Designing full HD cameras into rugged electro-optical systems

Posted by Gretchen Alper on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

The following was published in a special reports edition on High Performance Camera Solutions for Military Applications of Defence Industry Reports:

The large increase in military and global security 24/7 full motion video systems has been fueled by the need to persistently observe wide areas, navigate windowless and unmanned vehicles, increase distance from potential threats, improve accurate detection, recognition and identification (DRI) on airborne, naval and ground-based platforms. Sophisticated electro-optical systems are essential for the safety of personnel as well as the effectiveness of engagements and overall military strategy on land, sea and air.

There are efforts in both the military and other global security areas to increase the resolution of imaging systems from VGA to HD and to go digital in order to meet the video intelligence goals and current-day networking needs.  Higher resolution cameras offer a wider field of view, longer detection ranges, faster identification capabilities, among other benefits.  In order to obtain full motion video throughout the day and night, daylight cameras are combined on a system level with cameras optimized for other portions of the light spectrum such as Long Wave Infrared LWIR (thermal), NIR, low light, and SWIR cameras.  The technologies for thermal, SWIR and image intensified cameras are not available in full HD yet (resolution of 1920 x 1080) and are not able to distinguish colors. This has increased the importance of the daylight camera in changing asymmetric warfare.  

The latest full HD image sensors have the sensitivity required to deliver low noise images in difficult light situations.  These allow you to have high sensitivity and high resolution (HD and greater) at up to 60 frames per second while also meeting the reduced size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements.  They include optimized functionality to adjust for changing lighting conditions and atmospheric conditions. Functions like advanced color processing, turbulence correction, and sharpness and contrast enhancement significantly improve the usable information within the image. 

Previously the daylight or video camera was only useful in daylight situations but with new technologies now available, it is possible to use the daylight cameras also in low light situations.  The ability to identify in low light conditions (dusk, dawn, fog, etc.) is greatly facilitated by having color available from the daylight camera. The camera can be combined with electronic zoom and zoom optics for even better identification performance.

These upgrades for higher resolution and more sensitive daylight full motion video must be balanced with cost considerations as budgets have been reduced.  Not only that, but the ability for suppliers to meet the higher image quality requirements AND support the logistics needs of the military must be considered.  Commercially available or consumer products seem an attractive inexpensive option, but the special requirements from the defense industry for both sustainable products and the supply chain cannot be met by consumer or security cameras, machine vision cameras or even basic COTS cameras.

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Topics: Applications

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