Search and detection modeling of military imaging systems

Tana Maurer, David L. Wilson, Ronald G. Driggers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


For more than 50 years, the U.S. Army RDECOM CERDEC Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD) has been studying the science behind the human processes of searching and detecting, and using that knowledge to develop and refine its models for military imaging systems. Modeling how human observers perform military tasks while using imaging systems in the field and linking that model with the physics of the systems has resulted in the comprehensive sensor models we have today. These models are used by the government, military, industry, and academia for sensor development, sensor system acquisition, military tactics development, and war-gaming. From the original hypothesis put forth by John Johnson in 1958, to modeling time-limited search, to modeling the impact of motion on target detection, to modeling target acquisition performance in different spectral bands, the concept of search has a wide-ranging history. Our purpose is to present a snapshot of that history; as such, it will begin with a description of the search-modeling task, followed by a summary of highlights from the early years, and concluding with a discussion of search and detection modeling today and the changing battlefield. Some of the topics to be discussed will be classic search, clutter, computational vision models and the ACQUIRE model with its variants. We do not claim to present a complete history here, but rather a look at some of the work that has been done, and this is meant to be an introduction to an extensive amount of work on a complex topic. That said, it is hoped that this overview of the history of search and detection modeling of military imaging systems pursued by NVESD directly, or in association with other government agencies or contractors, will provide both the novice and experienced search modeler with a useful historical summary and an introduction to current issues and future challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041108
JournalOptical Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • DETECT-05
  • clutter
  • image-based modeling
  • search
  • search time
  • target acquisition
  • target detection
  • targeting task performance metric
  • time-limited search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Engineering


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