Global military infrared imaging systems grew 9% in 2018, mainly driven by advances in the U.S., where there was an increase in the defense budget along with pent-up demand for upgrading existing infrared systems. This, along with the development of advanced new infrared detector technologies is expected to drive the military infrared imaging market to $14 billion by 2023.
Awards for the sensor development portion of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program have been made by the Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD).
Microsoft (Redmond, Washington) has been awarded $479.2 million as prime contractor for the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) a fast track program to bring head mounted integrated sensors combined with augmented reality to dismounted soldiers.
By Steve Tribble, Lakewood Technologies
New Export Controls on Emerging Technologies
Leonardo DRS has been awarded a $231.5 million contract, thru 2028, for LLDR 3 (Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder), a day/night manportable (tripod-mounted) modular target location and laser designator system.
The reprogramming of $548 million for the U.S. Army’s HUD 3.0/IVAS program has been approved by Congress. Funds are being moved from the Defense Health Program’s operations and maintenance account to the research and development account for the development of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a soldier system that will make extensive use of infrared detectors and digital low-light-level detectors.
Microlens based metalenses have the potential of being monolithically integrated with infrared FPAs to increase FPA operating temperature and sensitivity.
A new capability called HUD 3.0/IVAS (Head Up Display/Integrated Visual Augmentation System) is on a fast-track to provide greatly enhanced mobility and situational awareness to Soldiers and Marines. The system will feature advanced digital infrared, digital low-light-level and fused sensors, together with artificial intelligence, live reality and integration with Nett Warrior (an Android-based smartphone.) The system will also have a Synthetic Training capability.
The system is getting funding and attention from the Top at DoD
BAE Systems (Lexington, Massachusetts; Nashua, New Hampshire) is reorganizing its commercial uncooled core business. The responsibility for marketing and sales of uncooled VOx cores is now in Lexington at the location of the company’s uncooled foundry.
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.
The company has been awarded a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award to develop dualband (MWIR/LWIR) T2SL FPAs for potential use in the 3rd Gen FLIR program. Currently, 3rdGen FLIR development is based on 1280 x 720 dualband MCT FPAs.
Sofradir and Ulis are reorganizing in an effort to make their infrared detector businesses more efficient. In order to do so, the new management team will exploit synergies between the cooled Sofradir operations and the uncooled microbolometer operations of Ulis.
Twelve departments are being set up, among them two new ones: Technology & Strategy and Projects & Programs. All of the departments will be common to both the cooled Sofradir and uncooled Ulis businesses. Previously, the Sofradir and Ulis operations had separate groups handling these functions.
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.
ENVG-B (Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – B), an enhanced version of ENVG III, will work together with the Family of Weapon Sights – Individual (FWS-I) or can be used independently. It will replace ENVG-III.
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."
ENVG-B, a binocular version of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, is moving rapidly into Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD).
ENVG-B will be similar to ENVG III, fusing images from an image intensifier with those from a microbolometer. However, ENVG-B will have the option to be used as either a fused monocular or as a binocular (ENVG III is monocular only).
A breakthrough in the more widespread use of Type 2 Superlattice (T2SL) FPAs is about to occur. One of the largest infrared applications in the U.S. - the EO-DAS (Electro-optical-Distributed Aperture System) for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - is being upgraded to T2SL FPAs (from the existing large format InSb FPAs).The Air Force anticipates two potential upgrades.
In 2017, world Commercial and Dual-Use Infrared Imaging markets continued the fourth straight year of record unit shipments. The number of uncooled detectors increased by over 30% to reach nearly 1.3 million units. However, severe price reductions have resulted in revenue growth of only 11% - for a total commercial and dual-use market (cooled and uncooled) of $3.8 billion.
L3 Technologies is making changes to its uncooled amorphous silicon (a-SI) microbolometer business. The company’s L3 Sensor Technologies (formerly L3 Infrared Products in Garland, Texas) is moving its front-end production of FPAs to TSI Semiconductors (Roseville, California), while vacuum Wafer-Level-Packaging (WLP) is being moved to Mason, Ohio. By the end of the year, the Garland facility is expected to be shut down, with only design engineering remaining in the Dallas, Texas area.
Galaxy Compound Semiconductors, Spokane, Washington, (a subsidiary of IQE) is taking advantage of process improvements in GaSb substrates for T2SL detectors (and also InSb substrates) and is now starting to also supply CZT (Cadmium Zinc Telluride) substrates for MCT FPAs.
