Kestrel (surveillance system)

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Kestrel is a wide-area persistent surveillance system used on aerostats at U.S. forward operating bases in Afghanistan to monitor the surrounding areas.[1]

The system is equipped with electro-optical and infrared cameras, providing day/night force protection and overwatch to troops.[2]


Kestrel has its roots in Constant Hawk, a wide-area sensor suite developed by Logos Technologies[3] in 2006 for use on manned U.S. Army aircraft.[4][5]

In late 2010, the ISR Task Force and Army requested a version of Constant Hawk for aerostats. Contracted through the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, the Kestrel program delivered four units[6] the following year.[1] However, these first four Kestrels lacked an infrared capability,[1] and by June 2012, were replaced by 10 day/night systems and six spares.[6]


Kestrel employs six cameras housed in a gimbal, providing a 360-degree panoramic view of “a city-sized” area” [6] in medium resolution.[7] The system allows operators to track multiple suspects at once[2] and can automatically monitor user-designated zones.[1] Kestrel transmits imagery to the user in real time and can also record up to 30 days of events.[7]

Civilian Use[edit]

The Kestrel system also has applications for border security. In March 2012, the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security conducted a seven-day demonstration of Kestrel in Nogales, Ariz.[7][8][9] Kestrel was mounted on an aerostat and worked in coordination with a high-resolution full motion video camera.[9] The purpose of the test was to see how well Kestrel could detect and track illegal entrants, drug smugglers and gunrunners crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.[7]

Kestrel has led to the development of other wide-area sensors, such as Simera. Also an aerostat-mounted system, Simera is composed of 13 electro-optical cameras and weighs only 40lbs.

Unlike Kestrel, however, Simera is exportable to non-U.S. countries. Four units are expected to be used by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice at the 2016 Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro.[10]

See also[edit]

Constant Hawk

Gorgon Stare

Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS-IS)

• Lightweight Expeditionary Airborne Persistent Surveillance (LEAPS)


  1. ^ a b c d Bacon, Lance. "System gives troops 360-degree eye in the sky". Army Times. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Boland, Rita. "Day/Night ISR Floats Over Afghanistan". SIGNAL Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Buxbaum, Peter. "The Eyes Have It". Tactical ISR Technology. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Harrison, Jay. "Where did Constant Hawk come from?". Edgefighter. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Walking Back the Cat: The US Army’s Constant Hawk". Defense Industry Daily. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Iannotta, Ben (1 April 2012). "Aerostats to get wide-area night vision". C4ISR Journal: 12. 
  7. ^ a b c d Sternstein, Aliya. "DHS Eyes Military Blimp to Stop Illegal Border Traffic". Nextgov. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Ackerman, Spencer. "DHS Uses Wartime Mega-Camera to Watch Border". Wired. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Doan, Claire (6 March 2012). "Cutting-edge surveillance system strapped to Nogales blimp". KGUN-9 TV. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "The All-Seeing Eye That Watches an Entire City at Once". Popular Mechanics. 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2016-02-05.