The Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded a $15.4 million contract to Areté Associates for the further development of the Pushbroom Imaging LiDAR for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) system. PILLS is a compact lightweight light detection and ranging (lidar) system for mine countermeasures, uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) detection, and other target detection. It provides precision bathymetry – the study of the beds or floors of bodies of water – and topography suitable for operation from a small tactical uncrewed aerial vehicle. The platform is particularly effective in environments inaccessible to larger surveying ships and systems.
Areté Associates is the original developer of PILLS, which employs a pulsed laser fan beam using an extremely accurate streak tube imaging LIDAR receiver. For each laser pulse, PILLS maps out an image of objects within the fan beam – as the air vehicle moves forward, the system maps out a three-dimensional image of objects along the flight path. PILLS has no moving parts, and eliminates the weight, size, power, and reliability issues of scanning lidar systems and cooled lasers. The system integrates a dedicated real-time kinematic GPS for precise mapping, independent of aircraft systems. It requires a fraction of the power of current lidar systems on manned aircraft, and delivers comparable mapping performance from a small UAV.
Areté will extend, adapt, and optimize the PILLS sensor, as well as its signal-processing and data-fusion algorithms to address additional future Navy capabilities such as: bathymetric survey and charting; underwater target detection; underwater hazard detection; and avoidance, and lidar multi-mode sensing.
The project should be completed by March 2027.