By John Keller
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - U.S. Army researchers are asking industry for ideas on building a helmet-mounted display with a multispectral imaging system.
The four-year project, called Advanced Soldier Mobility Sensor Army Technology Objective Demonstration (ASMS ATO-D) is to enable soldiers to navigate and rapidly engage targets in total darkness and in the presence of battlefield obscurants by displaying a fused image across the entire field of view.
Scientists at the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va., are approaching industry with a broad agency announcement (BAA W15P7T-05-R-P051), which was released Aug. 31.
ASMS ATO seeks to develop a low-power prototype sensor with advanced uncooled-longwave-infrared (LWIR) and image-intensified (I2) visible/near-infrared/shortwave-infrared (VIS/NIR/SWIR) helmet-mounted vision sensor for mobility, target detection, and situational awareness in complex terrain.
The helmet-mounted sensor would digitally fuse optical-sensor imagery into one image for soldier viewing. The digital image-fusion processing architecture will demonstrate the lowest possible power consumption through the use of a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) on the helmet.
The project is to improve the design of head-borne sensors by addressing low-power, optoelectronic, and human-factors issues. The prototype must be compatible with currently issued laser aiming devices, such as the PEQ-2 and PAQ-4.
The prototype will include a port to import alternate imagery and data, such as from a weapon sight or command-and-control systems, to the helmet-mounted display, as well as to export soldier-borne sensor imagery.
The project seeks to determine the optimum location for the optoelectronic sensors and the helmet-mounted display, as well as the optimum sensor field of view for mobility in complex and urban terrain; conduct trade studies to determine the best optoelectronic sensor candidates for image fusion and what electronic functions the digital image-fusion ASIC should encompass; develop the custom ASIC to demonstrate the lowest sensor power possible; and deliver four prototype sensors for user evaluation.
Several cost-plus contracts are expected to be awarded in federal fiscal year 2006, which began Oct. 1.
The project will have as many as three phases. The first phase will involve one-year $200,000 contracts, and will study existing and near-term sensor technologies and digital-fusion algorithms.
The second phase would involve one-year $5 million contracts to demonstrate sensors, and may include developing the digital-fusion ASIC. Money for ASIC fabrication is to be released after completion of a critical design review of the sensors.
The third phase would involve two-year $3 million contracts to produce the custom ASIC with as many electronic functions as practical for lowest total sensor power consumption, as well as a set of four prototype Advanced Soldier Mobility sensors.
Army experts will review the program’s progress by Sept. 31, 2008. If the ASIC is completed or shows clear signs of being completed by that time, the program will continue; if not, the Army will terminate the program.