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Melbourne firm wins sensor contract for Army’s drones

written by Adam Thorn | May 6, 2021

Defence has awarded a contract to a Melbourne-based firm to equip the Army’s drones with next-generation surveillance sensors.

Ascent Vision Technologies’ ‘CM234 Spitfire camera gimbal’ uses infrared cameras to provide a more stable image during the day or night.

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Director General Army Aviation Systems, Brigadier James Allen, said, “The Spitfire camera gimbal is an extremely lightweight sensor package that provides a day-and-night surveillance and reconnaissance capability on the installed aircraft, which will significantly boost Army’s tactical UAS capabilities.

“UAS are a key component of Army’s ISR capability, with some smaller unmanned systems used last year on Operation Bushfire Assist.”

Defence awarded the contract as part of its Tactical UAS Replacement and Enhancement Project (LAND 129 Phase 3).

The sensor technology aims to enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability by leveraging an imaging system that uses electro-optical, short wave and medium wave infrared cameras, along with laser range finding and target designation technology.

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According to Assistant Secretary Defence Capability and Innovation, Andrew Hodgkinson, the Spitfire camera sensor technology demonstrates Australia’s growing sovereign industrial capability, supported by government funding via the Defence Innovation Hub.

“This Australian invention will allow capabilities traditionally reserved for manned aviation systems to be introduced on tactical unmanned aerial systems,” Hodgkinson said.

The technology is set to support UAS platforms developed by either Insitu Pacific Limited or Textron Systems Australia, which have been selected as the final two companies in the tender evaluation process for LAND 129 Phase 3.

The government is expected to announce its final decision later this year.

Last month, Australian Aviation reported how WA-based Innovaero Industries’ new surveillance drone developed for the RAN passed its initial flight trials.

The Innovaero FOX will now undergo vertical and conventional take-off and landing trials later this year.

The FOX, which has an eight-metre wingspan, completed a series of test where developers where able to analyse system data, allowing it to progress to the next stage of testing.

It’s been developed in response to the Navy’s call for a new generation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting capability for RAN ships.

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