ISR for ground forces by providing 360-degree infrared coverage, giving ground-based troops more accurate information. Lockheed Martin also tested an upgraded 360-degree color Electro Optic (E/O) sensor, designed to further enable operators by providing 10x continuous zoom capability.
According to an official statement, Lockheed Martin's Desert Hawk III UAS comprises a lightweight, hand-launched, ruggedized air vehicle with snap-on modular payloads, a portable ground station and a remote video terminal. The snap-on payload capability is designed to enable an operator to quickly swap sensors on the air vehicle. The Desert Hawk III offers five modular capability payloads including a 360-degree turret with a mix of E/O and/or black and white low-light imagers, an infrared stabilized imager in a roll axis out to 90 degrees, a signals intelligence sensor, the new 360-degree infrared sensor and the upgraded 360-degree E/O imager with continuous zoom.