Optoelectronics Watch

Nov. 1, 2003

101st Airborne uses Raytheon handheld camera for security in Iraq

By John McHale

DALLAS — Soldiers in U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division who are deployed in Iraq have improved static security at their bases by using the X100 palm-sized thermal-imaging camera from the Raytheon Co. Commercial Infrared (RCI) division in Dallas. The device enables soldiers to see people and objects easily that are virtually invisible to the naked eye, even when shrouded in darkness.

The device is five inches long, weighs 13 ounces, and uses two AA batteries for power, says Stan Kummer, director of public safety and industrial markets for Raytheon RCI. Its battery life is approximately three hours, but can be twice that if the user wishes to spend money on lithium batteries, he adds.

The X100 palm-sized thermal imaging camera earned praise from soldiers, who say the camera withstood the harsh conditions in Iraq.
Click here to enlarge image


Click here to enlarge image


The amorphous silicon microbolometer technology found inside the X100 is what permits the camera to be so small and light. The X100's range is about the typical range to detect human activity — about 1,000 feet, Kummer says. The rugged waterproof camera has a rubberized, slip-resistant body, endures vibration, can withstand torrential downpours, and submersion in water.

"The X100 withstood the most difficult and demanding test of all — use by our troops in Iraq," says Chris Bade, Raytheon RCI president. "This unique thermal imager has already proven its tremendous value in the field." the imager also is appropriate for law enforcement."

"The best compliment the military gave us was to add a couple hundred more," Kummer says, adding that soldiers using the camera have told him that they like the device "for its size, weight, simplicity of use, and affordability."

The X100 is designed for easy use on the move. It turns on and off with one button, focuses easily, has a liquid-crystal display and eyecup that allows image viewing even when the user is wearing glasses, face shield, or a gas mask. It also does not illuminate the user's face, which is crucial in surveillance operations when a user would not want their presence or position revealed by the glow of a camera, Raytheon officials say.

Raytheon engineers developed the camera with the military in mind about two years ago, Kummer says. Now, Raytheon officials are selling the device off the shelf for law enforcement and homeland security applications.

For more information on the X100 contact Raytheon Infrared at www.raytheoninfrared.com.

Mountain Optech finds niche with rugged DVD drives

By John McHale

LONGMONT, Colo. — Most everyday Americans who own a DVD player treat it as one of the most delicate items in the house, never letting anyone under the age of 12 even touch it; they would never think of sending it off to be used in harsh military environments, but engineers at Mountain Optech do just that with their rugged CD/DVD-ROM and RAM drives.

CD/DVD-ROM technology helps distribute very large, stable databases and maps in military applications, says Rod Copeland, director of operations for Mountain Optech. The drives Copeland's team designs have found their way into applications such as the U.S. Department of Defense's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program.

Other Mountain Optech rugged DVD drives are installed in military applications of the Italian and Australian navies. "As far as we know we are the only ones who ruggedize DVD drives, and because it is so difficult to do people would rather come to us than do it themselves," Copeland says.

These rugged drives can read thousands of text, graphic, multimedia, or audio CDs, Mountain Optech officials say. Recorded data is tamper-proof and has a projected storage life of 10 years or more. The device's temperature range is –20 to 60 degrees Celsius and the drives have a mean-time-between-failure rate of 50,000 hours.

Mountain Optech buys commercial DVD drives, then ruggedizes them for use in harsh environments for military applications.
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Mountain Optech buys commercial DVD drives then ruggedizes them for use in harsh environments, Copeland explains. The drives are ruggedized through the opto-mechanical assembly by placing things such as isolators inside the drive to help protect it in high shock and vibration. Company engineers use thermal containment for when the drives operate in cold temperatures, Copeland adds.

The device's size and ruggedization level depends on the customer's requirements; the bigger the box the more rugged Mountain Optech engineers can make the drive, Copeland says. It is a commercial device customized for rugged applications, he adds.

The discs themselves still require careful handling, Copeland says. Mountain Optech engineers add no extra capability to the DVD drives, such as the ability to read scratched discs, he continues. Whether or not a drive has this capability depends on the manufacturer, Copeland says.

