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.
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 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."
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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.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.