Military Version to be Fully Qualified by 1Q18, Commercial Core to Follow
Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Pod May be the First
A Proposed New Radiometric Unit
Improves Performance of both 12 and 17 micron FPAs
Another Step in Ramping up Uncooled Sensors
UK Builds ASRAAM Inventory for its New F-35 Fighters
Multi-megapixel infrared imaging at room temperature for wafer-level scalable FPAs at low-cost
The effort in Japan to develop Type 2 Superlattice (T2SL) FPAs in Japan has taken a big step forward. Researchers at Sumitomo Electric, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Ritsumeikan University have fabricated a 320 x 256/30 InAs/GaSb FPA with a 6 µm cutoff and an NETD of 31mK.
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.
A new home for Airbus DS Optronics
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.
5N Plus Semiconductors (St. George, Utah) has developed an improved method of growing InSb boules that enables the efficient production of high quality InSb wafers and holds out the promise for higher yield InSb FPAs at lower cost.
Big Increases in Unit Volumes Have Not Translated to Revenue Growth
FLIR Systems is launching its Boson™ cores - 12 µm pitch, wafer-level-packaged (WLP) VOx microbolometer arrays with 320 x 256 and 640 x 512 formats - that provide new levels of performance in tiny packages.
Three SPIE infrared technology and application conferences – all part of SPIE’s DCS16 Defense & Security symposium – will feature the latest developments in IR technology and sensor systems. Two sessions of the “Infrared Technology and Applications XLII” conference have been separated from that conference. They have been expanded into two new conferences – “Advanced Optics for Defense Applications: UV through LWIR” and “Tri-Technology Device Refrigeration (TTDR)”. The reasons for this separation are the important new developments taking place in the fields of optics and cryocoolers.
UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) has acquired N2 Imaging Systems (Irvine, California). N2, which will stay at its current location, will be part of the UTAS intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) business, which includes Sensors Unlimited and Cloud Cap Technology (Hood River, Oregon).
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, DRS’s stake in N2 was also acquired, thus making UTAS the sole owner.
While the world is agonizing over weakness in the Chinese economy, infrared technology and the infrared industry in China are booming. They are driven not so much by commercial export markets but mostly by domestic government procurement programs and private investment spending.
Helping to accelerate this was a large government program during the past year.
At the recent CIOE China International Optoelectronic Expo in Shenzhen companies showed off the latest developments in cooled and uncooled detectors and systems.
The presence of uncooled infrared technology in China started more than 13 years ago when Ulis began to supply uncooled amorphous silicon (a-Si) microbolometers to companies such as SATIR, Guide Infrared and Dali.
Since then, FLIR Systems has also supplied VOx uncooled modules, but with strict export restrictions on array size and frame rate.
The success of uncooled detector technology developed in the west caused Chinese companies to undertake major development programs to initiate a domestic supply of both a-Si and VOx microbolometers.
The current status of these developments is summarized here.
Startup Princeton Infrared Technologies, PIRT (Monmouth Junction, New Jersey) has emerged from its stealth mode to offer InGaAs FPAs for high-volume markets. The company’s founder and President is Martin Ettenberg, a veteran of SWIR detectors who spent 14 years at Sensors Unlimited (now part of UTC) developing and marketing InGaAs FPAs.
The company’s first product is a 1280 x 1024 InGaAs FPA with 12 micron pixels that can operate at 100 Hz (or at 390 Hz in a 640 x 512 window). A science camera based on this FPA is expected to be released in the Fall.
Develops HOT MWIR Software-based Core
Owning Some of the Night
Seeks Re-entry Into Commercial Market
Competing with Uncooled
Would you believe 71%?
Ultra-Small Muti-Band Uncooled Camera
“Launch on Remote”
Improved Low Light Level Imaging for Night Vision
Not Just MCT
An Enabling Technology for 3D Imaging
A New Player in Infrared
Pushing Uncooled Infrared Toward a Cell Phone Model
How Real are the Claims?
PICS Tests Show Promise
No Further MOD Support Expected
Defense Segment Will Continue Work on Night Vision
Megapixels for Starters
Synergies in Infrared
Another Novel Uncooled Technology in Trouble
Northrop Grumman is Back in the Game
Gray Eagle UAVs Being Deployed with Three Common Sensor Payloads
Integrating a Diversified Portfolio of Technologies
A Trend in Seeker Technology?
