BAE Systems has conducted maiden flight tests for a new real-time persistent surveillance imaging system that will be used onboard US manned and unmanned surveillance platforms.

The autonomous real-time ground ubiquitous surveillance imaging system ARGUS-IS is specifically designed to detect, locate, track and monitor events on battlefields and in urban areas.

Flight tests were carried out onboard a US Army Black Hawk helicopter demonstrating the system’s multiple video windows for persistent area surveillance and tracking capabilities for vehicles and dismounted soldiers.

ARGUS-IS continuously and simultaneously detects and tracks the presence and motion of thousands of small or large targets over an area covering tens of square miles.

BAE Systems optical sensor systems director Steven Wein said the system overcomes the fundamental limitations of current airborne surveillance systems.

“Very high-resolution imaging systems required for vehicle and dismount tracking typically have a ‘soda-straw’ view that is too small for persistent coverage. Existing wide-area systems have either inadequate resolution or require multiple passes or revisits to get updates,” Wein said.

The $18.5m ARGUS-IS contract was awarded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory in 2007.