Oahu-based technology at work in Fossett search
Technology developed and produced in Hawaii is being used in the search for wealthy adventurer Steve Fossett, who disappeared in Nevada on Monday while piloting a single-engine aircraft.
ARCHER, or Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance, is an airborne "hyperspectral imaging system, designed and built by NovaSol ... right here in Honolulu," said President Rick Holasek.
NovaSol built 17 of them in 2005 under contract for the Civil Air Patrol, which deployed the units around the mainland, "but unfortunately not in Hawaii," he said.
Search efforts traditionally rely upon the human eye, but the ARCHER sees "many tens or hundreds of bands or channels" of color that the human eye cannot differentiate, and captures images accordingly.
It uses sophisticated algorithms to process the digital data in real time, sending an alarm to the user should an anomaly be picked up, he said.
An anomaly such as a man-made object within a natural environment -- say, a downed aircraft in the Nevada desert. It can also be programmed to search out specific factors, "so if the airplane was red, it will look for that," Holasek said.
Only one aircraft involved in the mission is so equipped.
Some news coverage of the mission mentioned a lake in the 10,000 square-mile search area.
ARCHER might be able to "see" whether Fossett's plane ditched, depending on water clarity and light penetration, as long as it is not deep underwater, Holasek said.
"If it was in Hawaiian water, you could see a long way into the water," because Hawaii's ocean water is so clear, he said.
ARCHER's field of vision is 36 degrees, less than a human's, but "it's hard for your brain to process all that data."
The camera's visual acuity and real-time data processing is about to get one-upped, as NovaSol has already developed the yet-unnamed, next generation of ARCHER.
Existing units weigh 200 pounds, while a next-gen unit is so much smaller, "it will fit in a shoebox," Holasek said.
It is designed for unmanned aerial vehicles and has greater capability than existing ARCHERs. The new system can see more of what humans can't, and can detect gases and thermal differences.
The next-gen unit has, as you might expect, "a number of different military target identification applications," Holasek said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org