Northrop Grumman recently showcased an airborne surveillance system capable of detecting (simulated) improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The platform - dubbed ASTAMIDS, or Airborne Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Minefield Detection System - was flown on an MQ-8B Fire Scout UAS.
"The fundamental goal for ASTAMIDS and all our airborne mine countermeasures systems is to get the soldier, Marine, sailor and airman out of harm's way," explained Northrop VP Dan Chang.
"These tests proved we've achieved our goal with ASTAMIDS. We can identify ground threats and deliver targeting-quality data to adjacent war fighters to destroy the threats and do that in near real time. ASTAMIDS, we believe, is ready to save lives."
Indeed, IEDs are the biggest killers of coalition forces in Afghanistan, where the devices are typically manufactured out of homemade explosives, such as basic fertilizer ingredients like ammonium nitrate.
"When you look at [IED] precursor materials it's [clearly] not just a military problem," Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO, told the US DoD website.
"You need the whole of government to work on the IED, whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan or the rest of the world. [For example], we track 300 to 400 incidents a month occurring outside Iraq and Afghanistan where [operatives] are using IEDs against law enforcement or against military security forces.
"Why do they use the IED? [Simply because] it works. It's [obviously quite] easy to obtain the precursor material you need for a homemade explosive."