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.
Sofradir plans new compound semiconductors and Ulis plans for smart sensors
The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show displayed a push by suppliers of thermal imaging systems to have their technology included in self-driving cars.
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).
Argo AI which acquired Princeton Lightwave, has developed a LiDAR system based on InGaAsP Geiger mode Avalanche Photodiodes (GmAPDs) for autonomous vehicles. The GmAPDs, which operate in the SWIR (1.55 µm) spectrum and have single photon sensitivity, have a number of advantages over most LiDARs used in self driving cars which make use of near infrared (900 nm) GaAs lasers and silicon-based detectors. The most important of these advantages is the eye-safe wavelength of SWIR operation.
By Steve Tribble, Lakewood Technologies
New Export Controls on Emerging Technologies
Seek Thermal is making inroads in large fire department with its palm-sized firefighting camera.
The Japanese company JVC KENWOOD is developing an automotive night vision system based on uncooled microbolometers. The system is expected to be used for both conventional cars and autonomous cars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Several big Asian companies in video security are releasing new thermal security cameras.
FLIR Systems is launching a new line of infrared cameras for perimeter security that make maximum use of its highly integrated Lepton thermal cores. The Saros line is intended to provide minimum false alarms and the maximum in ease of installation for installers with no lens options to worry about.
Saros includes multiple FLIR Lepton® thermal sensors (160 x 120/12) with images stitched together, one or more 1080p or 4K cameras, IR and visible LED illuminators, advanced onboard analytics, two-way audio, and digital input/output.
Pelco, Schneider Electric, has discontinued sales of its thermal security cameras, the Sarix TI line, which were based on Ulis amorphous silicon (a-Si) microbolometers.
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.
Autoliv (Stockholm, Sweden) is spinning off its Electronics business to the new company Veoneer, Inc.
Military Version to be Fully Qualified by 1Q18, Commercial Core to Follow
A Proposed New Radiometric Unit
Mosaic microbolometer pixel technology
Improves Performance of both 12 and 17 micron FPAs
Good Initial Images in the MWIR – But Much Remains to Be Done
Another Step in Ramping up Uncooled Sensors
Multi-megapixel infrared imaging at room temperature for wafer-level scalable FPAs at low-cost
Imaging of gas leaks (especially of methane, but also of other gases) has traditionally been done with portable infrared cameras based on cooled InSb and QWIP FPAs. In these, either the FPA spectral response is tuned to the absorption wavelength of the gas of interest or a spectral filter is used in front of it. Alternatively, high-end spectrally selective (Fourier Transform Infrared – FTIR) cameras (also based on cooled FPAs) are used to detect gas leaks with high sensitivity, but at a price premium.
Now, a new generation of innovative uncooled gas sensors are being developed to not just monitor large gas leaks but also act as monitors for small leaks.
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
Combining SCBA with Thermal Imaging
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.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an Airworthiness Circular with guidance for obtaining airworthiness approval for installation of a Synthetic Vision System (SVS) – which the FAA calls a “Synthetic Vision Guidance System (SVGS)” - in aircraft.
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.
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.
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.
i3system (Daejon, South Korea) is preparing to launch its Thermal Expert™ smartphone thermal imager in the U.S. The company’s thermal imaging attachment makes use of i3systems’ own 384 x 288 uncooled microbolometer with 17 micron pixels and works with Android Smartphones.
Avon Rubber plc (UK) has acquired the “Argus” thermal imaging fire fighting business of E2V Technologies (Chelmsford, Essex, UK) for £3.5 million in cash ($5.4 million).
The company’s Avon Protection unit, which also makes SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus), has had a small presence in the fire thermal imaging market with its nvision XTP, a thermal imager based on a 320 x 240 amorphous silicon microbolometer made by L-3 Infrared Products.
Seek Thermal – in addition to its smartphone attachments – has been aggressively courting OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to incorporate its 206 x 156/12 VOx microbolometer cores in their cameras for applications for predictive maintenance/building inspection, drones payloads, security cameras, automotive night vision, etc.
