Case Studies

Small Fixed-Wing Aircraft ISR Video System

January 06, 2016

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A large aerospace integrator required a video distribution system (VDS) that would accept high definition video (HDSDI) as well as legacy video, distribute the video, convert to different formats, and record the video for post mission analysis. Mounted in a small fixed-wing aircraft, the VDS had to be rugged, compact and video agile.

The ISR architecture was a blend of old and new technology; modern turret-mounted high-definition cameras were being added to a system that retained older video sources. Additionally, the aircraft displays were 16:9 format and accepted HD-SDI video, therefore older video sources needed to be converted in order to be displayed. During the mission, live video needed to be streamed to network connected displays and to downlink transmitters.

The network displays followed MPEG2TS protocol and expected H.264 compression which was also required for the RF downlink devices due to their limited bandwidth. Additionally, long missions meant that a large amount of data would be collected so video compression was also required to reduce the file size. Consequently the video solution needed to support H.264 compression as well as industry standard, non-proprietary file formats.

The valuable data that the aircraft captured not only needed to be displayed in real-time and be available for downlink, but also needed to be available for post-mission analysis. This required the data to be transported by hand to a ground station, therefore requiring very rugged storage media. Solid state disks were an ideal candidate for the removable storage as long as the cost was not prohibitive and the storage size too bulky for hand-carry. Due to the small size of the aircraft, SWaP considerations also played a key role in the selection process.

Results

The VRD1 provided all the video distribution, switching, control, and storage needed for the ISR aircraft. HD and legacy video was converted inside the VRD1 and routed to an internal video switch. With complete control via the API interface, system clients could direct the video inputs to specific outputs for display, to the SSDs for storage, or to Ethernet clients for display or downlink, increasing mission effectiveness.

The removable memory cartridge (RMC) were ideal for data capture on the aircraft and then transport to the ground station. The high capacity 1 TB SSDs captured the many hours of mission video after H.264 compression. The data was saved in standard MKV files which could be read by a variety of video players. The video ground station converted the RMCs SATA format to USB so that the data could be accessed by different computers increasing post-mission analysis efficiencies.

The LRU combined different functions into one device – video format conversion, video switching, video storage, and video distribution. With all video functions in one device, network clients could use one API command set which simplified control. By not using several separate devices, SWaP was greatly reduced contributing to longer duration missions.

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