• Artist's impression of the M2 Pathfinder, or CubeSat satellite in orbit over the earth. (Defence)
    Artist's impression of the M2 Pathfinder, or CubeSat satellite in orbit over the earth. (Defence)

A new project to drive advances in hyperspectral imaging technology for defence applications has commenced.

The work is part of DMTC’s High Altitude Sensor Systems (HASS) Program and will be led by Professor Rob Sharp from the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC) at The Australian National University (ANU) and hosted at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

The project is a collaboration involving DMTC, researchers from ANU and CSIRO and industrial partner Skykraft, a small business formed out of the UNSW Canberra Space team that is currently developing a space-based Air Traffic Management solution that will utilise a constellation of small satellites.

The technology will provide Defence with critical visibility of littoral environments (the land-sea boundary zone), with direct applications for navigation, hydrographic survey and information gathering from denied or contested access areas.

Deployed on an unmanned aerial vehicle or a small satellite (SmallSat) platform, the sensor could be tuned to measure optical water quality or detect objects in submerged environments, and simultaneously to provide topographical information of the land and sea bed in a consolidated 3-D view of the area.

Designing the system to deploy on an unmanned aerial vehicle or small satellite puts an emphasis on making the system compact in size without compromising the quality of data capture.

Along the way the team will need to confront and overcome a number of technological barriers, including miniaturisation for deployment on target flight platforms, and size and weight optimisation of the prototype design. The trade-offs between these competing elements will be addressed through advanced simulation techniques based on new design methods developed at ANU.

“This sort of collaborative team with a focus on industrialising research outcomes is what people expect of our projects,” DMTC CEO Mark Hodge said. “We’re seeking to achieve a lot in a relatively short space of time, and stage-gate reviews will confirm the levels of technological readiness that the team achieves.”

This phase of the project will be completed in 12 months, with follow-on activities planned including work to realise the potential for powerful on-board scene analysis.

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