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BuckEye 3D Ground
BuckEye UAS

The BuckEye Program was born in 2004 out of the need for unclassified high-resolution geospatial data for tactical missions. The addition of a LIDAR sensor in 2005 was part of the BuckEye 3-Dimensional (3D) Ground Project, started by the US Army Geospatial Center (AGC), an element of the US Army Corps of Engineers, to provide soldiers with high quality geospatial information from a ground-level perspective. Terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors provide the high-resolution, 3D geospatial data and digital color cameras provide additional information that complements the LIDAR point cloud data. BuckEye 3D Ground leveraged capabilities developed under the Urban Recon Joint Concept Technology Demonstration (JCTD), DARPA's UrbanScape Project, and the Geospatial Intelligence Video Program.

Infused with state-of-the-art Terrestrial LIDAR technology, BuckEye 3D Ground provides unique ground-level tactical geospatial information to the soldier. This advanced capability adds a new level of detail and realism to current urban battlefield modeling techniques. Tactical applications for Terrestrial LIDAR data include Mission Planning and Rehearsal, Route Reconnaissance, Intelligence Analysis, Pre-Deployment Training and Route Mapping. LIDAR data supports improved battlefield visualization and line of sight analysis. LIDAR's 3D accuracy also supports the ortho-rectification of imagery, making it more accurate as well. Once ortho-rectified, image frames can be combined into large mosaics.

As of April 2012, the AGC planned and coordinated Terrestrial LIDAR data collections, exploits Terrestrial LIDAR data for operational support and researches advanced LIDAR technologies. Terrestrial LIDAR data could be used as a stand-alone product, as an accurate foundation for rectifying models or in conjunction with Airborne LIDAR and Electro-Optical imagery. 3D data was collected using a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Terrestrial LIDAR scanning system. System position and orientation information is captured via global positioning system and inertial measurement unit (IMU). Four high speed digital cameras were strategically positioned to co-collect color imagery. The AGC was working to develop new tools that will enable users to integrate Terrestrial LIDAR into other geospatial products.

The initial BuckEye system started development in 2004. The system consisted of a helicopter-mounted digital color camera that produced high-resolution imagery for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes and change detection missions. In November 2005, BuckEye deployed to Iraq on a fixed-wing aircraft to concentrate on the urban mapping mission. In Iraq, BuckEye collected over 85,000 square kilometers of data over urban areas and along main supply routes. The resultant revolutionary data set includes over 2,000 tiles of LIDAR elevation data at 1-meter resolution, and 1,800,000 color images at 10 to 15-centimeter resolution. With the change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn and the downsizing of Coalition Forces, BuckEye concluded its operational support to the Iraq mission in September 2010.

In May 2006, a helicopter-mounted camera system was deployed to Afghanistan to conduct ISR missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In November 2007, a fixed-wing aircraft with both a color camera and LIDAR sensor began operations at Bagram Airfield. Two additional fixed-wing aircraft were deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010, where they were based in Regional Command (RC) East and RC South. Additional fixed-wing systems were deployed to RC North and RC West in late 2011

In addition, During the Summer of 2010, an unmanned aerial system (UAS) with BuckEye sensors successfully completed a 90 day Initial Operational Capability (IOC) test in Afghanistan. The BuckEye UAS was a multi-purpose platform that supported requirements for collection of unclassified geospatial data. Sensors on-board included a 39-megapixel color camera and a LIDAR system that provided high-resolution elevation data. Its purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility and military utility of rapid collection and processing of high-resolution, high-accuracy geospatial data. The platform also provided a testbed for on-board data processing and downlink of BuckEye data. Concepts of operation for data collection, processing, and distribution for tactical users were tested during the period. The BuckEye UAS could support CONOPS for change detection; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and Urban Mapping. The successful test led to additional deployments.

In January 2012, BuckEye began collection operations in support of US Africa Command (AFRICOM). Initial collection operations in Burkina Faso acquired over 6,000 square kilometers of LIDAR and color imagery.

As of April 2012, BuckEye systems, including the single BuckEye UAS, were performing collections in all Afghanistan provinces. In Afghanistan, BuckEye requirements and tasking were controlled at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) level. A majority of the imagery and LIDAR was processed in-theater to provide rapid tactical response, and over 160,000 square kilometers of data have been collected by April 2012. With 5 fixed-wing aircraft now operating in Afghanistan, the pace of collection had increased significantly.

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Page last modified: 18-03-2013 11:53:53 ZULU