MCT FPAs at the Forefront
In an effort to stay out of highly competitive commercial markets some microbolometer suppliers are staying out of the mid-format (320 x 240) small pixel (10-12 µm) market.
FLIR Systems, which has long concentrated on its mature InSb FPA technology has been internally developing Type 2 Superlattice (T2SL) FPAs for use in future products.The company, which has been part of the VISTA consortium, is making use of the InAs/GaSb epitaxial structures that have been developed by JPL and NRL under the VISTA program and grown by IntelliEPI and IQE. It is expected that the company will soon introduce a camera core based on a HOT MWIR 640 x 512 FPA with 15 micron pixels.
Raytheon Vision Systems (Goleta, California) is in the fortunate position of having the largest portfolio of advanced infrared detectors in the world, including mercury cadmium telluride (MCT), InSb, InGaAs, uncooled VOx microbolometers and others. Recently, the company’s III-V T2SL (Type II Superlattice)/nBn detectors have also reached a level of maturity that enabled Raytheon to win the contract for the next-generation Distributed Aperture System (DAS) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Raytheon will combine its EO/IR technology with Safran's inertial measurement unit technology to develop and manufacture the latest thermal sights. The new systems will allow soldiers to see across long- and mid-wave bands simultaneously and at very long ranges with a stabilized line of sight.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have signed a contract under which Raytheon will provide the next-generation EO-DAS (Electro-optical-Distributed Aperture System) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new system will make use of very large format, small pixel MWIR nBn FPAs developed by Raytheon Vision Systems (Goleta, California).
Copious Imaging (Lexington, Massachusetts), a spin-off of MIT Lincoln Labs, intends to transform infrared Read-out Integrated Circuits (ROICs) by not only placing a small low-power analog-to-digital converter at each pixel to form a DROIC (Digital-pixel ROIC) but also provide each pixel with computational capability to produce "Computational Pixel Imagers."
UK Builds ASRAAM Inventory for its New F-35 Fighters
Active Protection Systems (APS) for armored vehicles are becoming a necessity as rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-armor munitions become more effective against even the best armor. In APS systems an incoming round is detected and tracked and a counter munition is fired to destroy the round before it can damage the vehicle.
In the most recent systems, infrared FPAs are being used.
After numerous delays over a period of ten years, the U.S. Army has finally put 3rd Gen FLIR onto a path where it will become reality. Awards have been made for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) for the 3rd Gen B-kit which will be used to upgrade 2nd Gen B-kits in a number of vehicle sighting systems and in targeting systems. The 3rd Gen B-kit consists of a Dewar Cooler Bench (DCB), afocal imager and circuit card assemblies.
Seek Thermal (Goleta, California) is ready to go into production with a new uncooled core based on Wafer-Level-Packaged (WLP) 320 x 240 VOx microbolometers with 12 micron pixels, a significant upgrade over the company’s existing 206 x 156/12 microbolometers.
Ultra Low-Cost Thermal Core and Smartphone Attachment
Ultra-Small Muti-Band Uncooled Camera
“Launch on Remote”
An Enabling Technology for 3D Imaging
Pushing Uncooled Infrared Toward a Cell Phone Model
Defense Segment Will Continue Work on Night Vision
Gray Eagle UAVs Being Deployed with Three Common Sensor Payloads
A Trend in Seeker Technology?
Smaller Pixels and Larger Formats
Spectral Images for Operational Use
How Will the Acquisition Affect the Commercial and Military Infrared Markets?
Comparing ENVG(D) and ENVG(O)
Launches FastFPA Program
Their Effect on Infrared
SDD Contract Sets the Stage for Production of 3rd Gen FLIR Engines
Increases Product Offerings
Sensor Systems in Limbo
The Alternative Infrared Satellite System (AIRSS) program has become a follow-on to SBIRS High
FLIR Systems has lost a lawsuit against two former Indigo Systems executives whom it claimed were misappropriating trade secrets and against whom FLIR was seeking a permanent injunction to prevent them from starting a new venture to produce uncooled microbolometers.
The Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program for developing a robust mid-course ballistic missile interceptor is moving to a prototype seeker that will be able to track multiple targets and then guide multiple kill vehicles to destroy them.
The U.S. Army’s effort to develop and field a 3rd Gen FLIR is moving into the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.
Manufacturers of uncooled microbolometers are racing to develop and introduce focal plane arrays with 17 micron pixels. The smaller size pixels are seen by producers as a way to differentiate their products and as a path to lower cost and higher volume markets.
The EO/IR system for the U.S. Navy’s next-generation DDG 1000 (Zumwalt class) destroyer (including stealth and electric propulsion) is moving into the production phase.The EO/IR system is being developed by a team being led by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems
DRS Technologies is seeking to put an end to its Thermal Weapon Sight woes after having suspended shipments of TWS II for over five months due to a boresighting problem.
The U.S. Army has awarded contracts for the Thermal Weapon Sight II (TWS) Bridge, which is the largest uncooled program to date.
Research on Type II Superlattice (T2SL) FPAs is increasing rapidly as evidenced by the ten papers presented on these detectors at the April SPIE Infrared Technology & Applications Conference in Orlando. Currently, most of this work is aimed at improving performance in the LWIR, since good performance has already been demonstrated in the MWIR.
A big increase (but not for all infrared programs)
The plan to replace the current helmet-mounted night vision goggles (NVG) with a digital Enhanced Night Vision Goggles [ENVG(D)] is moving closer to realization. Although numerous technical hurdles must still be surmounted, the U.S. Army has now laid out a schedule for bringing ENVG(D) into production.
3rd Gen infrared technology has moved out of R&D with the completion of the U.S. Army’s Dual-Band FPA Manufacturing Program (DBFM). The technology is being transitioned from an Advanced Technology Objective (ATO) to Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) in which complete 3rd Gen FLIR engines (B-kits) will be developed over the next 2 - 3 years.
The U.S. Army’s effort to keep pushing the performance of uncooled sensor technology is again bearing fruit. All four contractors developing ultra-small pixel uncooled microbolometers have demonstrated 640 x 480 focal plane arrays with 17 µm pixels in thermal weapon sights.
The U.S. Air Force is hedging its bets on the long-delayed Space Based Infrared System High and starting an alternative program that injects the most recent advances in infrared focal plane array technology.
Raytheon’s Airspace Management and Homeland Security business is launching an Integrated Airport Security System (IASS) that makes it easier for airports to ensure the safety of passengers from their arrival at the airport to departure in the aircraft. .
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Strategic Border Initiative program (SBInet) is shaping up to be a boon for infrared technology. SBInet has two major themes: controlling the border and immigration enforcement.
Irvine Sensors has been awarded a contract by Rockwell Collins Optronics for the miniature thermal imagers for the Future Force Warrior (FFW) head-mounted sensor. The Irvine Sensors cameras are based on the company’s tiny CamNoir which makes use of an IC stacking technique (“Neo-Stack) for producing highly compact electronics packages.
Although the U.S. Army’s TWS II program using high performance 25 µm pixel uncooled VOx microbolometers (640 x 480 and 320 x 240) is just getting started, the next-generation, with 17 µm pixels is already getting underway. Under a program funded by PEO Soldier and with the technical monitoring of the Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate, four companies have been selected to develop 640 x 480 microbolometers with 17 µm pixels and deliver two Thermal Weapon Sights and two thermal imaging modules.
The U.S. Army’s effort to develop standard interchangeable imaging modules based on uncooled VOx microbolometers went into Phase II with the awarding of contracts to BAE Systems Infrared Imaging Systems, DRS Infrared Technologies and Raytheon Vision Systems in September 2005. Under Phase II of the Uncooled B-Kit (UBK) program, the emphasis is on 640 x 480 pixel imaging modules.