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.
DIR Technologies (Haifa, Israel) is introducing a new thermal imaging system for 100% on-line inspection of induction-sealed bottles used in Food, Cosmetics and other industries.
The I2VS (Induction Integrity Verification System) Lite verifies the aluminum foil seal at the top of bottles, such as those containing vitamins and packaged food.
The system is a follow on to the company’s standard I2VS system which is used in the pharmaceutical industry.
The company makes use of both cooled and uncooled FPAs to view the integrity of the seal at rates up to 400 bottles per minute (which is as fast as the induction sealing machines are capable of heat sealing prior to inspection.)
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.
E2V (Chelmsford, UK) is launching new fire fighting thermal imagers in an effort to counter recently introduced new lower-priced cameras made by FLIR Systems.The British company, which pioneered fire fighting thermal imagers more than 30 years ago, is rolling out two new Argus-brand thermal imagers with added features and lower prices.
Owning Some of the Night
Seeks Re-entry Into Commercial Market
FLIR One Smartphone Imager Discourages One Competitor
Ultra Low-Cost Thermal Core and Smartphone Attachment
Jockeying for Space at the Low-End
Ultra-Small Muti-Band Uncooled Camera
Improved Low Light Level Imaging for Night Vision
Two start-ups in Turkey are vying for a portion of the infrared market
FLIR vs. Fluke
An Enabling Technology for 3D Imaging
A New Player in Infrared
Panasonic Introducing Thermopile FPA
Pushing Uncooled Infrared Toward a Cell Phone Model
How Real are the Claims?
NEC Improves Both Passive and Active Mode Cameras
PICS Tests Show Promise
Honeywell’s Demonstration of Blended Infrared and Synthetic Vision on Primary Flight Displays
Defense Segment Will Continue Work on Night Vision
Synergies in Infrared
Autoliv Tests its New Thermal and Near-Infrared Fusion System
Integrating a Diversified Portfolio of Technologies
A Trend in Seeker Technology?
New Support for Small Pixel Uncooled Microbolometers
Infrared Cameras for Building Inspection
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
U.S. Also Proposing Easier Export Controls for Thermal Imagers in Two Application Areas
Northrop Grumman Wins with its Mark VIIE
Adds Image Intensified Systems and Fused IR/I2 Systems to its Portfolio of Products
The Latest Developments
Smaller Pixels and Larger Formats
Partners with Vectronix
How Will the Acquisition Affect the Commercial and Military Infrared Markets?
Comparing ENVG(D) and ENVG(O)
Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturers
Ritsumeikan University Has a Solution
“UTIC” Rule Being Finalized
Their Effect on Infrared
Some of the Potential Buyers
Introduces New Low-End Thermography Camera
Moving into Phase II
Company Pursues Military, Commercial Markets
Market Separates into High and Low Ends
Increases Product Offerings
The Strategy Behind the Move
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
The Latest Attempt at Infrared Diagnostic Breast Imaging
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
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.
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.
Competition in low-end thermography cameras is heating up. FLIR Systems’ latest introduction, the i5 camera, pushes prices below $3K—a level unheard of just a few years ago.
The 2-day IDGA Night Vision Conference at the end of July includes a number of high-level presentations
Although infrared automotive night vision systems are usually supplied as a factory-installed option, an aftermarket is developing…
Finmeccanica S.p.A. (Italy) has agreed to acquire DRS Technologies for $5.2 billion in cash.
General Electric’s GE Commercial Finance is taking a 15% minority stake in Ulis, the supplier of uncooled amorphous silicon microbolometers.
Toyota is introducing a near-infrared (NIR) active night vision system called Night View on the Crown Hybrid
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.
L-3 Infrared Products is phasing out the production of uncooled BST ferroelectric FPAs and cameras. The company expects to stop producing BST detectors in mid-2009 but will support these products for another three years.
