US20150048572A1 - Buoyant target with laser reflectivity - Google Patents

Buoyant target with laser reflectivity Download PDF

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Publication number
US20150048572A1
US20150048572A1 US14/220,461 US201414220461A US2015048572A1 US 20150048572 A1 US20150048572 A1 US 20150048572A1 US 201414220461 A US201414220461 A US 201414220461A US 2015048572 A1 US2015048572 A1 US 2015048572A1
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Prior art keywords
laser
target
inflatable structure
buoyant target
buoyant
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US14/220,461
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Arthur Anton Hochschild, III
Roman Horeczko
Arthur Anton Hochschild, IV
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American Pacific Plastic Fabricators Inc
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American Pacific Plastic Fabricators Inc
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Application filed by American Pacific Plastic Fabricators Inc filed Critical American Pacific Plastic Fabricators Inc
Priority to US14/220,461 priority patent/US20150048572A1/en
Assigned to HOCHSCHILD, ARTHUR ANTON, III reassignment HOCHSCHILD, ARTHUR ANTON, III ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: HOCHSCHILD, ARTHUR ANTON, IV, HORECZKO, ROMAN
Assigned to AMERICAN PACIFIC PLASTIC FABRICATORS, INC. reassignment AMERICAN PACIFIC PLASTIC FABRICATORS, INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: HOCHSCHILD, ARTHUR ANTON, III
Publication of US20150048572A1 publication Critical patent/US20150048572A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F41WEAPONS
    • F41JTARGETS; TARGET RANGES; BULLET CATCHERS
    • F41J2/00Reflecting targets, e.g. radar-reflector targets; Active targets transmitting electromagnetic or acoustic waves

Abstract

A buoyant target or ship decoy comprises an inflatable structure with a drogue chute attached to the periphery of the bottom of the inflatable structure. The drogue chute is an open flexible structure with a bottom end weighted with ballast to deploy it, and with ports through its side to permit water to flow into and out of it. A laser reflector member is attached to an exterior surface of the inflatable structure. The laser reflector member comprises a body having one or more laser reflective surfaces.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/806,794, filed Mar. 29, 2013, which is incorporated herein by reference it its entirety.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • This invention relates generally to a target for gunfire training and, more particularly, to a buoyant, inflatable target with laser reflectivity. The invention is optionally used for “man overboard” training exercises.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Naval battle exercises involve shipborne weapons and floating targets to be hit by gunfire. It is often desired that the targets simulate the size and/or movement of boats and other floating objects. A problem associated with such targets is that they must often be large in size, which makes providing a large number of “hard targets” impractical. To address this, it is common practice to provide buoyant, inflatable and collapsible structures for targets. Such targets can be folded to a relatively small size so that many can be stored and quickly inflated to full size on the water.
  • Buoyant and inflatable targets, however, are susceptible water currents and waves, and more particularly to the wind, also known as set and drift, which cause the targets to move in a manner that does not properly simulate movements of a true battle target. Anchors or drogue chutes are often added to the targets to prevent or inhibit excessive movement. Many conventional drogue chutes cannot be emptied to permit convenient target recovery. Proper sea anchors take time and experience to rig and launch, and the anchor line and commercial sea anchors cost money. Many times a makeshift sea anchor is improperly rigged using a weighted ammunition shell casing or ammunition box full of scrap metal. These types of sea anchors drop directly below the target balloon and exert too much resistance in heavy seas, resulting in damage to the target balloon before it can serve its intended purpose.
  • Increasingly, gunnery exercises involve the use of laser and/or radar to sight in gunnery and missile guidance systems, thereby raising the need for an inflatable target with enhanced laser and/or radar reflectivity. With regard to radar reflectivity, prior attempts to increase radar reflectivity included mixing metal shavings with a viscous liquid, such as oil, and pouring the mixture inside the inflated target. A problem with this approach is that the metal shavings can provide insufficient reflectivity, especially when the shavings settle to the bottom of the target over time. Metallic sheet materials have also been attached on the exterior of an inflatable target to increase radar reflectivity. A problem with this approach is that the metallic material, due to its electrical conductive properties, could present an electrical hazard during deployment and/or retrieval of the target on the deck of a ship. Other approaches involving metal plates have the disadvantage of puncturing the inflatable target and making the target top heavy or unwieldy during deployment and retrieval of the target.
  • Laser reflective targets can be used to sight in and reconcile the accuracy of a ship's missile and gunfire laser guidance systems. Accuracy must be validated to insure that calibration is correct. To do this, one needs to fire weapons using the laser guidance system.
  • Accordingly, there is a continuing need for an inflatable floating target that closely simulates the movement of a body of substantial mass and stability so as to establish a more accurate test of a trainee's gunnery skills, maintains a generally upright orientation, and which has enhanced laser and/or radar reflectivity.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Briefly and in general terms, the present invention is directed to a buoyant target with laser reflectivity.
  • In aspects of the present invention, a target comprises an inflatable structure formed of a flexible material that allows the inflatable structure to expand from a collapsed state to an inflated state.
  • The target further comprises one or more laser reflector members disposed on one or more exterior surfaces of the inflatable structure, each one of the one or more laser reflector members comprising one or more laser-reflective surface configured to reflect laser light, e.g., infrared laser light.
  • In other aspects, a target comprises an inflatable structure formed of a flexible material that allows the inflatable structure to expand from a collapsed state to an inflated state. The target further comprises, in combination, a radar reflector device disposed inside the inflatable structure, the radar reflector device comprising a plurality of 3-surface orthogonal reflectors configured to reflect a radar signal, and one or more laser reflector members disposed on one or more exterior surfaces of the inflatable structure, each one of the one or more laser reflector members comprising one or more laser-reflective surfaces configured to reflect laser light, e.g., infrared laser light.
