While airspace surveillance in both civil and military worlds relies almost totally on radar, advances in threat technology have rendered legacy radars less dependable than they once were. Jamming and defense suppression attacks can disrupt or deny large areas of coverage, while low-RCS (radar cross section) targets and those flying low and slow are increasingly difficult to detect.
To address these issues Rafael has developed a passive, unjammable airspace surveillance electro-optical system that uses medium- and short-wave infrared sensors alongside visible light sensors to provide complete coverage over a designated area, ranging from a radius of one kilometer out to many tens of kilometers. The employment of highly sensitive EO sensors removes the complications of radar surveillance, such as background clutter, multipath anomalies, and the inability to spot targets such as small drones.
Known as Sky Spotter and already implemented in the dual civil/military Israeli airspace surveillance network, the system can be used as a fixed national asset, a gap-filler, or as a deployable asset to rapidly establish airspace surveillance during expeditionary operations. It can be used as an adjunct to radar or as a standalone system, and has applications to air defense and counter-UAS missions, among others.
Sky Spotter comprises a wide field-of-view staring sensor which maintains constant watch, its imagery being processed to automatically provide a sense-and-warn function and to lock-and-track multiple targets simultaneously. The number of staring sensors can be scaled to ensure full coverage in a networked environment.
When a suspect object is automatically detected by these sensors the system cues an investigating sensor with a much narrower field of view. Imagery from this sensor can be used for investigation purposes to determine what the target is, and can theoretically eliminate the need to needlessly send manned interceptors to investigate blips on a radar screen that often turn out to be harmless.