Insect Small Target Motion Detection for Seeker Applications

Period of Performance: 03/27/2003 - 09/26/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Tanner Research
34 Lexington Avenue Array
Ewing, NJ 08618
Principal Investigator


Insects display remarkable capabilities for guidance and directed flight based on their visual sense. If duplicated in autonomous flying weapons, these capabilities could greatly enhance their effectiveness. Recent work has begun to shed light on a class of neurons present in the visual systems of several insect species, which respond selectively to small moving targets. These cells, dubbed Small Target Motion Detectors (STMDs) are distinct from the FD cells that have been studied in dipterans, in their preference for point or near-point targets. STMDs are the subject of an ongoing AFOSR-sponsored collaborative effort between Tanner Research and neurobiologists at Adelaide University, to study their physiology in depth and model their operation neurobiologically and in silicon. We propose (in further collaboration) to study the response of these cells and application of models for them to the problem of detecting and pursuing a moving ground target from an approaching air platform. Issues such as how these cells and the whole organism respond to moving clutter induced by egomotion will be addressed. Tracking of small moving targets is a capability of insect visual motion processing that would be directly useful for air-to-surface autonomous weapons, as well as surface-to-air and air-to-air interceptors, and small autonomous flying vehicles. It is also expected to have applications to problems in surveillance and collision avoidance.