Lockheed Martin Wins ARGUS–IR Contract
Overseas IR Detector Companies Expanding U.S. Operations
The Effect on Infrared Operations
Simplifying the Small Arms Video Sight
Fraunhofer Institute Makes Large Format Uncooled Microbolometer
Northrop Grumman’s Litening G4 Jumps Ahead
Large Area Substrates Provide a Path to Practical Devices
Northrop Grumman Wins with its Mark VIIE
Adds Image Intensified Systems and Fused IR/I2 Systems to its Portfolio of Products
Smaller Pixels and Larger Formats
Partners with Vectronix
A Deal That Makes Sense
Spectral Images for Operational Use
How Will the Acquisition Affect the Commercial and Military Infrared Markets?
Solving the “Safety Scan” Problem
Comparing ENVG(D) and ENVG(O)
Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturers
Groups Worldwide Vie to Operate Their Cooled FPAs “Less Cool”
Launches FastFPA Program
Their Effect on Infrared
Moving into Phase II
SDD Contract Sets the Stage for Production of 3rd Gen FLIR Engines
Obtaining High Yield with Mercury Cadmium Telluride
Company Pursues Military, Commercial Markets
Increases Product Offerings
The Strategy Behind the Move
Sensor Systems in Limbo
Ulis has landed a five year contract with Sagem Défense Sécurité (Paris, France) to be one of the primary suppliers of uncooled microbolometers for weapon sights and handheld infrared cameras, including those used in FELIN, the French Army’s Future Infantry Soldier System.
Candidates for STUAS Payload Line Up
Pilotage sensors vs. EVS
Uncooled microbolometer development in France has been very rapid partly because of the cooperation between the CEA/Leti labs and Ulis
Uncooled microbolometers for Sagem systems
The system is making use of custom-designed FPAs
The Alternative Infrared Satellite System (AIRSS) program has become a follow-on to SBIRS High
L-3 Infrared Products laid off 10% of its 180 employees in June in an effort to stem the flow of red ink.
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.
Imaging lead salt FPAs are poised to make a comeback for niche military applications after having almost disappeared from view.
Last month the U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman (Rolling Meadows) a 20 month $6.1 million contract to continue development on a two-color uncooled, midwave, Lead Selenide (PbSe) Passive Infrared Cueing System (PICS).
The high priority for MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles and their infrared sensors, has led the U.S. Department of Defense to place a DX rating on components, such as uncooled microbolometers that are used in the Driver’s Vision Enhancers (DVE) on these vehicles.
The 2-day IDGA Night Vision Conference at the end of July includes a number of high-level presentations
Finmeccanica S.p.A. (Italy) has agreed to acquire DRS Technologies for $5.2 billion in cash.
The U.S. Army’s effort to develop and field a 3rd Gen FLIR is moving into the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.
Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs has stopped all work to develop an uncooled focal plane array. In October 2007, the company’s partner, Isonics Corp., ceased funding the program and all rights to the technology reverted to Alcatel-Lucent.
General Electric’s GE Commercial Finance is taking a 15% minority stake in Ulis, the supplier of uncooled amorphous silicon microbolometers.
L-3 Communications has signed an agreement to acquire Northrop Grumman's Electro-Optical Systems (EOS) business for $175 million in cash. The EOS business had 2007 revenues of approximately $190 million in night vision goggles, weapons sights, driver viewers, image intensifier tubes and applied optics products.
The UK’s Albion program for developing 3rd Gen FPAs has gone into Phase 2 with the award by the UK MOD of a £5.8 million (approximately $10.6 million) three-year contract to prime contractor Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems.
Thales UK has been awarded the contract for the UK’s Surveillance System and Range Finding (SSARF) requirement. The company won with the latest version of its Joint-Target Acquisition System (J-TAS), a bi-ocular handheld sight that combines daylight and thermal vision (640 x 480 VOx uncooled microbolometer from DRS) with an eye-safe laser range finder embedded military GPS and azimuth angular referencing.
Goodrich Corp. has formed a new ISR Systems (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) business unit out of the former Optical & Space Systems (OSS) division. The new unit has its headquarters in Chelmsford, Mass., and includes operations in Danbury, Conn., Albuquerque, N.M., Princeton, N.J., Ithaca, N.Y., and Malvern (UK).
