The U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) is assisting units deployed in Iraq facing a serious threat from drones that are being used by the enemy for situational awareness, spying on coalition troops, and even dropping explosives and toxic chemicals. To protect the soldiers from these hazards, REF invited the U.S. industry to put forward solutions and Liteye Systems of Centennial, CO answered the call. Liteye Systems is a provider of Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CUAS), helmet mounted displays (HMD), thermal imaging, surveillance radar, and several other critical infrastructure protection solutions. The company’s CAUS technology, capable of surviving and operating in extreme temperatures, downed more than 1000 drones for the Army during missions in 2016-17 and helped regain air control. While this was Liteye’s first CUAS contract, its systems have been protecting international airports and critical infrastructure all over the world since its inception in 2000, including the protection provided for the 2012 London Olympics.
Liteye’s CUAS combines electronic scanning radar, target detection and classification, electro-optic (EO) tracking, and directional radio frequency (RF) inhibition capability, which allows soldiers to land, crash, or send the drone home. CUAS has also recently helped the company secure their fourth massive contract, this one worth $18M with the U.S. Air Force. “The capabilities that our systems offer depend on the nature of a client’s critical infrastructure and what it needs to be protected against,” asserts Kenneth Geyer, co-founder and CEO of the company. Liteye’s process of developing solutions is entirely driven by the needs of its clients. Similar to how the drone problem led to the development of CUAS, the widespread need to enable defense and security personnel to view data and keep their hands free at the same time inspired the conception of helmet-mounted displays (HMDs).
Liteye has been supplying these HMDs since 2000, selling tens of thousands of them to military and industrial applications so far. HMDs include the data that soldiers receive from cameras, maps, and numerous computer systems. Augmented reality displays overview data that streams in from adjoining sources. For instance, a security guard receives the feed from thermal cameras or radars that show where the potential threats are in relation to his current position.
The capabilities that our systems offer depend on the nature of a client’s critical infrastructure and what it needs to be protected against
Liteye has been protecting airports for over a decade by providing ground situational awareness and perimeter surveillance solutions along with its thermal cameras and radars. No sooner a person appears on the radar or approaches to cross a fence than the security guards are alerted along with the cameras recording the entire scene. After the violator is arrested, the data recorded by cameras and radars can be used as proof during the prosecution. “In addition to airports, R&D companies use our thermal cameras to protect their networks and intellectual property,” points Geyer. Furthermore, Liteye builds thermal cameras that blend seamlessly with the surroundings providing protection to royal palaces, historical places, and museums. These solutions do not impede with the architecture of these structures and, therefore, do not distract from a tourist experience.
All of Liteye’s solutions can be set up and deployed instantaneously. “Our clients can control these systems with an Xbox game controller,” adds Geyer, while emphasizing the usability of Liteye’s solutions. Liteye’s product development approach is based on the philosophy of Skunk Works—a pseudonym for Lockheed Martin’s advanced development programs. Every new employee in the organization receives a copy of the Skunk Works book, which is a contributing factor to Liteye completing CUAS projects cumulatively worth $38M since October 2016. The company now has multiple R&D projects going on in CUAS space as attackers continue to change their tactics regularly. With regard to HMDs, Liteye is developing higher definition displays along with binoculars that feed information into drivers. “Our efforts to solidify the protection of critical infrastructures also comprise new thermal camera designs coupled with low-profile positioners,” concludes Geyer.