The Office of Naval Research said the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker combines high-definition cameras, mid-wave infrared sensors and laser technology.
Airborne tests of the MMSS, funded by the ONR, will take place this summer using Fire Scout, a robotic helicopter.
"Sailors who control robotic systems can become overloaded with data, often sifting through hours of streaming video searching for a single ship," said Ken Heeke, program officer in ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department.
"The automatic target recognition software gives Fire Scout the ability to distinguish target boats in congested coastal waters using LADAR and it sends that information to human operators, who can then analyze those vessels in a 3-D picture."
ONR said the Navy developed target recognition algorithms that will be used on the Fire Scout. Software will compare the imagery to vessel templates or schematics stored in the system's memory.
The algorithms have been tested in shore-based systems against vessels at sea.
The software is being integrated into a BRITE Star II turret on the aircraft by a team from the Navy, Raytheon, FLIR Systems, BAE Systems and Utah State University.