Princeton Lightwave, Inc. (PLI), has been awarded a $3.5 million DARPA contract to develop an FPA with single photon sensitivity for use in 3D imaging applications such as those demonstrated in the Jigsaw program. PLI will develop InGaAsP/InP Geiger-mode avalanche photodiode (GmAPDs) arrays optimized for single-photon detection at 1.06 µm.
BAE Systems is opening a new 33,000 square foot electro-optics/infrared Sensor Technology Design Center to support military products based on the company’s VOx microbolometers.
SPIE’s Infrared Technology and Applications XXXIV Conference – a part of SPIE’s Defense & Security Symposium - will feature the latest developments in IR technology and sensor systems. The four day conference, with concurrently running sessions on Monday and Tuesday, will be held from March 17 to 20 at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
IRnova is moving up the infrared food chain and is now offering its customers full Detector Dewar Cooler Assemblies (DDCAs) instead of just QWIP focal plane arrays. The DDCAs are provided together with partners that specialize in detector and cooler manufacturing.
FLIR Systems has completed the acquisition of 69.3% of the shares (at 19 euros per share or a total of 42.3 million euros) of Cedip Infrared Systems after obtaining approval from the French Ministry of Finance and Economy. FLIR Systems Holdings SAS, the company’s French subsidiary will now proceed to acquire the remaining shares of Cedip for the same 19 euro price.
The effort by Isonics Corp. to develop an uncooled focal plane array by partnering with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs has hit a funding road block after Isonics and its subsidiary SensIT failed to make a recent installment payment on the $12 million development program.
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
Axsys Technologies has sold its Distributed Products business for $15 million. The divestiture of this business (which supplies bearings) allows Axsys to concentrate on its infrared and optics businesses which it is reorganizing into the following segments:
Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC has entered into an agreement to acquire Judson Technologies, LLC.
BAE Systems has completed the first test of an autonomous landing system intended for large mobility and transport aircraft. The test demonstrated the system’s ability to enhance pilot vision in a simulated zero-visibility landing scenario.
The fabrication of mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) FPAs by MOVPE (Metal Organic Vapor Phase Epitaxy) continues to make rapid progress. Most recently, both Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems, S&AS and QinetiQ have achieved new performance levels with dual-band (MW/LW) FPAs.
Goodrich SUI has received the sole award under DARPA’s Micro-Sensors for Imaging (MISI) program.
ICx Technologies launched an Initial Public Offering of 5 million shares of its common stock at a price of $16.00 per share on the NASDAQ market. However, the company was caught in the volatility of the markets and shares dropped to under $8 before recovering to over $9 on November 27.
The successful development of dual-band 640 x 480 and 720 x 1280 mercury cadmium telluride focal plane arrays (FPA) under the DBFM (Dual-Band Flexible Manufacturing) program at the end of 2006, is giving rise to a flurry of activity to demonstrate complete 3rd Gen systems and take full advantage of this powerful technology.
The size of infrared focal plane arrays (FPA) is poised for a large increase. Currently, both InSb and MWIR MCT arrays have been fabricated in a 2K x 2K monolithic configuration, with the InSb FPA used in the SHARP reconnaissance pod and the MCT FPA used in the NIRCam instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
Amorphous silicon (a-Si) uncooled microbolometers made by ULIS are increasingly reaching performance levels previously attained only by VOx microbolometers.
DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems is seeking to unseat IAI-Tamam as the supplier of the EO/IR system on the U.S. Army’s Shadow 200 Tactical UAV (RQ-7B). The Army wants an upgrade of the Shadow EO/IR system which includes a laser designator.
Textron Crop. is acquiring UIC Corp., the parent of AAI Corp., for $1.1 billion in a cash tender offer. AAI Corp. makes the Shadow 200, 300 and 400 UAVs; and is teamed with Honeywell on the micro-air-vehicle (MAV), which uses a ducted fan propulsion system to enable vertical take-off and landing.
BAE Systems Infrared Imaging Systems has been awarded a five-year IDIQ contract for up to 6,500 uncooled TIM1500 modules for use in the CROWS II (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station) made by Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace AS.
DRS has been selected for Phase II of the Advanced Soldier Mobility Sensor (ASMS) program - to develop a low power sensor with digitally fused uncooled LWIR and Image Intensified (I2) images for use in a helmet mounted vision sensor for mobility, target detection, and situational awareness in complex terrain.
FLIR Systems has entered into an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in Cedip Infrared Systems in a deal that values the French company at 62.7 million euros (approximately $86.4 million).