  • In other aspects, a target comprises an inflatable structure configured to expand from a collapsed state to an inflated state when filled with gas. The target further comprises, in combination, a radar reflector device disposed within the inflatable structure, the radar reflector device comprising three mutually orthogonal and intersecting planes, the planes configured to reflect a radar signal, the planes forming a plurality of orthogonal reflectors. And one or more laser reflector members disposed on one or more exterior surface of the inflatable structure, each one of the one or more laser reflector members comprising one or more laser-reflective surface configured to reflect laser light, e.g., infrared laser light.
  • The features and advantages of the invention will be more readily understood from the following detailed description which should be read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a front elevation of a buoyant target in its deployed configuration, showing a partial cutaway view near the bottom and the top of the target, wherein the side and rear elevations are identical;
  • FIG. 2 is a bottom view taken at line 2-2 in FIG. 1, showing four apertures for allowing water to fill a drogue chute attached to a bottom end of the buoyant target;
  • FIG. 3 is a top view taken at line 3-3 in FIG. 1, showing a top panel connected above front, rear, left and right panels;
  • FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of the inflatable target of FIG. 1, showing a partial cutaway revealing a radar reflector device attached by securement lines to interior surfaces of the buoyant target;
  • FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the radar reflector device of FIG. 4, showing eight 3-surface orthogonal reflectors formed by three mutually orthogonal and intersecting planes;
  • FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the radar reflector device of FIG. 4, showing three substantially planar surfaces, illustrated in solid line, of one of the eight 3-surface orthogonal reflectors;
  • FIG. 7 is a cutaway, perspective view of a top panel of a buoyant target, showing a means for attaching a spherical radar reflector device to the target, the radar reflector being loosely connected to an interior surface of the buoyant target;
  • FIG. 8 is an elevation view of the top panel and buoyant target of FIG. 7, showing the means for attaching in a tightened state so that edges of the spherical radar reflector device are pulled into contact with the interior surface of the buoyant target;
  • FIG. 9 is a top view of the spherical radar reflector device of FIG. 8, showing central reflection vectors, in plan view, spaced apart from each other at substantially equal angles;
  • FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a folding radar reflector device in a partially unfolded state, showing movable flat reflective leaves attached to a flat reflective base;
  • FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the folding radar reflector device of FIG. 10 in a further unfolded state, showing increased tension placed on securement lines attached to the reflective leaves;
  • FIG. 12 is a cutaway, elevation view of a buoyant target, showing the folding radar reflector device of FIGS. 10 and 11 with the reflective leaves and the reflective base forming three mutually orthogonal planes;
  • FIG. 13 is an elevation view of a buoyant target, showing an electronic device configured to transmit signals;
  • FIG. 14 is a front elevation of the buoyant target of FIG. 1, showing the placement of one or more laser reflector members on one or more exterior surfaces of the target; and
  • FIGS. 15A-15D illustrate four embodiments of the laser reflector member in FIG. 14.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • Referring now in more detail to the exemplary drawings for purposes of illustrating embodiments of the invention, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding or like elements among the several views, there is shown in FIGS. 1-4 a buoyant target 10 made of a flexible membrane material so it can be collapsed and folded to a small bulk. Part of the buoyant target 10 can be inflated for deployment on water. The membrane material is impermeable to the inflating gas. Suitable materials include without limitation polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene sheeting, which are preferable because structural seams can be heat sealed, solvent sealed, or cemented as desired.
  • The buoyant target 10 has an inflatable structure 11 that comprises a top panel 12, a bottom panel 13 and a sidewall 14 which enclose an air-filled chamber 16 upon deployment. The inflatable structure is substantially airtight. The sidewall 14 is rectangular and has a front panel 14 a, a right panel 14 b, a rear panel 14 c, and a left panel 14 d. Instead of being rectangular, the sidewall can be circular in other embodiments.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, a valve 15 in one of the sidewall panels is provided to enable the inflatable structure 11 to be inflated or deflated as needed. A drogue chute 20 is attached to the bottom panel 13 of the inflatable structure 11, which stabilizes the inflatable structure and prevents the it from tipping over of tilting excessively due to wave motion and wind. An upper edge 21 of the drogue chute preferably conforms to and is attached to the perimeter of the sidewall 14 and bottom panel 13. The drogue chute 20 is a flexible structure formed from material identical to or similar to that of the inflatable structure to allow the drogue chute to be folded for storage, and unfolded when the buoyant target is deployed.
  • Still referring to FIG. 1, the deployed drogue chute 20 is preferably tapered. The deployed drogue chute 20 comprises a tapered sidewall 22 that converges toward a lower end 23. The lower end 23 is aligned with the central axis 40 of the inflatable structure 11. The central axis 40 is located at substantially equal distances from the front panel 14 a, the right panel 14 b, the rear panel 14 c, and the left panel 14 d of the sidewall. The tapered sidewall 22 of the drogue chute 20 is pyramidal. Other tapered shapes for the sidewall 22 are possible, including without limitation a conical shape.
