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Airborne bomb-detection technology to identify oil and gas leaks in remote locations

15th May 2014

The Exelis long-wave infrared hyperspectral sensor and processing system provides real-time information about the composition of gases and solids, which is critical in the detection of leaks emanating from containers and pipelines used in the oil and gas industry, as well as in the detection of improvised explosive devices

Airborne bomb-detection technology to identify oil and gas leakage in remote locations
The sensor is sensitive enough to detect and identify small amounts of gas released into the atmosphere as well as solid materials on the ground

US-based Exelis has successfully flight-tested a long-wave infrared (LWIR) hyperspectral (HSI) sensor capable of pointing in multiple directions to identify threatening substances and gases

 "Customers are looking for reliable ways to locate and identify either naturally existing or man-made materials, some of which can be dangerous, illegal or items of interest that are not visible to traditional imaging cameras," said Minda Suchan, director of material identification at Exelis. "Using a LWIR HSI sensor would allow access to hard-to-reach areas and positively identify solids and gases critical to defense, civilian and commercial operations."

LWIR sensors must be cooled using a cryocooler to temperatures significantly below 20 degrees Celsius. At these temperatures the sensor is sensitive enough to detect and identify small amounts of gas released into the atmosphere as well as solid materials on the ground.

"We were able to overcome significant cooling requirements to ensure the sensor could collect usable data," Suchan said. "This opens up new uses for LWIR HSI systems, such as looking into denied areas, from high-altitude aircraft.”

Most HSI sensors are mounted to aircraft such that the platform is required to fly directly over a target to collect imagery. With a system housed in a gimbal that can be pointed in multiple directions, the sensor can collect larger areas of imagery pointing both directly down to the ground and across the horizon. Also, with an on-board processing capability under development by Exelis, the system is suitable for mid-size to large manned and unmanned systems and provides a material identification system unavailable elsewhere to enable the fast collection of data without users being put into harm's way.

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