Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Advanced Tracking Systems for the Military

An automated system to replicate the capabilities of the human vision system, capture and process relevant information and minimize fatigue
GE Intelligent Platforms
Figure 1: The electro optical tracking director for the Royal Navy ASCG system on board the HMS Somerset Type 23 Frigate.
Figure 2: The video tracking ball on the Firescout UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is clearly visible. Firescout’s Electro Optical tracking system features GE Intelligent Platforms echnology.
Figure 3: The ADEPT5000 from GE Intelligent Platforms combines advanced algorithms for tracking in clutter, multi-target tracking and dealing with obscuration with a hardware platform that delivers maximum processing power from a small, lightweight board.

By Doug Scott
GE Intelligent Platforms

There are so many things about our bodies that we take for granted. Not least among these is our amazing vision system. The ability to distinguish an object—often among many other objects—and to link that object with its innate characteristics; to make informed assumptions about an object when it is incompletely perceived, or temporarily disappears; understand the relationship and interaction between that object and other objects; and predict how that object might behave in a given set of circumstances.


Those are characteristics and abilities that are taken for granted in fighter pilots, tank commanders and submarine captains, and that are fundamental to their ability to fulfil a mission. There are, however, two issues that need to be overcome—especially as modern warfare increases in complexity, sophistication and speed. The first of these is the ability of the human mind to retain multiple relevant pieces of information. Early research into artificial intelligence, for example, took as one of its precepts that, in making a decision, humans can only take into account seven pieces of information simultaneously: given more than seven, we will arbitrarily—and unconsciously—discard the excess. The hope, of course, is that the information discarded is the least relevant. One of the goals of early artificial intelligence development was to allow the capture and retention of as many pieces of relevant information as possible thus, theoretically, improving the quality of decision-making. In modern warfare, the number and sophistication of threats has increased significantly, making this a mission-critical issue.

The second issue that is of constant concern in the modern battlefield is the issue of fatigue. Perception, analysis and decision-making are known to deteriorate over prolonged periods of action—a deterioration that can have fatal consequences.

The key goals of today’s military video tracking systems are, therefore, to replicate to the maximum extent possible the capabilities of the human vision system; to ensure that irrelevant information is discarded and that relevant information is captured and processed; and to automate these functions to minimize fatigue.

Video tracking in the field of war is, of course, nothing new. However, today’s tracking systems need to be significantly more capable as the complexity of the battlefield increases.

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