Army chooses low-light imaging cameras from Intevac Photonics for Apache attack helicopters

Posted by John Keller

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala., 16 June 2013. U.S. Army helicopter avionics experts needed electro-optical sensors for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. They found their solution from Intevac Photonics Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., on behalf of the Army PM Apache Office, awarded a potential $27 million contract to Intevac last week for electronic image intensifier ship sets and related services.

Intevac will deliver more than 500 of the company's NightVista M611 cameras for digital imaging in extreme low-light conditions. The M611 is based on the Intevac Electron Bombarded Active Pixel Sensors (EBAPS) technology.

The Intevac M611 cameras are for the Apache helicopter's Pilot Night Vision Sensor (PNVS), which uses a low-light camera slaved to the head movements of the Apache pilot. PNVS can rotate 90 degrees left-to-right, 20 degrees upward, and 45 degrees downward. The system can rotate as quickly as 120 degrees per second to keep up with the head movements of the pilot.

Intevac's EBAPS technology is based on a III-V semiconductor photocathode in proximity focus with a high-resolution, backside-thinned, complementary metal oxide silicon (CMOS) chip anode, company officials explain.

The electrons that the photocathode emits inject in the electron bombarded mode into the CMOS anode, where the electrons are collected, amplified and read-out to produce digital video directly out of the sensor. The EBAPS sensor is packaged in a compact, lightweight, low-power package that eliminates the complex components of traditional image intensifiers, Intevac officials say.

The NightVista M611 camera offers a 60 Hz frame rate, 1600-by-1200-pixel UXGA resolution and snapshot shutter and image processing. It integrates a high-voltage power supply, temperature sensor, and flash memory to store image-correcting parameters, as well as additional supporting electronics.

"This is the largest contract award Intevac Photonics has received," says Drew Brugal, executive vice president and general manager of Intevac Photonics.

For more information contact Intevac Photonics online at www.intevac.com/intevacphotonics, or the Army PM Apache Office at www.peoavn.army.mil/SitePages/Apache.

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