  • The tapered sidewall 22 and the bottom panel 13 of the inflatable structure 11 enclose a chamber 25 which fills with water upon deployment of the buoyant target 10. A plurality of apertures or ports 24 are formed through the tapered sidewall 22 of the drogue chute 20. The ports 24 are of sufficient diameter to permit some flow of water into and out of the chamber 25, but small enough to leave a sufficient area of material of the tapered sidewall 22 to engage water within the drogue chute chamber 25. The water within the drogue chute chamber 25 serves to stabilize the inflatable structure 11 above.
  • A weight 30 is fixed to the lower end 23 of the drogue chute 20. When the inflatable structure 11 is inflated and placed on water, the weight 30 will pull the drogue chute down to the pyramid shape. The chute will fill with water quickly, will stabilize the buoyant target so it rests upright in the water, and will resist movement by the wind and water current.
  • The drogue chute 20 functions as an anchor against drift caused by wind on the inflatable structure 11 while simultaneously allowing water current to pass through and/or around the drogue chute. Unlike conventional sea anchors, which have a parachute-like structure submerged in the water and connected by a line to a buoyant target, the drogue chute 20 inhibits movement of the buoyant target due to water current and wind. Another problem with conventional sea anchors is that they can drop downwardly and become a deadweight on the buoyant target, which might submerge the buoyant target and/or make recovery of the buoyant target difficult.
  • To facilitate recovery of the buoyant target 10, a flexible, nylon rope or tow line 35 is optionally attached to the lower end 23 of the drogue chute 20 to allow a person to pull the lower end upward, tilting the buoyant target, and spilling the water that was in the drogue chute chamber 25 when the buoyant target is to be removed from the water. The inflatable structure 11 can then be deflated by opening the valve 15, and the fully collapsed target can readily be pulled aboard a ship. An optional float 36 is attached to the other end of the tow line 35. The float 36 keeps the other end of the tow line 35 near the water surface 37 to allow ready access to the tow line to start the process of recovering the buoyant target.
  • In some embodiments, the inflatable structure 11 is a 10-foot cube, the drogue chute 20 is a 3-foot high inverted pyramid extending upward from the lower end 23 to the bottom panel 13 of the inflatable structure 11, and the water flow-through ports 24 are about 6 inches in diameter and located on all four sides of the drogue chute pyramid. It will be appreciated that other dimensions may be implemented as desired to simulate a variety of battle targets.
  • In a preferred embodiment, the buoyant target 10 when inflated has a height of about 14feet. On a calm lake the horizon is 15 miles away viewed from a height of 6 feet. Placement of the laser and/or radar reflectors high off the water is desirable because in addition to the curvature of the earth, rough sea states reduce visibility, making a reflector height critical.
  • As shown in FIG. 14, a laser reflector member 200 is disposed on the top panel 12 of the buoyant target 10. Alternatively, a laser reflective member 201 can be disposed on one or more exterior surfaces of the sidewall panels 14 a, 14 b, 14 c or 14 d. For example, the laser reflector member 201 may be disposed on all four sidewall panels 14 a-14 d as well as member 200 on the top panel 12, or on one, two or three of sidewalls 14. The member 200 and/or member 201 can be the same or different from each other, e.g., laser reflective tape on upper portion(s) of sidewalls 14 and a multi-sided body with laser reflective surfaces on top panel 12. Or member 201 can be disposed on the four sidewalls 14 a-14 d but not the top panel 12. For embodiments where a laser reflector member 200/201 is disposed on a sidewall 14, the reflector 200/201 is located on an upper sidewall or nearest the top panel 12 so that the reflector member 200/201 is visible over greater distances, especially in rough seas. The same positioning relative to the upper panel 12 may apply for the radar reflector, described below.
  • The laser reflector member 200 may correspond to a laser reflective material, covering, or laminate directly attached to, or formed integrally with material that forms the buoyant target panels. The reflective material may be a laser reflective tape secured to the exterior surface of the panels 12 and/or 14 or a laser reflective strip of material attached to, or covering a rigid foam shape, e.g., hexagonal or octagonal block, or other durable, light weight body. The body is attached or adhered to exterior surfaces of the panel 12 and/or upper portion of sidewall panels 14 using hook and loop fasteners, snaps, wire ties, adhesive, or straps. The laser reflective member 200 or 201 can be in the form of a prism with reflective exterior surfaces, such as any of prisms 220, 222, 224, and 226 described below.
  • FIGS. 15A-15C illustrate three possible shapes for a body attachable to top or sidewall panel and having a laser reflective surface. The bodies are formed of a light weight and durable material and can be easily attached to exterior surfaces of the buoyant target 10. FIG. 15A shows an octagonal prism 220 having one or more laser reflective surfaces 220 a. FIGS. 15B and 15C show a square or rectangular pyramidal block 222 and a rectangular or cubic block 224, each having one or more laser reflective surface 222 a and 224 a, respectively. In other embodiments the laser reflector member 200 may take the shape of a rectangular prism, triangular prism, hexagonal prism, square pyramid (FIG. 15C), triangular pyramid, hexagonal pyramid. In some embodiments, every surface of the prism 220, 222, 224, or 226 is laser reflective.
  • Referring to FIG. 15D, according to another embodiment a laser reflector member is a 12-sided prism 226 having a laser reflective surface 226 a on each of the 12 sides. The prism has a diameter d that can be up to the length or width of the top panel 12 of the buoyant target 10. The 12-sided body illustrated in FIG. 15D reflects laser light from up to a 30 degree angle, which corresponds to the angle theta subtended (as shown in FIG. 15D).
