Military laboratories are developing cutting-edge photonics technologies that have a wide range of applications in both military and commercial sectors. In the last week, TechLink has added eight new photonics technologies, any one of which could catapult your business to a new level of innovation.
Included in our lineup is a facial recognition technology that allows for imagery matches between unknown thermal images and known visible images and an airborne bird strike countermeasure technology that addresses an alarming aircraft incident rate. But that’s not everything that’s new and hot. Here are all eight technologies:
Automatic facial recognition has a wide range of applications in the commercial and government sectors, from tagging people in social networking websites to surveillance for homeland security. To date, facial recognition research has mostly focused on the visible spectrum, addressing challenges such as illumination variations, pose, and image resolution. However, for surveillance during nighttime, the lack of illumination prevents cameras operating in the visible-light spectrum from being used discreetly and effectively.
Because most databases and watchlists only contain facial imagery in the visible spectrum, it is difficult to match an unknown thermal image to a set of known visible images. This matching is known as cross-modal face recognition. The Army’s solution to the problem is a cross-modal face matching system using polarimetric thermal image data.
Learn more about the facial recognition via thermal imaging technology.
According to the FAA, there were about 142,000 bird strikes by civil aircraft in the United States between 1990 and 2013. The Air Force tracks an average of 6,500 bird strikes per year that result in an average of 1.3 fatalities and loss of 1.2 aircraft per year.
To help prevent bird strikes, Air Force researchers have developed a system that utilizes a combination of sound and light sources onboard an aircraft to deter avian species from maintaining a collision flight path with aircraft.
Learn more about the airborne bird strike countermeasure technology.
Liquid lenses (electrowetting-based liquid lenses, or pressure-membrane liquid lenses) provide enhanced capability over solid lenses by their ability to change focus or tilt using voltage without conventional mechanical elements. Despite this advantage, liquid lenses can suffer from undesirable effects due to vibration such as resonant modes at frequencies dependent on geometrical and material properties. There is a need for a device to determine if a particular optical imaging system design will function in a particular application or environment relative to expected vibrational loading before development and production costs ramp up towards product launch.
To address that need, Navy researchers have developed a method and device to perform optical characterization of liquid lenses and other optical systems including one or more lens elements, for evaluation of optical resolution needed to distinguish image elements, blur, line-of-sight jitter, and/or pointing stability.
Learn more about the test system for liquid optical lenses technology.
Laser rangefinders are becoming an increasingly vital component in high-precision targeting engagements for the military. A critical component of the military laser rangefinder is the laser source. Regrettably, during the manufacturing and fabrication alignment process of the optical laser cavity of the laser cavity with a single-axis scanning element as the optical Q-switch, there are small angular shifts to the optical axis. This introduces laser cavity alignment errors that result in a decrease in output energy, beam quality, and ultimately, reduced accuracy.
To correct alignment errors during the manufacturing process, Army scientists have created a single circular, rotatable wedge prism, which ensures that the optimum laser energy output and laser beam quality is retained.
Read more about the correcting alignment errors in optical laser systems technology.
Today’s optical devices such as lasers and thermal imagers have exceptional range often only limited by the curvature of the Earth. But when operating in rain, fog, and other compromising weather conditions, the range is significantly limited. The question is, by how much?
In order to quantify the limitations of weather on optical transmission, Navy researchers have developed an environmental test apparatus to simulate rain and fog. The system indicates how well an image can be seen or how much information a laser can transmit under various conditions and how that differs under a mist, light rain, or downpour. A unique aspect of this test system is that it is set up outside and over a shallow lake, pond, or another body of water.
Learn more about the rain and fog generator for testing the transmission distance of optical devices technology.
Conventional night vision goggles all use image intensification (I2) tube technology that multiplies ambient, visible, and near IR light several thousands of times allowing a user to see and operate in very low-light conditions. One shortcoming of I2 tube night vision devices is that they cannot generate an image as a video signal that can be displayed on a monitor or transmitted externally. Further, the devices are sensitive to too much light, which can over saturate the I2 tube and prevent the user from seeing any scene detail. This problem is called “blooming” or a “halo effect.” What is needed is an alternative imaging device that utilizes wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum currently unused in military environments.
Army researchers have developed such a device operating as a direct-view, compact SWIR viewer-detector array sensitive to the visible, near IR, and SWIR regions.
Learn more about the low-light night vision imaging and video capture technology.
Existing ultra-short pulse laser systems put all of the components into a single or small handful of packages or sub-packages, which cannot be separated by any significant distance or operate in a variety of environments. Thus, existing designs result in large and bulky systems that are often ill-suited for various environments, including mobile environments, as well as small enclosures and spaces into which these systems could have high value.
However, because the various subcomponents that make up an ultra-short pulse laser need not be located right next to each other, it’s possible to design a system with a distributed architecture. This is precisely what Navy scientists and engineers have developed: a modular laser system and more specifically, a distributed aperture, ultra-short pulsed laser, having multiple compartments and groups of components where each group has a different environmental sensitivity such as temperature, humidity, vibration, etc.
Learn more about the modular, distributed aperture, ultra-short pulsed laser technology.
Several classes of laser detection, characterization, and warning receivers have been developed for employment on civilian and military aircraft. Traditionally, these sensors undergo extensive laboratory and ground characterization and testing, but very little validation and direct-illumination during actual flight.
Air Force researchers have addressed this issue with a low-cost, agile means to support the development, testing, and periodic validation of ground and airborne laser sensors. The device can also be used in environments where it may be advantageous to stimulate airborne laser sensors during flight operations.
Learn more about the laser sensor activator technology.
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