Smart FPAs mimic human eye in image processing

GOLETA, Calif. - A new class of infrared focal plane array (FPA) called "smart" FPAs is under development at Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC), a Hughes Electronics company in Goleta, Calif. The smart FPAs imitate human eye capabilities, such as focusing, visualization, and processing.

Jan 1st, 1997

By Kelly Sewell

GOLETA, Calif. - A new class of infrared focal plane array (FPA) called "smart" FPAs is under development at Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC), a Hughes Electronics company in Goleta, Calif. The smart FPAs imitate human eye capabilities, such as focusing, visualization, and processing.

The goal of the program is to enable large-area FPAs to preprocess data at the sensor in image processing applications such as target detection, and pass somewhat refined information to dedicated signal-processors, explains John Caulfield, a senior systems engineer at SBRC.

The FPAs will eliminate the need to process all the raw pixel data and will reduce overall system complexity. This translates to corresponding reductions in size, weight, and power consumption, and can make advanced military applications affordable, Caulfield says.

Standard FPAs serialize electrical signals from thousands of pixels and output in just a few data lines, Caulfield explains. "This transmission occurs at very high bandwidths, thus creating computational bottlenecks at the system level. On the other hand, smart FPAs include neural-like functions within the detector`s readout electronics. These functions provide an enabling technology which includes temporal and spatial filtering to dramatically lower the bandwidth and eliminate the computational bottlenecks," he says.

One potential application is long-range surveillance from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV`s), although Caulfield claims the smart FPA is not yet tied to any existing large program at Hughes.

Designers could situate several Smart FPAs in a micropod on the underside of the UAV and each would provide high resolution coverage over a wide field of view. The UAV would transmit only the pertinent battlefield features back to the control platform for intelligence analysis, enabling the system to operate efficiently with a narrowband RF link.

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