QinetiQ recently said it received a 33-month, $22 million follow-on contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue the Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) program.

The LACOSTE concept is to develop a sensor system that operates at a high altitude, about 20 kilometers. This could be an airship or endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.

DARPA tapped QinetiQ to continue the work after a successful Phase 1 effort, and the QinetiQ team will continue developing a new sensor system to provide persistent tactical surveillance and precision tracking.

The QinetiQ team’s effort is based on novel adaptive coded aperture imaging, an all-new disruptive camera technology with a wide range of defense, security, industrial and commercial applications, the company said in a statement.

QinetiQ is being assisted in delivering the LACOSTE program by Goodrich [GR] ISR Systems, which is responsible for designing the optical system, assisting with concepts of operations and architecture development, and performing laboratory and flight testing.

The second phase of the program covers the building and flight-testing of a working sensor module to meet the LACOSTE goals. This builds on a successful first phase in which new sensing and processing technologies were developed and proven.

“This award is an endorsement of the team’s ability to deliver novel sensing technologies,” Chris Slinger, QinetiQ’s principal investigator on the LACOSTE program and QinetiQ senior fellow, said. “Our adaptive coded aperture imaging draws on several elements of QinetiQ’s rich technology base, combining leading edge micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS), optical and sensor physics, signal processing, image recovery, tracking techniques and systems engineering. It is an example of a new wave of disruptive, computational imaging systems that offer orders of magnitude improvement in mass, size, economy and performance when compared to conventional sensor technologies.”

Tom Bergeron, president of Goodrich’s ISR Systems business, said: “This contract award is an important endorsement of the adaptive coded aperture imaging approach successfully demonstrated by the QinetiQ/Goodrich team during the LACOSTE Phase 1 program. This novel computational imaging approach has now demonstrated real potential as a disruptive technology for the ISR market. The Goodrich ISR Systems business has a long history of offering world-leading capabilities in real time electro-optical systems in space and on manned and unmanned airborne platforms and is ideally placed to transition this capability into the ISR market.”