Northrop Grumman is preparing its latest Litening AT targeting pod for flight tests in November. The new Litening AT (currently called 4th Gen Litening) makes use of a 1024 x 1024 InSb FPA (18 µm pixels) detector module (made by FLIR/Indigo), a 1024 x 1024 CCD visible sensor, a new dual-band laser designator and range finder, laser spot tracker and infrared laser marker.
Cantronic Systems is re-organizing its products into two divisions: Thermography and Security/Night Vision.
The EO/IR components of Italy’s Future Soldier System (Soldato del Futuro) - which are being developed by Galileo Avionica - are going through initial testing.
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 Alcatel-Thales III-V Lab. has developed 320 x 256 InGaAs FPAs with good performance.
The world military infrared systems market grew at a blazing growth rate in 2006.
BAE Systems Infrared Imaging Systems has won an advanced technology demonstration award for the Digital Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, ENVG(D).
Nova Sensors is developing a new generation of Read-In-Integrated Circuits (RIIC) which will enable infrared scene projectors (IRSPs) to run at much higher temperatures and thus be able to better simulate the hot exhausts and plumes of missiles.
Obzerv Technologies’ range gated camera has been integrated with radar in order to provide maritime security for a critical application in Asia. The integrated system allows long range detection of threats by the radar which then cues the Obzerv ARGC-2400 range-gated camera, which makes use of a Diode Laser Illumination System (DALIS™) operating at 808 or 860 nm.
The Defense Advancement Research Projects Agency, DARPA is soliciting a wide range of new research projects for its Microsystems Technology Office (MTO). Infrared technologies play an important part.
Infrared scene projection (IRSP) is a valuable tool for characterizing military systems such as missile seekers. Thermal IRSPs are essentially microbolometers run in reverse: in which a current is passed through electrodes on the suspended microbridge elements.
Goodrich ISR Systems has been awarded a contract by the Naval Research Laboratory to modify the high-performance imaging sensor used on the high-altitude U-2 surveillance aircraft for use as a space payload.
The U.S. Army has awarded contracts for the Thermal Weapon Sight II (TWS) Bridge, which is the largest uncooled program to date.
Qioptiq is now in the process of shipping 450 VIPIR-2 thermal weapon sights to the Australian Army. The sights will be used in Australia’s future soldier system, called the LAND125 Soldier Enhancement Programme.
On the Lookout for More Infrared Business
NoblePeak Vision Corp. - a venture funded start-up - has developed a new high performance FPA with response from the visible (0.4 µm) to SWIR (1.65 µm) wavelength region.
DRS Technologies has split-out its former Nytech unit which was acquired in 2002. The new company, called N2 Imaging Systems, will continue to operate out of its original Irvine, California offices.
Lockheed Martin is introducing a new pilotage sensor for cargo and utility aircraft. The sensor was recently demonstrated on a UH-1 helicopter at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
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.
The Government of Canada is seeking information (price and availability) for the purchase of approximately 1000 Thermal Weapon Sights for the Canadian Army. The sights must be Military Off-the Shelf (MOTS) items.
Judson Technologies LLC, which has traditionally focused on single-element and linear array infrared detectors, is entering the infrared FPA and camera market.
Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems, S&AS is continuing to make rapid progress with its process for making mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) FPAs by MOVPE (Metal Organic Vapor Phase Epitaxy) on GaAs substrates. The MOVPE fabrication process, which is being supported by the UK’s 3rd Gen Albion program, has become a viable method for making MCT FPAs with good yield on relatively large substrates.
L-3 Infrared Products is taking aim at the military driver’s vision enhancement (DVE) market with a new system intended to be used on tactical wheeled vehicles. The Diver’s Vision System (DVS) makes use of the company’s uncooled BST FPAs which are also used in its commercial automotive night vision system.
Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH is acquiring a 70% interest in Denel Optronics, which is owned by the state-owned defense group Denel Pty. Ltd. and is currently undergoing partial privatization. The German company and Denel Optronics have collaborated closely on technology for a number of years.
OASYS Technology has received an order for 2300 Head Mounted Displays (HMD) from the U.S. Army RDECOM for use with the U.S. Thermal Weapon Sight.
Acreo AB is spinning off its QWIP (Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector) business to a new company called IRnova AB.
A big increase (but not for all infrared programs)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to start a number of infrared programs in fiscal 2008 (starting October 1st).