  • In some embodiments a plurality of multiple-sided bodies, e.g., the bodies shown in FIGS. 15A-15D or listed above, are disposed on the top panel 12 and rotationally oriented relative to each-other such that the buoyant target becomes capable of increasing its laser reflectivity for light incident from different directions. For example, for the 12-sided body, if two bodies 226 are placed on the top panel 12 and positioned relative to each other so that one is rotated 15 degrees about axis 228 (FIG. 15D) relative to the other, then the combined bodies 226 can reflect laser light incident from twice the number of directions as when only prism is used, i.e., 24 different directions with two 12-sided prisms, verses 12 directions with only one 12-sided prism. Axis 228 is parallel to the laser reflective surfaces 226 a on the side of body 226.
  • The laser reflector member 200 may embody one or more reflective surfaces. A laser reflective tape has a single reflective surface when disposed on only one panel, e.g., extending across the upper surface of the top panel 12 or a single sidewall panel 14, four reflective surfaces when it is disposed around the perimeter and along the upper portions of sidewalls 14 a-14 d, etc. The octagonal body 220 can have from 1 to 9 laser reflective surfaces when attached to a panel surface, the cubic body 224 from 1-5 reflective surfaces, etc.
  • As shown in FIG. 4, a radar reflector device 50 is secured within the air-filled chamber 16 of the inflatable structure 11. The radar reflector device is secured with a plurality securement lines 51, which can be a rope, cable, or other flexible cord. The other ends of the securement lines are fixed to the interior surfaces of the inflatable structure 11. When the inflatable structure 11 is fully inflated with gas, as shown in FIG. 4, the securement lines are taught and align the radar reflector device with the central axis 40 of the inflatable structure 11.
  • As shown in FIG. 5, the radar reflector device 50 comprises three mutually orthogonal sheets 52 of reflective material. As used herein, the phrase “mutually orthogonal” means that the referenced structures are substantially perpendicular to each other. It is to be understood that a condition modified by the word “substantially” or “substantial” is present in absolute or perfect form, as well as not necessarily absolute or perfect form but would be considered close enough to those of ordinary skill in the art to warrant designating the condition as still being present.
  • The sheets 52 of reflective material are substantially planar. One of the sheets 52 a is illustrated horizontal and the other two sheets 52 b, 52 c are illustrated as vertical. The sheets 52 can have other orientations to facilitate reflection of a radar signal or other electromagnetic radiation transmitted from a particular direction relative to the buoyant target 10. The sheets can be rigid, radar-reflective metal plates, or plates of non-reflective material such as a plastic material or corrugated cardboard.
  • Each of the sheets 52 are squares, which give the radar reflector device 50 a cubic outline, though it will be appreciated that the sheets 52 can have other shapes. The cubic radar reflector device 50 comprises a total of eight groups 54 a-54 f of reflective surfaces 56. Each of the eight groups 54 a-54 f is a quadrant that comprises three radar reflective surfaces 56 that face each other and are mutually orthogonal, so as to form what is referred to herein as a 3-surface orthogonal reflector. The individual reflective surfaces 56 can be a metallic foil, metallic paint, or other radar reflective material that is laminated on, coated on, bonded on, imbedded in, or covered on the sheets 52. Mylar (R) can be used as a foil material. Optionally, the radar reflective surfaces 56 can be covered by a fabric or layer of soft material to prevent the radar reflector device 50 from cutting, puncturing, or otherwise damaging the inflatable structure 11
  • As used herein, the phrase “3-surface orthogonal reflector” is defined as three radar reflective surfaces that face each other and are mutually orthogonal. For each group 54 a-54 f, the three surfaces 56 are mutually orthogonal in that each surface is substantially perpendicular to the other two surfaces of the group. For clarity, a first of the 3-surface orthogonal reflectors 54 a is illustrated in solid line and the other 3-surface orthogonal reflectors are illustrated in broken line in FIG. 6. In each 3-surface orthogonal reflector, the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56 converge or intersect at a common central point 58.
  • As shown in FIG. 5, each of the 3-surface orthogonal reflectors 54 a-54 h has a central reflection vector 60 a-60 h. As used herein, the “central reflection vector” is defined as a straight line pointing in a particular direction. Each central reflection vector originates from the central point 58 of the respective 3-surface orthogonal reflector. The center points of the eight 3-surface orthogonal reflectors are mutually coincident or coincide at the overall center of the radar reflector 50. Thus, the central reflection vectors 60 a-60 h point radially outward at different directions from the center of the radar reflector device 50.
  • The following description in connection with FIG. 6 for the central reflection vector 60 a of the first 3-surface orthogonal reflector 54 a also applies to the respective central reflection vectors of the other seven 3-surface orthogonal reflectors of the radar reflector device 50.
  • FIG. 6 shows the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56 aa, 56 ba, 56 ca of one of the 3-surface orthogonal reflectors 54 a. The first planar surface 56 aa is substantially perpendicular to the other two planar surfaces 56 ba, 56 ca. The central reflection vector 60 a is oriented at substantially equal angles a relative to each of the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56 aa, 56 ba, 56 ca. That is, the central reflection vector 60 a is oriented at or about forty-five degrees from the first planar surface 56 aa, at or about forty-five degrees from the second planar surface 56 ba, and at or about forty-five degrees from the third planar surface 56 bc.
  • In some embodiments, some of the central reflection vectors 60 of the radar reflector device 50 are substantially horizontal when the inflatable target 10 is fully inflated and deployed, as shown in FIG. 5. Having at least some of the central reflection vectors 60 substantially horizontal allows for better reflection of electromagnetic radiation originating from ships on the water as compared to having none of the central reflection vectors 60 substantially horizontal.
