DARPA to develop situational-awareness multispectral camera for infantry helmets and weapon sights

ARLINGTON, Va., 7 Nov. 2012. Electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop a small multispectral camera to help infantrymen and small combat units detect, recognize, and identify battlefield threats in daylight, at night, in bad weather, or in smoke and dust.

DARPA has released a broad agency announcement (DARPA-BAA-13-04) for the Pixel Network for Dynamic Visualization (PIXNET) program, which seeks to reduce the size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) of helmet- and infantry weapon-mounted situational-awareness cameras.

The PIXNET also seeks to improve color fusion and image rendition for users to improve the infantryman's ability to detect and identify potential threats quickly and communicate crucial development to higher command authorities, as well as for on-site planning at the squad level.

Ultimately, the program seeks to develop helmet-mounted and clip-on camera systems that combine visible, near infrared, and infrared sensors into one system and combine the outputs. PIXNET technology would fuse multispectral information into a common image viewable on the warfighter display and sharable across units.

PIXNET aims to develop enabling technologies for helmet-mounted cameras and clip-on weapon sights. Each camera type will be linked wirelessly to an Android smart phone for multi-band image fusion, data processing, and image display.

DARPA researchers say they expect the PIXNET camera to be network ready with a smart phone. The combination of a smart phone and the PIXNET camera is to enhance tactics, techniques, and procedures.

“Existing sensor technologies are a good jumping-off point, but PIXNET will require innovations to combine reflective and thermal bands for maximum visibility during the day or night, and then package this technology for maximum portability," says Nibir Dhar, DARPA program manager for PIXNET.

"What we really need are breakthroughs in aperture design, focal plane arrays, electronics, packaging and materials science," Dhar says. "Success will be measured as the minimization of size, weight, power and cost of the system and the maximization of functionality.”

Companies interested should respond to DARPA no later than 11 Jan. 2013. For questions or concerns contact the PIXNET program manager, Nibir Dhar, by e-mail at DARPA-BAA-13-04@darpa.mil, or by fax at 703-807-9926.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-13-04/listing.html.

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