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.
World commercial and dual-use infrared imaging markets soared by 30% in 2007.
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).
Fluke is introducing four new handheld cameras which are pushing the pricing of thermography cameras below $5000. Two of the new cameras, Ti10 and Ti25, are intended for industrial and electrical inspections; the other two TiR and TiR1, are intended for building inspection.
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.
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.
A new generation of Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) for aircraft is close to being certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Kollsman’s EVS II, an enhanced version of its original EVS, makes use of SCD’s 320 x240 InSb FPA on a Blue Fairy read-out and provides 30% increase in sensitivity.
Nippon Avionics plans to reorganize and consolidate its infrared businesses, including NEC San-ei Instruments, into the new company, NEC Avio Infrared Technologies Co., Ltd.
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.
Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC has entered into an agreement to acquire Judson Technologies, LLC.
Autoliv is preparing to introduce its new Night Vision 2 system to aid drivers of passenger cars when driving at night. The new system will offer significant new capabilities while simultaneously lowering the cost to automakers.
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.
Amorphous silicon (a-Si) uncooled microbolometers made by ULIS are increasingly reaching performance levels previously attained only by VOx microbolometers.
Researchers at Ritsumeikan University have developed a very low-cost thermal array that is more than a spot thermal sensor, but not quite a staring focal plane array. The device, dubbed Infrared Position Sensitive Detector (IRPSD), is an array of uncooled thermopiles, which is not intended to form an image, but provide position information on the object being viewed.
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).
Max-Viz is introducing upgraded versions of its uncooled Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) for aircraft pilots. The company is now making use of 25 µm pixel microbolometers in all of its new products.
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).
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.
Fluke has acquired Ircon from Spectris plc for $33 million on a debt and cash-free basis and subject to a working capital adjustment. Ircon specializes in spot infrared sensors including on-line IR thermometers, portable spot thermometers and line scanners.
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.
Amateur-built aircraft in the U.S. are giving a lift to a new class of low-end Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) for use by the pilots of these planes when flying at night or in reduced visibility. This growth is being driven by the fact that under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations, no certification is required to use an EVS on amateur-built “experimental” aircraft.
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.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SBInet sensor network on the Mexican border went into operation along a 28 mile stretch southwest of Tucson. The first section of the “virtual fence” consists of nine 98 foot towers with visible and infrared cameras that send images to a command center and to specially equipped Border Patrol vehicles.
On the Lookout for More Infrared Business
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.
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.
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.
Mikron Infrared is being acquired by LumaSense Technologies, Inc. for approximately $65 million.
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.
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.
Esterline Corp. has agreed to buy CMC Electronics for $335 million. CMC Electronics (formerly Canadian Marconi Canada) is a leading supplier of avionics systems including both cooled and uncooled infrared Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) for pilots.
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.
Rockwell Collins is introducing a new infrared Enhanced Vision System (EVS) - based on a Max-Viz uncooled EVS - for use on Boeing Business Jets. The EVS presents an image on Rockwell Collins’ Head-up Guidance System (HGS®) and head-down displays to enhance pilot situational awareness of terrain and the airport environment in low-visibility situations.
Several recent provisions in the Wassenaar List of Dual-Use infrared equipment must be renewed or they will expire at the end of this year. The most important of these refer to the control of uncooled amorphous silicon microbolometers.
After a thorough evaluation of both passive thermal and active near infrared (NIR) automotive night vision systems, German luxury car maker BMW has decided to stay with thermal imaging (called “FIR” or “Far Infrared” in the automotive industry).
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.
Requirements by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for increased security at power plants has provided EMX a ready market for thermal rifle sights.
The acquisition by Cantronic Systems, Inc. of QWIP Systems (the Canadian parent of QWIPTECH in the U.S.) has been completed. Both companies are publicly traded in Canada.
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 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.
