Eye in the Sky

By: 
December 01, 2003

A Vietnam veteran, researcher Chuck Stancil has developed a reconnaissance device that gives a bird's eye view of the battlefield.

Present Position: Senior research engineer, Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory, Georgia Tech Research Institute

Degrees: B.S., U.S. Military Academy; M.S., aerospace engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

How did you come up with the idea for the reconnaissance round? In Vietnam, I had to lie low from incoming fire, but I could not see if I would make it back to my jeep. And I thought, why can't the guys on the ground have a bird's eye view like a helicopter pilot?'

How does it work? The goal is to give the ground soldier individual aerial reconnaissance. It is an adaptation of the illumination round, which is fired from a mortar and uses flares to light up the ground below. Soldiers can use the recon round with an existing round of ammunition. A mortar fires the projectile into the air. It then opens a parachute at a specified time and extracts a digital camera to take four to five pictures before landing and self-destructing.

Wouldn't the parachute twist in the descent? No. A parachute twists when air flows from under the canopy over the edge, creating a pressure gradient. With the recon round parachute, it has four symmetrical vents that allow air to exhaust from under the canopy, providing a mechanism of stability.

What equipment is required? We use a commercially available CMOS imager that digitizes the scene so that we can broadcast the image and present it on a PC-compatible laptop or portable computer. It also requires a flat-panel antenna (4 x 6 inches), a receiver module (4 x 6 inches), and a USB port. All the components are commercially available and cost between $700 and $1,000.

Why use a fixed camera lens? Simplicity and low cost.

Other applications? Fighting forest fires, or for static security.

Contact Stancil at charles.stancil@gtri.gatech.edu

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