The brief

The MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) contracted Plextek to lead a team including RFEL and 4Sight Imaging to tackle the problem of performing rapid evaluations of real-time image processing functions and to simultaneously demonstrate the latest adaptive capabilities that FPGA-based SoCs can deliver to defence and security surveillance applications.

The Approach

The work draws together two approaches to video processing: high performance, bespoke FPGA processing supporting the computationally intensive tasks, and the flexibility (but lower performance) of CPU-based processing.
This hybrid approach is possible by using contemporary system-on-chip (SoC) devices, such as Xilinx’s Zynq devices, that provide embedded ARM CPUs with closely coupled FPGA fabric.
The use of a modular FPGA design, with generic interfaces for each module, enables FPGA functions, which are traditionally inflexible, to be dynamically re-configured under software control.
Critically, to support remotely deployable, real-world applications, the system will also manage its own power budget, adapting the processing solution to maximise time delivering operational benefit.

The Impact

DSTL can use this platform to solve complex defence vision and surveillance problems, facilitating the rapid incorporation of best-in-class video processing algorithms while simultaneously bridging the gap between research prototypes and deployable equipment.
RFEL and Plextek have brought together their expertise in sensor exploitation and real-time embedded video processing, along with DSTL and 4Sight’s adaptive algorithms, to create a single, environment that delivers a robust proving tool,” says Plextek’s Peter Doig, “this allows a diverse range of enhancements to be experimentally evaluated, using an optimised yet intelligent and flexible architecture that can be re-used in deployable field equipment.”

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