FLIR Systems has reached an agreement with AMI Semiconductor in which AMIS will be the foundry for the production of FLIR’s uncooled VOx microbolometers. The microbolometers will be produced in AMIS’ Class 1 facility on 8” wafers.
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.
CMC Electronics has shipped its 100th EVS (Enhanced Vision System) for aircraft. Most of these are the SureSight® I-Series.
Delphi is proposing an automotive active night vision system with pedestrian warning that also uses the same camera to carry out several additional vision tasks, including lane departure warning and intelligent headlight control.
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.
Siemens Building Technologies has signed an agreement to acquire VistaScape Security Systems as a wholly owned subsidiary.
The Department of Homeland Security has awarded the first phase of the Secure Border Initiative (SBInet) contract to a team led by Boeing. The program is intended to help secure both America’s southern and northern borders with a network of sensors.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2006 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) awards are expected to start being issued in October. The late start in making the awards under the $540 million FY2006 AFG program has resulted in some hesitation on the part of local fire departments to purchase thermal imagers while they waited for the outcome of the grant awards.
A proposed European Union regulation to enhance pedestrian safety may help to significantly expand the use of automotive infrared night vision systems. The proposed regulation will require a specific active safety system called Brake Assist on all new vehicles starting on July 1, 2008. In addition, new types of equipment, such as collision avoidance, will be recognized as alternatives to Brake Assist.
Land Instruments International Ltd. has been acquired by Ametek, Inc., a diversified manufacturer of industrial instruments and electromechanical devices. Land, with annual sales of £22 million ($41 million) will be part of the process analytical business of Ametek’s Electronic Instruments Group.
FLIR Systems’ new robot is now up and running at the company’s Danderyd, Sweden facility. The robot is intended to automate the labor intensive and time-consuming testing and calibration of FLIR’s new line of low-cost InfraCAM cameras.
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.
CEDIP Infrared has launched an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the Alternext market of the Euronext Exchange. The company’s existing 2,500,000 shares of stock have been admitted on Alternext. In addition, a maximum of 712,500 new shares have been issued and admitted to the exchange.
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.
Thales is seeking to expand its presence in optronics in the U.S.
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.
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.
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 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.
Nippon Avionics is acquiring NEC San-ei Instruments. After the completion of the transaction on June 30, 2006, NEC San-ei will be a 100% subsidiary of Nippon Avionics.
The use of infrared cameras by firefighters has been growing at double digit rates. In fact, the rate at which new technologies are being incorporated into these cameras may affect firefighter safety.
SCD Semi Conductor Devices has improved its “BIRD” 384 x 288 VOx (25 µm pitch) microbolometers.
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.
Nippon Avionics has developed an integral helmet-mounted uncooled infrared imager for firefighters.
The introduction of infrared cameras at aggressive low price points are pushing infrared imaging into new markets and applications. Three manufacturers have recently introduced such cameras, two of them after extensive test marketing during 2005.
NEC is entering the merchant market with two VOx microbolometers having 320 x 240 and 640 x 480 formats. The two microbolometers have the smallest pixel sizes (23.5 µm) currently available for either the commercial or military markets.
The combined world commercial and dual-use infrared imaging and spot infrared thermometry market is growing rapidly. Uncooled infrared focal plane array technology used in a broad range of applications continues to be the major driving factor.
Opgal is partnering with WinSoft on infrared systems. Opgal cameras will be available with the WinSoft ThermaVu software development kit for image analysis, camera control and thermal analysis.
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.
A New Market for SWIR Cameras
ULIS has moved it’s large format (640 x 480 with 25 µm pixels) amorphous silicon uncooled microbolometers into production. The chip is based on a single-level microbridge, thus avoiding the complexity and expense of dual-level designs.
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.
The first “Special Comprehensive License” (SCL) for exporting thermal imaging cameras has been granted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The four-year license is for shipments of predictive maintenance cameras based on 160 x 120 pixel uncooled microbolometers to European Union countries.
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.