UFO: SkyCAM Searches the Sky
A new camera system has gone into test operation at the University
of Wurzburg. It is designed to detect unidentified aerial phenomena
using artificial intelligence methods (https://bit.ly/3jqCMSR).
Time and again, people see strange luminous phenomena or other
phenomena in the sky that they cannot explain.
"Most of these observations concern known phenomena or objects
such as birds, aircraft, satellites or clouds. But for a very small
proportion, the cause remains unexplained even after intensive
investigation by experts," says Hakan Kayal, Professor for Space
Technology at Julius-Maximilians-Universitat Wurzburg (JMU)
in Bavaria, Germany.
It is precisely these Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) that
Hakan Kayal has been interested in for years. That is why he has
established a special research focus at his professorship: There,
technical systems are developed and operated with which UAP
can be detected, evaluated and analysed.
In use since mid-December
The latest product of this work is the SkyCAM-5 camera system,
which is based on four predecessor models and has been in test
operation on the roof of a JMU university building on the Hubland
campus since mid-December 2021.
SkyCAM-5 is a test platform that works autonomously. With
customised image processing algorithms, it continuously observes
the sky. It can detect objects there, but also short-term luminous
phenomena such as lightning or meteors. The JMU professor will
use this system to test and further develop algorithms and
software components for detecting UAP.
Training during operation
Machine learning methods are used to reduce the number of false
detections. "When the camera detects known objects, it recognises
them with a Convolutional Neural Network, classifies them and
stores the corresponding video sequences in a database," Kayal
This works very well, he says: SkyCAM-5 has correctly recognised
and classified birds, planes and helicopters several times since
it began operations. This considerably reduces the effort required
to evaluate the camera data.
SkyCAM is supposed to become smarter and smarter over time.
That is why it is trained during operation. If, for example, it
classifies a passing butterfly as unknown, it is taught by humans
that the animal with the fluttering flight is called a butterfly
so in future it will correctly classify a peacock butterfly as
SkyCAM expansions planned
Professor Kayal wants to acquire funding for a further expansion
of the UAP detection system.
The next step would be to place a second SkyCAM-5 next to
the first. A movement in the sky would then only be recorded if
it is seen by both cameras at the same time. With such a dual
camera system, it would be possible, for example, to exclude
sensor errors, which can occur sporadically.
The aerospace engineer from Wurzburg is also planning special
extensions. "I would like to equip the camera system with additional
infrared sensors to be able to observe the sky in another spectral
range. It would also be advantageous to have a tracking system
in the form of a telescope that quickly aligns itself with moving
objects, zooms in on them and follows them on their path."
And one stage further, there would then be many such double
camera systems distributed and networked across Germany, Europe
or the world. With such an arrangement, moving objects could be
tracked over very long distances.