SPIE’s Infrared Technology and Applications XXXIII Conference – a part of SPIE’s DSS - Defense & Security Symposium - will feature the latest developments in IR technology and sensor systems. The five day conference will be held from April 9 to April 13 at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
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.
The success of the U.S. Thermal Weapon Sight II program with uncooled VOx microbolometers is leading to a follow-on procurement which is being referred to as “TWS II Bridge.” This program is intended to bridge the gap between TWS II and a future TWS III which is expected to include significant technology improvements.
The combined world commercial and dual-use infrared imaging and spot infrared thermometry market grew at a blistering nearly 20% pace in 2006.
Israel is changing its export control policies and will adhere to the Wassenaar Arrangement’s Control Lists for both Munitions items and for Dual-Use items. According to the Wassenaar agreements, dual-use products go through a licensing procedure that is usually administered by a commerce department or ministry.
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.
SCD Semi Conductor Devices is ramping up production of its “BIRD” 384 x 288 (25 µm) microbolometers after encountering process issues at the beginning of 2006.
QinetiQ has been awarded a two-year, $5 million research contract by DARPA in support of its Large Area Coverage Optical Search While Track and Engage (LACOSTE) program. Under LACOSTE, extremely-wide field-of-view coded aperture imaging technology will be used to support single sensor day/night persistent tactical surveillance of all moving vehicles in a large urban battlefield.
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.
Type II Superlattice (T2SL) FPAs have made great progress over the last three years. Some are even heralding these detectors as the successor to mercury cadmium telluride.
Sofradir is starting construction on a new Fab near Grenoble that will double its production capacity of cooled infrared focal plane arrays and position the company to supply 3rd Gen FPAs. The new facility will produce mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) FPAs by Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) on 4” germanium substrates (compared to the currently used 2” CZT substrates).
The Image Fusion 2007 conference to be held between January 22 and 24 in Alexandria, Virginia is expected to cover a wide range of topics that are increasingly important for a wide number of applications.
DARPA is seeking to push uncooled sensor technology to new limits. In the new Micro-Sensors for Imaging (MISI) program, DARPA wants contractors to develop ultra-small sensors for two applications.
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.
The new enhanced version of the German future soldier system, IdZ-ES (Infanteristen der Zukunft) is increasing the number of infrared sights to be provided to soldiers. Earlier this year The German MoD’s BWB procurement agency awarded the prime contract for an enhanced version of IdZ to prime contractor Rheinmetall.
QWIPTECH is seeking to broaden its presence in the infrared market from just being a supplier of QWIP FPAs. The company has signed a contract with Mectron to provide enhanced infrared detector assemblies for the seekers of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
SELEX Sensors & Airborne Systems has moved its mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) grown by MOVPE (Metal Organic Vapor Phase Epitaxy) on low-cost GaAs substrates into production. The company is now producing 640 x 480 LWIR FPAs - dubbed “Eagle LW”- with a cut-off wavelength of 9.7µm.
Cantronic Systems, Inc. has agreed to merge with QWIP Systems (the Canadian company which is the parent of QWIPTECH in the U.S.) Both companies are publicly traded in Canada.
Teledyne Technologies, Inc. has entered into an agreement to acquire Rockwell Scientific Co., RSC, Los Angeles, California) for $167.5 million in cash from Rockwell Collins and Rockwell Automation.
FLIR Systems has been selected by Bell Helicopter Textron to supply the EO system for the Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). FLIR will supply the BRITE Star II® airborne stabilized multi-sensor system (640 x 480 InSb) as the Target Acquisition Sensor Suite (TASS) for ARH.
DRS Technologies is partnering with Intevac to develop a head-mounted digitally fused night vision goggle. The NVG will digitally fuse images from DRS’ uncooled VOx microbolometers with low light level images from Intevac’s EBAPS (Electronically Bombarded Active Pixel Sensor) low-light-level CMOS imager.
BAE Systems E&IS Sensor Systems has been awarded a $6.1 million 21-month contract to develop a DAS (Distributed Aperture System) for U.S. Army combat vehicles. The system is intended to provide the driver and crew members of armored vehicles with unprecedented situational awareness.
Infrared sights for future soldier systems in several European countries are moving ahead rapidly after initially being delayed due to the lack of available uncooled focal plane arrays.
Thales is seeking to expand its presence in optronics in the U.S.
