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Thread: Sensors!

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2015


    Long post warning! Sorry, I don't know how to make this any shorter without losing content.

    Sensors, where to begin?

    I'd like to caveat everything I write with: I know nothing about computer programing. I couldn't begin to imagine how to produce anything I say. Part of me feels like I'm being condescending suggesting what the developer should put in his game! I have a feeling many of my points will already have been considered in great depth anyway. However, I do know some useful and interesting stuff so I thought I would share some of it with you.

    A little background: I spent 9 years in the Royal Air Force working as an operator on various types of air defense radar and I have worked in an air defense operations room, operating in surveillance and identification roles, operating various types of data links and other communication systems. I have also worked on one of the BMEWS (ballistic missile early warning system) radars, which in reality means tracking satellites in orbit all day. I don't claim to be an expert on any of these technologies; I certainly don't understand the maths behind it (which is, as far as I'm concerned, witchcraft). What I do have is a good insight into the workings of various types of radar from a user's point of view.

    Suggestion 1: Simulate the 3 types of system (that I can think of).

    Type 1: Active sensors: The type which emit something (radar, ladar, lidar [like ladar but light instead of laser so omnidirectional]) which rushes out into oblivion and bounces off something. Generally will give you a direction and range to a target.

    Type 2: Passive sensors: The type which just look, listen, smell, feel (optical systems, EM detection, Magnetic anomaly detection and other crazy imaginative stuff)

    Type 3: Cooperative systems. I'm not sure how to label these so cooperative seems reasonable. A system which requires the target to tell you where it is. The same idea as an aircraft transmitting a transponder signal.

    Insights into suggestion 1:

    Active sensors are very interesting from a physics point of view. They are very accurate and provide a distance and direction to a target. The down side to this is that using an active emitter is like lighting a beacon, and everyone else can see you with their passive sensors and plenty of weapon systems love chasing active emitters. The other consideration when looking at vast space-like ranges is that the further you try to look at things with your radar, the less you can see close in due to the way transmit and receive windows work, so the physics here gets complicated.

    Passive sensors open some really interesting possibilities so I'll talk about some specific types of sensor and what it could mean for the simulation. A passive sensor generally gives you a direction to a target but not a range. Some clever computer witchcraft can help guess a range though. They are also quite useful for identifying targets, which is much trickier than you might think.

    Passive optical sensors are basically eyes. They look for stuff visually although they aren't constrained to the same visible light spectrum that our ocular organs are. When combined with spectral analysis, they become quite powerful. For example, your passive optical sensor notices a distant infra-red signature that is moving. You have a clever computer on board that analyses the spectral composition of the signature and it detects the 'fingerprint' of a specific type of engine. Bingo, you now know what type (and potentially how many) of engine the ship has. A quick look at the database will tell you what types of ship are known to have that type of engine.... you get thed picture.

    When a target is close enough to have a distinct form to an optical sensor, it can be checked against the database (like the old WW2 plane identification silhouette charts) to try and identify it. Then, using trigonometry witchcraft, you can even estimate a range.

    EM (electromagnetic) detection equipment is useful. It gives you a direction to an active EM emitter. Not only that but it can generally identify the type of emitter and then you can look in your book and see what kind of vehicle that emitter is usually attached too. So, add that to your optical sensor data and you are building an identification picture.

    EM detectors can also tell you when someone is targeting you or whether they have weapon system locks (assuming the weapon system is using an active EM sensor) due to the changes in the type of transmissions such equipment exhibit when a high accuracy lock is needed to guide a missile in for example. All very useful stuff...

    MAD magnetic anomoly detection sounds quite interesting. I've seen the equipment but it was turned off so I have no idea how it works, just that it's a way of finding submarines by looking for the changes in magnetic fields such big hunks of metal make.

    Cooperative systems: really useful for when you want to be seen and need to identify yourself. You send out an interrogation signal, the target's transponder replies with the information you expect to receive. Can be encrypted for security and to prevent spoofing. The transponder can be set not to reply without first receiving an authentication package. The sky is the limit, basic stuff, but with huge simulation potential.

    Suggestion 2: Simulate the difference between 'plots' and 'tracks'.