  • FIG. 7 shows another radar reflector device 50′ for use in the inflatable target 10. The radar reflector device 50′ comprises three mutually orthogonal sheets 52′ of reflective material. The sheets 50′ are substantially planar. The radar reflector device 50′ has a spherical outline because the sheets 52′ are circles. Suitable materials and construction of the sheets 52′ can be the same as previously described above in connection with FIG. 5. The spherical radar reflector device 50′ comprises a total of eight groups 54 a′-54 f of reflective surfaces 56′. Each group comprises three mutually orthogonal surfaces that face each other so as to form a 3-surface orthogonal reflector. In each 3-surface orthogonal reflector, the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56′ converge or meet at a common central point 58.'
  • The spherical radar reflector device 50′ is attached to the inner surface of the top panel 12 of the inflatable structure 11 and is disposed inside the air-filled chamber 16 when the buoyant target 10 is deployed for use. The area of attachment 70 is centered on the central axis 40 of the inflatable structure 11. There is a circular piece of reinforcement material 72 at the area of attachment 70. The reinforcement material 72 is bonded, welded or adhered to the inner surface of the top panel 12. Opposite ends of a strap 74 are bonded, welded or adhered to the bottom surface of the reinforcement material 72. The strap 74 attaches a D-ring 76 to the inflatable structure 11. A middle segment of the strap 74 forms a loop under the reinforcement material 72 and carries the D-ring.
  • An adjustable, flexible loop 78, such as thin rope, cord, or plastic wire tie, is strung through a hole at the center of the spherical radar reflector device 50′ and through the D-ring 76. The flexible loop 78 is fed through the center hole of the radar reflector device in such a way that a loop segment 78 a, which is looped around the D-ring 76, extends out from a first 3-surface orthogonal reflector 54 a′, and the free ends 78 b, 78 c extend out from another 3-surface orthogonal reflector 54 g′. A one-way device 78 d at one end 78 b allows the other end 78 c to move in only one direction, downward. Examples for the one-way device 78 d include without limitation a slip knot that engages the other end 78 c or a flexible ratchet device that engages rigid bumps arranged in series on the other end 78 c. When the other end 78 c is pulled through the one-way device 78 d, the size of the flexible loop is reduced which moves the spherical radar reflector device 50′ upward to the D-ring 76. The flexible loop 78 passes through the central holes of a pair of washers 80 made of rubber or elastomeric material. One washer is above and the other is below the radar reflector device 50′. The washers 80 prevent the flexible loop 78 from inadvertently pulling out of engagement with the radar reflector device 50′.
  • In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 8, the flexible loop 78 is tightened so that the first orthogonal reflector 54 a′ is covered by the top panel 12 of the inflatable structure 11. The top panel 12 abuts the edges of each of the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56 aa′, 56 ba′, 56 ca′ of the first orthogonal reflector 54 a′. The risk of damage to the top panel 12 is minimized because the edges of the orthogonal surfaces are rounded with no sharp corners, unlike the cubic radar reflector device 50. Also, since the three mutually orthogonal surfaces 56 aa′, 56 ba′, 56 ca′ are substantially the same size and shape, the central reflection vector 60 a′ of the first orthogonal reflector is substantially vertical and pointed upward and is substantially coincident with the central axis 40 of the inflatable structure 11. This ensures that the six surrounding 3-surface orthogonal reflectors 54 b′, 54 c′, 54 d′, 54 e′, 54 f′, 54 h′ have central reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 c′, 60 d′, 60 e′, 60 f′, 60 h′ that radiate outward toward potential radar transmitters and receivers so as to improve radar reflectivity of the buoyant target.
  • FIG. 9 shows a plan view, i.e., top view, of the spherical radar reflector device 50′ of FIG. 8 which has been tightly secured so as to abut the top, interior surface of the inflatable structure 11. In FIG. 9, the top panel 12, the flexible loop 78, and washers 80 are not shown for the sake of clarity. Six of the central reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 c′, 60 d′, 60 h′, 60 e′, 60 f′ point outward from the center 58′ of the radar reflector device 50′. In plan view, as shown in FIG. 9, the six central reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 c′, 60 d′, 60 h′, 60 e′, 60 f′ are separated from each other by substantially equal angles β of about sixty degrees. The remaining two central reflection vectors 60 a′, 60 g′ are oriented vertically and aligned with the central axis 40 of the inflatable structure 11. In other embodiments, the angles 0 range from about fifty degrees to about seventy degrees.
  • In elevation view, as shown in FIG. 8, the non-vertical reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 c′, 60 d′, 60 h′, 60 e′, 60 f′ are tilted from a horizontal plane H at substantially equal angles y of about 20 degrees. Three of the six non-vertical reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 d′, 60 e′ are tilted above the horizontal plane H. The other three non-vertical reflection vectors 60 c′, 60 f′, 60 h′ are tilted below the horizontal plane H. In some embodiments, the angles y range from about ten degrees to about thirty degrees, and more narrowly about fifteen degrees to about twenty-five degrees. Although none of the central reflection vectors 60 b′, 60 c′, 60 d′, 60 h′, 60 e′, 60 f′ are substantially horizontal, Applicant has found that this configuration of central reflection vectors—tilted from horizontal from about twenty to thirty degrees, and more preferably about 20 degrees—provides outstanding radar reflection even when the buoyant target 10 is bobbing and tilting side to side on the water.
