The US Navy has used their Fire Scout helicopter drone (seen here) to capture cocaine smugglers. Their next target is pirates operating from small boats. The new system will include the use of LIDAR to make the Fire Scout even more powerful.
“Infrared and visible cameras produce 2-D pictures, and objects in them can be difficult to automatically identify,” said Dean Cook, principal investigator for the MMSS program at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. “With LADAR data, each pixel corresponds to a 3D point in space, so the automatic target recognition algorithm can calculate the dimensions of an object and compare them to those in a database.”