10 Na Ieee Spectrum february 2009 www.SPEctrUm.iEEE.org february 2009 Ieee Spectrum Na 11www.SPEctrUm.iEEE.org10 Na Ieee Spectrum february 2009 www.SPEctrUm.iEEE.org february 2009 Ieee Spectrum Na 11www.SPEctrUm.iEEE.org
Relief for Digital RelicsWhen archaeologists swap tales from the field, they tend to use hand-drawn images of relics. But hand drawings can be time-consuming, expensive, and rife with error. Three-dimensional laser scans are beginning to gain traction, but without additional analysis, a 3-D scan can miss meaningful details, especially after its reduced to a 2-D image. Automatically tracing an objects curves helps. The question is how to identify the best curves to trace.
One technique traces the ridges and valleys defining each bump on a surface [third from left]; another finds features by analyzing how a silhouette changes with small shifts in perspective [third from right]. A group of computer scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Haifa, in Israel, has found a new set of curves to make 3-D scans really pop [far right]. Known as demarcating curves, these lines capture the strongest points of transition between a ridge and a valley. Here, a fragment of a Hellenistic lamp from between 150 and 50 B.C.E. becomes clear.
their size (and cost), have a range of 0.4 to 16 km, says Vahan Simidian II, chief executive officer of HPV.
Martin Murphy, a piracy expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in Washington, D.C., says his pick for a technology solution is surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs):
Theyre small and difficult to detect. They can stay up for many hours, and their loops can cover very large areas. UAVs could get a picture of activity in the area and pick out patterns, potentially making a naval mission more effective, Murphy says.
But not just any UAV will do. The aircraft that would probably work best
to survey the Gulf of Aden would need to communicate by satellite instead of via a local base station as many craft do, says William Semke, a UAV researcher and associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of North Dakota. He thinks that the ScanEagle, made by Insitu, in Bingen, Wash., is close to whats needed, because it has demonstrated more than 20 hours and 2000 km in flight without refueling. Semke estimates that the aircrafts camera could spot a human on a boat at about 32 km, so one vehicle could potentially survey about 64 000 km2 in a day.
At about US $120 000 per plane, its not a cheap
and easy thing to do, but it could still be cost-effective compared to other solutions like manned aircraft surveillance, says Semke. Despite the use of UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the technology is still relatively new, and many kinks would need to be worked out before the planes could start patrolling the oceans.
The main problem, says Semke, is that UAVs cannot sense objects in their path and thus avoid collisions with things like commercial airplanes or a flock of birds. A potential solution is to add a forward-looking radar or infrared system, he says, but this technique has not been perfected. Monica Heger
low tech: Ships have few options beyond holding off pirates with high-pressure hoses. photo: po lUIGI CotRUfo/nato/ReUteRs
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