  • In some embodiments, the means and method for attachment shown in FIG. 7 and described in connection with FIG. 8 are duplicated on multiple interior surfaces of the sidewall 14 of the inflatable structure 11, and a corresponding number of radar reflector devices are secured thereto to provide additional radar reflectivity to the buoyant target 10. For example, two or more of the radar reflector devices 50′ can be attached to the top panel 12 within the inflatable chamber 16 of the inflatable structure 11. In another non-limiting example, radar reflector devices can be secured in contact with interior surfaces of the front, rear, right and left panels 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 14 d of the sidewall.
  • In some embodiments, the means and method for attachment shown in FIG. 7 and described in connection with FIG. 8 are duplicated on multiple exterior surfaces of the sidewall 14 and/or the top panel 12. For example, radar reflector devices can be detachably secured in contact with exterior surfaces of one or any combination of the top panel 12 and the front, rear, right and left panels 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 14 d of the sidewall.
  • FIGS. 10-12 show a folding radar reflector device 100 having reflective surfaces 102 configured to move relative to each other. The radar reflector device comprises a reflective base 102 a, which is illustrated as horizontal in FIGS. 10 and 11, and eight reflective leaves 102 b that attached to the reflective base 102 a. Both sides of the base 102 a and each leaf 102 b are radar reflective.
  • Each reflective leaf 102 b has a fixed edge 104 that is hingedly connected to the reflective base. The fixed edges 104 are substantially straight to allow the reflective leaf to easily pivot between a face-down orientation, substantially parallel to the reflective base, and an upright orientation, substantially perpendicular to the plate. There are four reflective leaves 102 b on one side of the reflective base, and another four reflective leaves on the other side of the reflective base. For each group of four reflective leaves, the fixed edges are substantially perpendicular to each other so as to form a cross pattern on the reflective base.
  • Each reflective leaf 102 b has an outer edge 106 and an inner edge 108, both of which are free to move relative to the reflective base. The inner edge 108 connects the outer edge 106 to the fixed edge 104. A cord 110 is attached to each reflective leaf at or near where the outer and inner edges meet. The individual cords for the four reflective leaves above the reflective base meet at the end of a first securement line 51 a. The individual cords for the four reflective leaves above the reflective base meet at the end of a second securement line 51 b. With no tension placed on the securement lines 51 a, 51 b, the reflective leaves 102 b are free to collapsed to the face-down orientation onto the reflective base 102 a. Tension on the securement lines 51 a, 51 b is produced by pulling the two securement lines apart and away from the radar reflector device 100. FIGS. 10 and 11 show the reflective leaves 102 b pivoting relative to each other, and relative to the base 102 a, as a result of different amounts of tension in the securement lines 51 a, 51 b, with FIG. 10 having less tension than in FIG. 11.
  • As tension is increased beyond that of FIG. 11, the reflective leaves 102 b reach their fully upright orientation shown in FIG. 12 in which they are substantially perpendicular to the reflective base 102 a. With all the reflective leaves 102 b in their fully upright orientation, the folding radar reflector device 100 has the same structural configuration as the radar reflector device 50′ of FIG. 7-9. It will be appreciated that the reflective leaves 102 b are capable of moving independently of each other and that tension on the securement lines 51 a, 51 b causes the reflective leaves 102 b to move simultaneously to their upright orientations.
  • As shown in FIG. 12, the folding radar reflector device 100 can be mounted within the air-filled chamber 16 of the inflatable structure 11 of the buoyant target 10. The securement lines 51 a, 52 b are secured to inner surfaces of the inflatable structure 11 so that inflation of the inflatable structure 11 increases tension on the securement lines. The means and method of attachment can be the same as that described in connection with FIG. 7.
  • The securement lines 51 a, 52 b can be sized so that when the inflatable structure 11 is fully inflated, the reflective leaves 102 b are at their fully upright orientation relative to the reflective base 102 a. In FIG. 12, the reflective base 102 a is not horizontal. The ends of the securement lines 51 a, 51 b are attached to predetermined positions on the inflatable structure 11 so that when the inflatable structure is fully inflated, the radar reflector device 100 and its central reflection vectors have the same orientation as described in connection with FIGS. 8 and 9. It should also be apparent from FIG. 12 that the securement lines 51 a, 51 b maintain the orientation of the radar reflector device 100 while the inflatable structure 100 remains filled with gas.
  • Any number of the reflective leaves 102 b and the reflective base 102 a can have the same construction as that described above for the orthogonal sheets 52, 52′ and the reflective surfaces 56, 56′ in connection with FIGS. 4-9. In further embodiments, the reflective base 102 a and leaves 102 b are constructed of a light-weight corrugated plastic or cardboard that is laminated on both sides with metal foil, then covered with a protective material, such as flexible fabric. The protective material near the fixed edges of the reflective leaves 102 b are attached, such as by stitching or bonding, onto the base plate 102 a or onto protective material covering the base plate 102 a. The stitching or bonding forms a flexible seam, which functions as a hinge device about which the reflective leaves 102 a may pivot between face-down and upright positions.
  • In some embodiments, the reflective base 102 a and leaves 102 b are constructed of a flexible material, such as the membrane material used for the sidewall 14, top panel 12, or bottom panel 13. A metallic foil can then be laminated or bonded onto the membrane material of the leaves and base. Changes in the amount of tension in the securement lines 51 a, 51 b causes all the flexible, reflective base 102 a and leaves 102 b to bend or flex relative to each other. When the inflatable structure 11 is fully inflated, tension in the securement lines 51 a, 51 b is at a level that causes all the flexible, reflective leaves 102 b to unfurl and stretch out so that they become substantially planar and form eight 3-surface orthogonal reflectors such as shown for the reflector devices of FIG. 5-9.
