In recent years, some remote-sensing applications require advanced airborne multi-sensor systems to provide high performance reflective and emissive spectral imaging measurement rapidly over large areas. The key or unique problem of characteristics is associated with a black box back-end system that operates a suite of cutting-edge imaging sensors to collect simultaneously the high throughput reflective and emissive spectral imaging data with precision georeference. This back-end system needs to be portable, easy-to-use, and reliable with advanced onboard processing.

The innovation of the black box backend is a miniaturized airborne imaging central server system (MAICSS). MAICSS integrates a complex embedded system of systems with dedicated power and signal electronic circuits inside to serve a suite of configurable cutting-edge electro-optical (EO), long-wave infrared (LWIR), and medium-wave infrared (MWIR) cameras, a hyperspectral imaging scanner, and a GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU) for atmospheric and surface remote sensing. Its compatible sensor packages include NASA’s 1,024×1,024 pixel LWIR quantum well infrared photodetector (QWIP) imager; a 60.5 megapixel BuckEye EO camera; and a fast (e.g. 200+ scanlines/s) and wide swath-width (e.g., 1,920+ pixels) CCD/InGaAs imager-based visible/near infrared reflectance (VNIR) and shortwave infrared (SWIR) imaging spectrometer. MAICSS records continuous precision georeferenced and time-tagged multisensor throughputs to mass storage devices at a high aggregate rate, typically 60 MB/s for its LWIR/EO payload.

MAICSS is a complete stand-alone imaging server instrument with an easy-to-use software package for either autonomous data collection or interactive airborne operation. Advanced multisensor data acquisition and onboard processing software features have been implemented for MAICSS. With the onboard processing for real time image development, correction, histogram-equalization, compression, georeference, and data organization, fast aerial imaging applications, including the real time LWIR image mosaic for Google Earth, have been realized for NASA’s LWIR QWIP instrument.

MAICSS is a significant improvement and miniaturization of current multi-sensor technologies. Structurally, it has a complete modular and solid-state design. Without rotating hard drives and other moving parts, it is operational at high altitudes and survivable in high-vibration environments. It is assembled from a suite of miniaturized, precision-machined, standardized, and stackable interchangeable embedded instrument modules. These stackable modules can be bolted together with the interconnection wires inside for the maximal simplicity and portability. Multiple modules are electronically interconnected as stacked. Alternatively, these dedicated modules can be flexibly distributed to fit the space constraints of a flying vehicle. As a flexibly configurable system, MAICSS can be tailored to interface a variety of multisensor packages. For example, with a 1,024×1,024 pixel LWIR and a 8,984×6,732 pixel EO payload, the complete MAICSS volume is approximately 7×9×11 in. (≈18×23×28 cm), with a weight of 25 lb (≈11.4 kg).

This work was done by Xiuhong Sun of Flight Landata for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15817-1

Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2011 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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