Most scratches extend between the outer diameter of the disc and the inner diameter and the system can usually adjust and read the data, Copeland explains. When scratches are circular and go around the disc is when they can cause real problems and sometimes make the disc unreadable, he adds.

The Mountain Optech drives also successfully passed a series of tests, run in conjunction with Rockwell Collins Passenger Systems, for FAA DO-160D qualification of their rugged drive. The initial order of drives will be used as part of commercial In Flight Entertainment systems.

The CD/DVD-ROM operates as a part of the Rockwell Collins Total Entertainment System (TES) aboard commercial aircraft. The drive for Rockwell also includes a built-in test controller circuit board, which provides intelligence to the drive. This feature enables continuous monitoring of temperature, AC/DC power, high/low temperature warnings, and elapsed time indication for preventative maintenance, Mountain Optech officials say.

For more information on Mountain Optech's rugged DVD drives contact the company by phone at 303-678-9898, by e-mail at [email protected], or online at www.mountainoptech.com.

Optoelectronics in brief

DRS IR sensors used for space-based research instruments

Infrared sensors from the DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems unit in Anaheim, Calif., were part of two of the three astronomical instruments supporting the NASA Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) that launched in late August. SIRTF is the largest infrared telescope ever launched into space. The DRS-produced focal-plane arrays (FPAs) are part of the Infrared Spectrograph and the Multi-band Imaging Photometer, two of the SIRTF's three science instruments, to provide imaging in the long-wavelength region up to 40 micrometers. DRS's FPAs record the position, intensity, and wavelength of radiation of spatial objects. The SIRTF observatory is expected to be a thousand times more sensitive than Earth-based infrared telescopes. Sensor arrays and infrared detectors will give SIRTF the ability to map large complex areas and measure spectra at least one million times faster than any other space-borne infrared telescope. For more information contact DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems by phone at 714-762-7377, 714-762-2885, by e-mail at [email protected], by post at 3330 East Miraloma Ave., Building 222, Anaheim, CA 92806, or online at www.drs.com.

StockerYale offers new LED lighting source

StockerYale Inc. of Salem, N.H., is offering a new light-emitting diode (LED) called chip-on-board reflective array — otherwise known as COBRA. This LED illumination system is for machine vision and inspection applications that require continuous operation, superior wall-plug efficiency, and increased light output, company officials say. Applications include replacing high-speed Web or automotive lighting where there are halogen, sodium, or incandescent technologies. StockerYale's COBRA LED line array consists of a line light that is 150 mm in length, has a 3-mm LED pitch with an integrated lens array, and is 80 percent brighter than normal chip-on-board technology, company officials say. For more information contact StockerYale by phone at 800-843-8011, by fax at 603-893-5604, by e-mail at [email protected], by post at 32 Hampshire Road, Salem, NH 03079, or online at www.stockeryale.com.

OFS demonstrates 10-gigabit data flow over multimode fiber

Experts at OFS of Norcross, Ga., have demonstrated live 10-gigabit-per-second (Gbit/s) transmission over the company's LaserWave 500 multimode fiber over a distance of more than half a mile over an Intel TXN17201 XPAK optical transceiver. The demonstration was to show 10-Gbit/s data flow with high-speed 850-nanometer systems, company officials say. The Intel TXN17201 XPAK optical transceiver uses 10 Gbit/s 850-nanometer vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser technology to optimize costs for short-reach applications. For more information contact OFX by phone at 770-798-5555, by e-mail at [email protected], by post at 2000 N.E. Expressway, Norcross, GA 30071, or online at www.ofsoptics.com.

OIP Sensor to supply gun sights to Belgian military

OIP Sensor Systems of Oudenaarde, Belgium, is supplying 285 of the company's IRBIS 6x weapon sights to the Belgian army under terms of a contract awarded last August. The sights have night-vision capability, come with a variety of image-intensifier tubes, and are rifles and machine guns. For more information contact

OIP Sensor Systems by phone at 011-32-55-333-811, by e-mail at [email protected], or on online at www.oip.be.

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