SPARCS mortar rounds blast 360-degree surveillance into the sky

Chris Burns - Feb 18, 2014
SPARCS mortar rounds blast 360-degree surveillance into the sky

For those of you not satisfied with being able to toss a ball into the sky to capture a sphere of photos, there’s now mortar rounds. Fired from 40-millimeter-capable firearm, these beasts are capable of being shot into the air where they deploy a camera with a parachute. This camera then captures images as it falls gracefully toward the ground.

The device is made by ST Kinetics and is called SPARCS, also known as Soldier Parachute Aerial Reconnaissance Camera System. The camera sends out video feeds as well, encoded (but not encrypted) using the phase alternating line scheme. In the following (low res, unfortunately) video, you’ll find a demonstration (in basic form) of the 40mm payload being shot.

At about 3:14 into the video, you’ll find that ST Kinetics begins speaking about SPARCS. You’ll find that the images fed back to the soldiers are suggested to be read in one of two ways. One is a sort of hardcore laptop carried around by the soldier and opened up in a manner rather similar to what you can experience in Call of Duty: Ghosts. The other is a helmet-mounted display.

Images fed back are not encrypted (at the moment) because - as the creators suggest - the enemy wouldn’t have anything to do with it anyway. From IEEE an ST Kinetics spokesperson suggested that, "as an enemy, if you intercept it, so be it: it’s your area!"

The company suggests that the U.S. Army "has decided to test the air-burst round" while they’ve also sold rounds to the U.K. and Canada. We’ve yet to see this product in real-world use, but apparently it’s out there, and it’s working.

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