SELEX Sensors & Airborne Systems is moving ahead in the UK’s Albion program for the development of 3rd Gen FPAs based on mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) FPAs grown by MOVPE (Metal Organic Vapor Phase Epitaxy). After experimenting with both GaAs and GaAs:Si (GaAs on silicon) substrates, researchers have settled on the GaAs substrates because of the lower defect levels and the better stability of defect levels at storage temperatures to 100ºC.
Qioptiq is the new name for the former Thales High Tech Optics (HTO) business that was acquired by Candover Investments late last year. The new company has operations in the UK, US, Singapore, Germany and Hungary.
Germany’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) is moving closer to procuring the Trigat LR (Long Range) anti-armor missiles for the country’s Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters. The MoD has already allocated 380 million euros for 600 Trigats.
AIM Infrarot-Module - working in conjunction with the Fraunhofer Institut, IAF, - has demonstrated a new level of performance for Type II Superlattice (T2SL) focal plane arrays operating in the mid-wave.
L-3 Infrared Products is finally on the road to rolling out its uncooled thin-film ferroelectric (TFFE) focal plane arrays. The company has exerted a concentrated effort during the last year to make its process more robust and expects to show samples to customers during the third quarter of this year.
FLIR Systems has re-organized its Imaging business into two separate Divisions: a commercial imaging division and a government imaging division. The company also plans to invest $15 million to significantly increase the capacity of its uncooled VOx microbolometer production facility in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara Infrared, Inc. (SBIR), a HEICO company, has shipped the first of its Large Format Resistive Array (LFRA) IR Scene Projectors, which are based on a 1024 x 1024 array of microresistors on a custom CMOS Read In Integrated Circuit (RIIC). The company has orders for 10 full systems and 3 spare projection heads from U.S. government customers representing the three military services.
The Thermal Weapon Sights (TWS) made by BAE Systems IR Imaging Systems have completed qualification testing by the U.S. Army.
DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office has awarded four 3-year contracts for the development of near room temperature (or “HOT - High Operating Temperature”) mid-wave infrared focal plane arrays. The FPAs are intended for future use in ground-based threat warning systems.
Researchers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory have achieved a significant breakthrough by fabricating the first large format QDIP Quantum Dot Infrared Photodetector) FPA. The 640 x 512 FPA formed excellent images and had an NETD of 40 mK at an operating temperature of 60 K.
The German program for the Infantryman of the Future (IdZ - Infanteristen der Zukunft) is being upgraded with additional capabilities. Currently, the IdZ thermal weapon sight is based on an AIM HuntIR sight that makes use of a 384 x 288 MWIR mercury cadmium telluride FPA.
SCD Semi Conductor Devices has improved its “BIRD” 384 x 288 VOx (25 µm pitch) microbolometers.
SPIE’s Infrared Technology and Applications XXXII Conference – a part of SPIE’s DSS - Defense & Security Symposium - will feature the latest developments in IR technology and sensor systems. The five day conference will be held from April 17 to April 21 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, Florida.
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.
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, ARL, in cooperation with Rockwell Scientific Corp. are making significant progress toward being able to fabricate MCT (mercury cadmium telluride) FPAs by Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) directly on composite silicon substrates. Recently, they succeeded in making 256 x 256 pixel LWIR MCT FPAs (40 µm pitch) on silicon substrates having a lattice-matched CdSeTe buffer layer. Initial results indicate an NETD of 33 mK for a cut-off wavelength of 10 µm. Operability (fraction of usable pixels) was measured to be 99%.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s SeeCoast port surveillance program is adding infrared and electro-optic cameras to the Port Security and Monitoring System so as to detect, classify and track vessels.
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.
Researchers from the Army Research Laboratory, ARL are teaming with BAE Systems under the Advanced Sensor Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) program to make mid-wave Type II Superlattice (T2SL) focal plane arrays. The semiconductor layers (InAs on a GaSb substrate) were grown by ARL and the FPA processing and hybridization to an Indigo ISC9809 read-out IC (ROIC) were carried out at BAE Systems.
Thales has completed the sale of its High Technology Optics (HTO) units in the UK, Singapore, Germany and Hungary for 220 million euros (in cash) to Candover Investments.
The HTO units design and manufacture high precision optical modules and components mainly for military applications, but also for commercial uses.
Extreme CCTV has declined to make a second investment of $3 million in Obzerv Technologies Ltd. However, the two companies continue to work together to develop a new high-end security camera, LX300, based on Obzerv’s range-gated laser camera.