Extreme-field-of-view surveillance imaging technology is goal of DARPA FDOS program

ARLINGTON, Va., 22 Jan. 2010. Electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop advanced high-resolution 3D imaging technology with dramatically wide field of view and depth of field in reconnaissance and surveillance applications.

Posted by John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 22 Jan. 2010.Electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop advanced high-resolution 3D imaging technology with dramatically wide field of view and depth of field in reconnaissance and surveillance applications.

The program is called Fine Detail Optical Surveillance (FDOS), and seeks to develop a fundamentally new battlefield optical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability for infantry soldiers and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can provide ultra high-resolution 3D images to help identify targets in hostile environments.

In essence, the program seeks to develop technology able to image and identify "a needle moving along the surface of a haystack," without the need to scan or focus the optical receiver, DARPA officials say. DARPA scientists want the ability to image a variety of surfaces and complexities under turbulent conditions.

The FDOS program will develop several different prototype systems able to provide imagery of moving targets at several different ranges and resolutions.

Current optical imaging systems that can provide high angular resolution are designed and optimized for tactical targets such as infrastructure, buildings, and vehicles, DARPA officials explain. These systems have limited applications as they are physically large and can only image a small volume of space without retargeting or refocusing the receiver optics.

The field of view of these conventional system is defined by the optical components, with the complexity of the design scaling exponentially with aperture size, while the dept of field is defined by the required target resolution, DARPA officials say. For 3D imaging systems, an additional constraint is in the complexity of the illumination system required to obtain the range measurement.

These constraints cannot be overcome by current system designs and are impractical for portable, small-scale operations, DARPA points out. Transforming existing optical system technology will require a departure from the traditional lens-based imaging approach to one that uses recent advances in focal-plane arrays, laser technology, and image-processing algorithms.

The FDOS program will develop systems small enough for portable operations, with depth of field and field of view large enough eliminate the need for steering or focusing to obtain high-resolution imagery.

DARPA officials say they expect to award two to four contracts for the first phase of the FDOS program.

Companies interested must send proposals to DARPA no later than 12 March 2010. E-mail questions and concerns to DARPA at DARPA-BAA-10-24@darpa.mil

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-10-24/listing.html.

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