CAP Goes High-Tech

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The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) , the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, has selected two contractors to provide new eyes in the sky for its aircraft. The hyper-spectral imaging sensors and a visual computing network allows a sensor on a moving aircraft to detect objects on the ground by picking up light reflected from those objects. The imaging equipment can detect both man-made and natural objects that have a known spectral "signature," or can be used to survey a scene to determine what is out of place. It can also detect man-made objects such as a crashed aircraft and can even search for specific types of material such as marijuana plants, if the item's signature is programmed into the imaging equipment. The visual computing network (VCN) gives users a three-dimensional view of satellite images, therefore making mission planning, rehearsal and performance more effective. Both ground and air crews can use the VCN, and CAP officials feel both the VCN and hyper-spectral imaging can enhance the auxiliary's operations. Funding for the new equipment is coming from the Air Force, which has moved CAP under its Homeland Security Directorate and has been stepping up security missions for the all-volunteer, 64,000-member auxiliary.