  • It is to be understood that radar reflector devices described above are passive devices in the sense that they do not generate and/or transmit an electromagnetic signal. The radar reflector devices 50, 50′, 100 require no power source, which enables the buoyant target 10 to operate indefinitely. The radar reflector devices 50, 50′, 100 are configured to reflect non-visible electromagnetic radiation, such as a radar signal. The radar reflector devices 50, 50′, 100 are configured to reflect radar signals having frequencies, known in the art, used for aircraft and maritime navigation and for gunnery exercises.
  • In FIG. 13, an electronic device 150 is attached to the interior surface of the top panel 12 and is disposed within the chamber 16 of the inflatable structure 11. The electronic device 150 is an active device that comprises a power source and electronic circuitry. Instead of reflecting an electromagnetic signal, the electronic device 150 is configured to transmit an electromagnetic signal. The electronic device 150 can be remotely controlled to selectively transmit the electromagnetic signal at a desired time. The electromagnetic signal can be transmitted by the electronic device 150 continuously and/or periodically. The electronic device 150 can be configured to monitor and receive a radar signal from an aircraft or a ship, and transmit an electromagnetic signal in response to the received signal. The transmitted electromagnetic signal can be at a frequency selected based on the received signal.
  • In some embodiments, the buoyant target includes no drogue chute and no tow line. No anchor device or a different type of anchor device may be attached to the inflatable structure of the buoyant target, as desired. Instead of a drogue chute, another stabilizing device can be attached to the bottom end of the inflatable structure to prevent the buoyant target from tipping over of tilting excessively due to wave motion and wind.
  • According to another aspect the buoyant target 10 is a floating ship decoy designed to confuse missile and gunfire laser and radar targeting systems. For ship decoys, deployment speed is critical, there is no time to rig a sea anchor or even manually inflate 2 dozen decoys. There are minutes at best, seconds at the worst. The criteria for a successful decoy is short deployment reaction time and a very large laser image relative to the image of the ship that is trying to evade incoming missiles armed with multiple self-directed warheads.
  • It is desirable to have a rapid deployment for decoys. In one embodiment a decoy taking the form of buoyant target 10 includes, in combination, an automatic self-inflation system such as the system described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,280,239 when the decoy is in a stowed configuration. For example, one or more of the decoys 10, when in a stowed configuration, may be held within a container having upper and lower halves 32 and 34, and wrapped within straps 36. A canister or bottle of compressed fluid, e.g., carbon dioxide, having a valve coupled to the valve 15 of the decoy 10 (or several decoys each coupled to the compressed fluid) may be opened by one or more lanyards 24 in a manner similar to the lanyard 24 described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,280,239. Alternatively the decoy may be deployed as the life raft is deployed using a lanyard and pressurized fluid as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,457,730. In this manner several ship decoys may be deployed very rapidly when needed. In another embodiment the automatic inflation and as set forth in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,280,239 and 4,457,730 may be used to inflate several decoys simultaneously, or in succession. For example, a tube may connect the valve of the compressed fluid to each of the valves 15 of the decoys 10. In this manner, several decoys 10 may be first positioned out in the water then a lanyard used to remotely inflate the decoys. Alternatively, a remotely set charge, e.g., explosive bolt or flange, may be used to open a valve of the inflation source, thereby rapidly inflating one or more decoys.
  • U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,280,239 and 4,457,730 are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. To the extent there are any inconsistent usages of words and/or phrases between an incorporated publication or patent and the present specification, these words and/or phrases will have a meaning that is consistent with the manner in which they are used in the present specification.
  • The laser-reflective surfaces discussed above can be retroreflective surfaces. A retroreflective surface is capable of reflecting light back to its source with minimal scattering of light. A laser can be reflected back to its source even when the laser beam is not perpendicular to the retroreflective surface. The laser-reflective surface can be in the form of a laser-reflective tape having retroreflective material, such as 3M (R) reflective tape #3150A or similar reflective sheet material. A laser-reflective tape can be flexible and have a front side that is silver in color during daytime and configured to reflect a bright white. Other colors can be implemented. Optionally, the laser-reflective tape can have a pressure sensitive adhesive layer on the back side. The laser-reflective tape can be used to cover the reflector members, bodies, and prisms discussed above.
  • While several particular forms of the invention have been illustrated and described, it will also be apparent that various modifications can be made without departing from the scope of the invention. It is also contemplated that various combinations or subcombinations of the specific features and aspects of the disclosed embodiments can be combined with or substituted for one another in order to form varying modes of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited, except as by the appended claims.

Claims (28)

1. A buoyant target comprising:
an inflatable structure formed of a flexible material that allows the inflatable structure to expand from a collapsed state to an inflated state; and
a laser reflector member disposed on an exterior surface of the inflatable structure, the laser reflector member comprising at least one laser reflective surface.
2. The buoyant target of claim 1, wherein the laser reflector member is a laser reflective tape.
3. The buoyant target of claim 2, wherein the laser reflective tape is disposed on a top panel or along an upper portion of a sidewall panel of the inflatable structure.
4. The buoyant target of claim 1, wherein the laser reflector member is a body attached to the inflatable structure, the body having at least one laser reflective surface.
5. The buoyant target of claim 4, wherein the body is disposed on a top panel or along an upper portion of a sidewall panel of the inflatable structure.
6. The buoyant target of claim 4, wherein the body comprises a prism or body having a plurality of planar, laser reflecting surfaces.
