C4iSR: Land

L3's miniature IR-cooled camera advances detection capability

01 May 2013

L3 Cincinnati Electronics has unveiled a new miniature mid-wave infrared (MWIR) cooled camera that weighs less than 1 lb (454 g), provides improved detection capability, and could free up precious gimbal space in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

"We have some breakthroughs in technology that allowed us to miniaturise our 640x512 MWIR using different materials in the focal plane array, so it can run at a hotter [temperature]," Stephen Schmidt, business development manager for L3 Cincinnati Electronics, told IHS Jane's .

By using a mixture of advanced materials in the focal plane array L3 Cincinnati Electronics's new NightWarrior 640 can run at higher temperatures than indium antimonide (InSb) systems, Don Gill, director of business development L3 Cincinnati Electronics, told IHS Jane's .

InSb systems operate at 77 degrees Kelvin (-196 degrees Celsius) in order to be able to detect differences in temperatures between objects, he added. "We are now well over 100 [degrees Kelvin]. That's the kind of improvement we are getting."

The 0.9 lb NightWarrior 640 is about the size of a C-cell battery compared with the company's NightConquerer 640 that weighs almost 5 lb. The smaller size opens up possibilities for a lot of systems that previously could only use an uncooled system, Schmidt said.

NightWarrior 640 uses a High Operating Temperature MWIR reticulated focal plane array sensor and comes in a package no bigger than 3x2x2.9 in including the cooler electronics. It has been tested to MIL-STD-810 for shock, vibration, and humidity and to MIL-STD-462 for electromagnetic interference.

Although the idea to miniaturise their detector was primarily driven by the small-UAS class and small gimbal payloads, L3 Cincinnati Electronics is also looking at handheld thermal imagers for Special Forces, weapon sights for long-range guns, and remote weapon stations, he added. "You could shrink down the entire gimbal and provide that infrared (IR) in a small package for smaller UASs or keep the same gimbal but now pack more multifunctional capability into that space than used to be taken up by that large brick.

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