3 Steps to future proof long-range observation systems – The move from SD to HD and from analog to digital

Posted by Gretchen Alper on Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Long-range observation and designator systems have been installed on permanent and mobile platforms to provide 24-hour surveillance and early warning detection. Although more imaging devices have been added to the platforms there is now a move towards higher accuracy, increased image quality, networked video distribution and multipurpose use (extension of capabilities) at identical or lower cost.

For airborne targeting and observation systems, the transition has been made from standard definition (SD)upgrade-defense-eo-digital-hd-rugged to HD and even full HD (1080p) to support these requirements. With land systems, this change over has not been made for many systems. There has been some transition to 720p, but not many have gone to 1080p mostly due to the availability of supporting displays.  Now more ground vehicle electro-optical system designers are preparing major upgrades to 1080p or even UHD (or 4k) to further advance the capabilities of the systems.

Some of the advantages of upgrading to the latest and greatest technology include:  scanning and cropping with a large number of pixels, better information with similar or lower SWAP, easier data sharing, and more.  Another big benefit of HD versus analog SD is the image processing that can be done such as optimized functionality for outdoor lighting variations to provide excellent visibility even in haze and fog. Higher resolutions allow for an increased field of view (FOV) with equal DRI (detection, recognition, identification) capabilities or increase DRI from further distances.  There are many developments in image sensors and image processing coming to the market rapidly.

So if you are looking to upgrade your system to HD (and beyond) and digital, you want to make decisions that allow you to continue to add updates without a complete system overhaul.  Here are a few of our tips that will help you future proof your system design:


  1. Get comfortable with CMOS

The rate of innovation with CMOS image sensors has been extremely fast driven by the consumer cell phone and tablet markets.  Many global security systems are switching from CCD to CMOS based cameras to take advantage of better NIR sensitivity, lower power, and higher resolutions at 60 frames per second and faster.  Rugged CMOS cameras are now outperforming CCD cameras on many parameters and future developments will be made in CMOS to include even better low light performance, greater resolutions (UHD and beyond), higher speeds, more complementary products, etc. In other words, get ready to take advantage of what is available for consumers.


  1. Switch to a digital interface that has more bandwidth than is required right now

The move to HD (and beyond) comes at the same time with the move from analog interfacing to digital.  With digital there is no degradation of data over the interface as with analog where there is more noise with longer cables.  The video recording that is enabled with digital allows for distribution over long ranges.

Then there is the decision of which digital interface to choose.

The challenge with ground vehicle observation systems is to make them both backwards compatible (support different image formats) and meet current bandwidth needs.  In order to then be prepared for future developments, the interface needs to have the ability to increase bandwidth with greater resolutions and speeds without changing the interface and cabling.

The CoaXPress interface provides a very high bandwidth capability moving to 12 Gbps per cable, it is a one flexible cable solution (including power over the cable), backward compatibility with 75 Ohm coaxial cable, supports any display format, and has low latency and stable video transfer.  This is one option that offers both backwards compatibility and expansion into the future.


  1. Prepare lens designs for smaller pixels

One of the downsides with greater resolutions is that the pixels are getting very small (to keep the image sensor and cameras size reasonable). Much of the existing optics are designed for 5.5um pixel size.  System designers should prepare to have optics designs for a pixel size of 3.5 um and then an innovation plan down to 2um. We will talk more on this in the near future.


Please contact Adimec with any questions or support you need with new systems or system upgrades.

Topics: Applications