7. The buoyant target of claim 5, wherein the body is one of an octagonal, hexagonal, cubic or pyramidal body.
8. The buoyant target of claim 1, wherein the member has a plurality of laser reflective surfaces, each surface reflecting in a direction different from that of the other laser reflective surfaces.
9. The buoyant target of claim 1, wherein the member is disposed on a top panel, or one or more upper portions of a sidewall panel of the inflatable structure.
10. The buoyant target of claim 9, wherein the inflatable structure has at least four sidewall panels and the member is disposed on upper portions of all the sidewall panels.
11. The buoyant target of claim 1, further comprising a stabilizing structure connected to a bottom end of the inflatable structure, the stabilizing structure enclosing a chamber and including an aperture that allows water to fill the chamber when the target is placed on water.
12. The buoyant target of claim 1, further comprising a radar reflector device disposed inside the inflatable structure, the radar reflector device comprising a plurality of 3-surface orthogonal reflectors configured to reflect a radar signal.
13. The buoyant target of claim 12, wherein the radar reflector device comprises three flat sheets that are substantially perpendicular to each other, and the three flat sheets form the plurality of 3-surface orthogonal reflectors.
14. The buoyant target of claim 12, wherein each of the 3-surface orthogonal reflectors has a central reflection vector oriented at substantially equal angles from each radar reflective surface of the 3-surface orthogonal reflector, and the central reflection vectors point radially outward, in plan view, from the inflatable structure.
15. The buoyant target of claim 14, wherein the central reflection vectors are spaced apart from each other, in plan view, at substantially equal angles.
16. The buoyant target of claim 14, wherein the radar reflector device comprises six 3-surface orthogonal reflectors, and the corresponding six central reflection vectors are spaced apart from each other, in plan view, at angles from about 50 degrees to about 70 degrees.
17. The buoyant target of claim 1, further including a radar reflector device disposed within the inflatable structure, the radar reflector device comprising three mutually orthogonal and intersecting planes, the planes configured to reflect a radar signal, the planes forming a plurality of orthogonal reflectors.
18. The buoyant target of claim 17, wherein each plane is bounded by an edge that forms a circle, and the edge of each plane abuts an interior surface of the inflatable structure, the interior surface being substantially horizontal when the inflatable structure is in the inflated state.
19. The buoyant target of claim 17, wherein the planes form eight 3-surface orthogonal reflectors each having a central reflection vector, and wherein when the inflatable structure is in the inflated state, a first three of the central reflector vectors are tilted above horizontal at substantially equal angles of at least 10 degrees and a second three of the central reflector vectors are tilted below horizontal at substantially equal angles of at least 10 degrees.
20. The buoyant target of claim 17, wherein the radar reflector device comprises a plurality of reflective leaves configured to pivot or bend relative to each other, the reflective leaves forming at least one of the three mutually orthogonal and intersecting planes.
21. The buoyant target of claim 4, wherein the body comprises at least 12 laser reflective surfaces.
22. The buoyant target of claim 21, wherein the body comprises a 12-sided prism.
23. The buoyant target of claim 4, wherein the body is positioned on the buoyant target such that the buoyant target is capable of reflecting laser light incident from angles separated by 30 degrees relative to a center of the buoyant target.
24. The buoyant target of claim 22, further comprising a plurality of the 12-sided prisms, wherein each is oriented about its main axis relative to the others so that the buoyant target is capable of reflecting laser light incident from angles separated by less than 30 degrees.
25. A ship decoy comprising:
an inflatable structure formed of a flexible material that allows the inflatable structure to expand from a collapsed state to an inflated state; and
a laser reflector member disposed on an exterior surface of the inflatable structure, the laser reflector member comprising at least one laser reflective surface.
26. The ship decoy of claim 25, further comprising means for automatically deploying the decoy.
27. The ship decoy of claim 25, wherein the decoy is in a stowed configuration, further including an inflation source sealed via a closed valve, the inflation source comprising a compressed fluid and being coupled to a valve of the decoy for inflating the decoy, and at least one lanyard for opening the closed valve to thereby cause rapid inflation of the decoy via the inflation source.
28. A ship decoy system further comprising a plurality of stowed decoys according to claim 25, further including an inflation source sealed via a closed valve, the inflation source comprising a compressed fluid and being coupled via a fluid conduit or tubing to valves of each of the decoys for inflating each of the decoys via the inflation source, and at least one lanyard for remotely opening the closed valve to thereby cause rapid inflation of the decoys via the inflation source.
US14/220,461 2013-03-29 2014-03-20 Buoyant target with laser reflectivity Abandoned US20150048572A1 (en)

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US20140054858A1 (en) * 2011-02-22 2014-02-27 Decathlon Floating game device
US20170350678A1 (en) * 2016-06-06 2017-12-07 Thomas R. Boyer Universal weapon zeroing target
WO2018158502A1 (en) * 2017-02-28 2018-09-07 Rolls-Royce Oy Ab Apparatus and system for assessing or measuring the capability of situational awareness sensors

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20140054858A1 (en) * 2011-02-22 2014-02-27 Decathlon Floating game device
US9421443B2 (en) * 2011-02-22 2016-08-23 Decathlon Floating game device
US20170350678A1 (en) * 2016-06-06 2017-12-07 Thomas R. Boyer Universal weapon zeroing target
US10228219B2 (en) * 2016-06-06 2019-03-12 Boyer Thomas R Universal weapon zeroing target
WO2018158502A1 (en) * 2017-02-28 2018-09-07 Rolls-Royce Oy Ab Apparatus and system for assessing or measuring the capability of situational awareness sensors

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