    Plots and tracks are radar parlance. A plot on your screen is a radar reporting that it has seen something. The same can be used for any of the active systems. The important thing about a plot is it is simply a report from the radar on that sweep (and you tend to see a history of the plots from the last several radar sweeps on your screen fading out, so you can see patterns). The symbology reflects what type of plot it is (in this case, radar, lidar, cooperative response etc). A plot on the screen doesn't mean something is definitely there, or if there is, what it is. Many plots are spurious. I have seen them generated by clouds, sea chop, vehicles on roads, wind turbines, flocks of birds etc. When there is a genuine target the plots are much more consistent though, and stand out as something real. When 2 objects are close together at a distance, you may only see 1 plot. Many fighter aircraft tactics are designed to abuse the inherent inaccuracies and problems with plots.

    Tracks are labels. You stick them on a plot to denote you think something is there. The track is linked to all the relevant data you have collected about the plot. The track will also follow persistent plots so when you see a track moving round to can be reasonably sure there are plots beneath it. If the plot disappears (origin of the phrase 'lost the plot') the track will flash up somehow and will either dead reckon on its last course or stop and stay still.

    Tracks usually have a symbol or a letter telling you what they are identified as. They are different colours; for example, green denotes something known to be friendly, red is hostile, yellow is unsure or unidentified etc. The letter or symbol might suggest it's a fighter, a freighter, a tanker and so on. You can generally manipulate and change tracks to meet your needs.

    If you are sharing data over a datalink with someone else, it's tracks you send. Not plots.

    Anyway, I'm acutely aware this post is dragging on. I have more thoughts about sensors and their use and the way they are manipulated and displayed on an interface but I don't want to outstay my welcome just yet. If you want more thoughts, I'll happily sit down and type them up.

    Hope some of these insights are useful or at least thought provoking.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Maine, USA
    Good post.

    We do need to evolve sensor technology into plausible gameplay mechanisms. Having multiple ways to detect/search and find ships /objects would make for great gameplay.
    Larger ships, military ships or more specialized ships would have more sensor types. A simple civilian ship might only have one 'standard' sensor.

    I think sensors needs careful thought, it is a massive part of combat, and more importantly, tactics.
    Besides, having that kind of fidelity is mouthwatering.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    I don't know if you need cooperative sensors, aren't they just a combination of the comms and passive sensor systems?

  4. #4
    as for co-operative sensors, i see them as being absolutely needed.. the docking localizer is very nearly one already.

    a normal sensor either pings and reads the returns, or it reads the noise and looks for a recognizable pattern to identify a target.

    co-operative sensors would be more like an IFF system, or the TCAS :

    in the event you want to work with/near other members of a squadron, which if i'm not mistaken is actually going to be part of the plan, the TCAS actually would provide almost the exact system you would want. everyone that's 'friendly' to you could have the encrypted TCAS system running. just remember that it's going to make you susceptible to passive sensors.
    Sys-specs: home built, quadcore 3.8GH;16GB DDR3; AMD 7770 video

  5. #5
    Active "Sonar" in space: A dome shaped module that uses infrared lasers and paired optics in order to detect if the laser hits something, and reads the "vibrations" of the dot it projects in order to record sound. Reason: Now you can hear things in space. But it does make you easy to detect.
    Reactive "Sonar": Similar to the above, but focused onto a single target or ship, this will allow you to "hear" what goes on inside the target ship. Reason: Now you can more or less determine the mechanical status of the ship, and consequently the state of it's subsystems, as well as possibly an early warning to weapons being fired, modules being readied, etc.

    Both these technologies are based on Laser microphone

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    I have some ideas for this games.
    Because english is not my natural language, this and below traslated by Google.

    1. Modular systems on the space ship.
    I think it's very good idea. Spaceship designer/programmer could add some space/room at space ship for other systems, such radio, auxiliary navigation system, radar, life support system, etc.

    2. Plugins
    I'm not game programmer or designer, but i want to help this game. I want to add to game some new systems or new space ships or anything else.

    3. EVA move at open space on hull
    I's more easier for begin repair or upgrade space ship.

    Waiting for your critics. Thanks.

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