Lightweight, and Affordable Mid-Wave Infrared (MWIR) Camera for Shipboard
Battlespace, Electronics, Sensors
ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Combined
EO/IR Surveillance and Response System (CESARS) FNC
The technology within this
topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR),
22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related
material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the
Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls
dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals
(FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed,
and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s)
in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the Announcement. Offerors are advised
foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to
the technical data under US Export Control Laws.
OBJECTIVE: Develop a video
camera that operates in the mid-wave infrared (MWIR) band and is highly
compact, lightweight, and affordable.
affordable, digital video camera technology has seen a dramatic decrease in
cost over the past several years. These cameras have benefitted from the
proliferation of cell phone technology and the popularity of digital
photography. However, these cameras operate in the visible light band where
the commercial market has driven advances in the technology. Video cameras
have widespread military use. However, military applications often demand
video imaging in the infrared (IR) wavelength bands.
Shipboard situational awareness (SA) systems would benefit from highly compact,
extremely lightweight, high performance, and inexpensive cameras that operate
in the MWIR band. Lightweight cameras are faster to aim and quicker to
stabilize. Shipboard cameras are not easily repaired so inexpensive cameras
could become viable as essentially disposable items. In addition, other small,
highly mobile military platforms (for example, unmanned vehicles and
man-portable systems) could benefit from the technology, thereby encouraging
economy of scale in further reducing cost.
Availability of such a camera is inhibited by three things: 1) lack of a
commercial market comparable to the visible band, 2) special technical
considerations arising from the particular nature of MWIR imaging, and 3)
stringent military performance requirements. However, recent advances in MWIR
focal plane array (FPA) technology, including smaller pitch pixels, higher
operating temperatures, advanced readouts, and high dynamic range should enable
the development of a compact MWIR camera.
Chief among the technical considerations are the MWIR FPA, the cryo-cooler
required for the FPA to function, and the optics that must be designed and
ground for the MWIR band (here we define the MWIR band as 3.7 to 4.8 microns
wavelength). Added to this are requirements of adjustable field of view (i.e.,
zoom), high sensitivity, high dynamic range, and high resolution that are met
on commercially available cameras; however, for the intended application, the
additional demands of ultra-compactness, minimal weight, and ruggedness are
paramount. Cost is also a deciding factor because it can be assumed that the
risk of loss during the mission is high (for example, drones crash,
man-portable equipment is often damaged in combat, and equipment in maritime
deployment corrodes quickly). Objective goals are volume less than 120cm3,
mass under 200g, and cost less than $5,000.
The Navy seeks development of a compact, lightweight, highly portable MWIR
video imaging camera for shipboard and mobile deployment. The innovation may
come in any of the component areas (MWIR optics, FPA, etc.) or, most
preferably, in the combination of multiple technologies. Distributed apertures
are permitted provided the combined volume, weight, and cost address the goals
described. For general functional objectives, an image format exceeding 512 by
480 pixels is a threshold requirement. In addressing the FPA, smaller pitch
pixel technology may prove desirable. However, noise equivalent temperature
difference in high-sensitivity mode should be comparable to current MWIR
cameras – that is, better than 0.025°K. Noise equivalent irradiance shall be
minimized within the overall objective of optimizing size, weight, and
affordability. The camera shall incorporate high dynamic range readout (HDR)
capability in two software selectable modes: 1) imaging in normal thermal
backgrounds (nominally -10°C nighttime to 45°C daytime) and, 2) imaging with
greater than 100 times the nominal flux level of a 25°C (daytime) environment.
The camera must be capable of capturing and providing a 64 by 64 (minimum)
pixel image at a frame rate of 1000Hz. This “window” must be able to relocate
anywhere in the field of view at 50Hz intervals. The full-field frame rate
shall be, as a threshold, 30 frames per second and the readout circuit should
be able to switch between full sensor and “window” mode with minimal
(sub-microsecond) latency. Video output should be in an open, standard
(non-proprietary) format, as the image processor and display are not considered
part of the camera.
PHASE I: Define and develop a
concept for a compact, lightweight, and affordable MWIR camera, meeting the
objectives provided in the description above, and suitable for shipboard
deployment in programs deriving from the Combined EO/IR Surveillance and
Response System (CESARS) Future Naval Capabilities (FNC)—specifically Surface
Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 4. Demonstrate the
feasibility of its concept in meeting Navy needs and establish that the camera
can be feasibly and affordably produced. Establish feasibility through a
combination of initial concept design, analysis, and modeling. Establish
affordability by analysis of the proposed components and manufacturing
processes. The Phase I Option, if awarded, will include the initial design
specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II.
Develop a Phase II plan.
PHASE II: Based on the Phase
I results and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), produce, test, and deliver
a prototype compact, lightweight, and affordable MWIR camera for evaluation.
Evaluate the prototype by testing accompanied by appropriate data analysis to
confirm the prototype meets the parameters in the description. Address
affordability by refining the affordability analysis to reflect the camera
concept developed in Phase I, taking into account materials, components and
manufacturing techniques. The affordability analysis will propose
best-practice manufacturing methods to prepare the camera technology for Phase
PHASE III DUAL USE
APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology—first to CESARS
and then to SEWIP Block 4. Refine the MWIR camera interfaces and packaging for
insertion into CESARS and SEWIP Block 4. Demonstrate the technology in an
advanced CESARS or initial SEWIP Block 4 prototype system to validate camera
effectiveness and reliability in an operationally relevant environment.
Support system tests and validation in order to certify and qualify initial
production cameras. Produce the final product itself or under license and
provide for insertion into the program baseline in partnership with the CESARS
and SEWIP Block 4 prime contractors.
Infrared imaging technology is pervasive in military, security and
surveillance, law enforcement, and scientific use. Advances made in this area
have wide application in these fields.
1. Marcotte, Frederick, et
al. “High-dynamic range imaging using FAST-IR imagery.” Proc. SPIE 9071,
Infrared Imaging Systems: Design, Analysis, Modeling, and Testing XXV, 90710E,
May 29, 2014. http://spie.org/Publications/Proceedings/Paper/10.1117/12.2053810
2. Fraenkel, Rami et al.
“Cooled and uncooled infrared detectors for missile seekers.” Proc. SPIE 9070,
Infrared Technology and Applications XL, 90700P, June 24, 2014. http://proceedings.spiedigitallibrary.org/proceeding.aspx?articleid=1885345
KEYWORDS: MWIR Camera; MWIR
Imaging; MWIR Focal Plane Array; Video Imaging; Lightweight Cameras; MWIR
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