Almost immediately following the swift 2003 defeat of Saddam’s forces in Iraq, US and Coalition Forces were confronted with an adversary that brought an onslaught of overwhelming and indiscriminate violence never anticipated by even the sharpest military strategists.  Quickly becoming the number one killer of military personnel, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) forever changed the way we would wage war.

Let me explain: The ability to shoot, move and communicate more effectively than our enemies has always given US conventional and Special Operations Forces a significant advantage when conducting combat operations.  The introduction of sophisticated and concealed IED emplacements on the modern battlefield immediately hampered the ability to “move” causing imbalance to the otherwise superior balanced trifecta of superior skillsets.

Whether on foot or mounted in vehicles, US Forces were now saddled with deadly uncertainty on every footstep taken or road traveled.  An otherwise inferior enemy now held the upper hand essentially forcing the good guys to shoot and communicate while “moving” deliberately labored on a figurative invisible balance beam for fear of the unknown terrain.


While the deployment and utilization of more advanced armored vehicles would eventually reduce the number of fatalities to friendly forces, it would not necessarily discourage the number of insurgent IED emplacements happening almost hourly against the same friendly forces in known areas of operation (AO).  Explosive Ordinance Disposal Units and Route Clearance Teams worked intensely to clear the highways and streets of IEDs but they were simply undermanned and overwhelmed.

The Department of Defense quickly realized if they wanted to reduce the number of fatalities caused by IEDs, there would need to be an aggressive push implementing a campaign utilizing both ground and air assets to provide multiple perspectives and vantage points when attempting find and defeat these lethal devices.  The result was a combination of manned aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), equipped with state of the art sensors capable of performing change detection were rapidly deployed to assist in the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) mission.

There are different types of change detection which have been successfully utilized in the C-IED mission with great success.  A couple examples of proven change detection capabilities are optical change detection (OCD) and coherent change detection (CCD).  Change detection utilizes imagery collected from manned and unmanned air assets to digitally overlay, compare and analyze changes in the pixels of time separated images to exploit any man-made disturbance such as new or moved objects, footprints, tire tracks or even faintly disturbed earth.

The specific technology and exploitation process is proprietary and/or classified.  The foremost difference between these two types of imagery change detection: OCD exploits high resolution photographic imagery and SAR CCD exploits synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery.  This (below) SAR CCD example provides insight to imagery processing and exploitation.  The referenced black areas represent disturbance assumed to be foot traffic resulting in pixel changes between two separated images.  The white areas represent zero disturbance or areas void of activity.