Inadequate Displays, Shortage of Bandwidth Could Slow Advances in Night Vision Systems

By Jean, Grace V. | National Defense, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Inadequate Displays, Shortage of Bandwidth Could Slow Advances in Night Vision Systems


Jean, Grace V., National Defense


* The military's night-vision capabilities are going digital, but displaying and sharing those electronic feeds could become a problem in the future if the dissemination of battlefield video today is any indication.

The problem is two-fold: First, the display technologies for digital sensor feeds are not adequate. Secondly, the video and imagery consume too much bandwidth when being transmitted over communications networks.

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The Pentagon's laboratories and contractors are trying to improve the technologies and develop concepts for how to distribute and gather sensor feeds and video without tying up the network.

Troops today have a limited display capability with their enhanced night-vision goggles--optical devices that fuse low-level imaging with thermal infrared technology. While soldiers can see a target in the dark, they lack the ability to "fix" its location with coordinates, and they cannot transmit that information to anyone else, says Donald Reago Jr., principal deputy for technology and countermine systems at the Army's night-vision lab.

"Two-dimensional displays aren't going to cut it," says Tom Conway, a senior engineer in the Army's night vision, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition project manager office.

Future displays must have a three-dimensional grid so that soldiers can geospatially pinpoint target locations that they see through their devices, he says at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement night vision conference. To help soldiers find and fix targets, Reago expects that more handheld targeting devices will appear on the battlefield.

The Army night-vision lab in the past few years has focused on reducing the pixel sizes of uncooled thermal imagers, says Reago. He expects technology developments in the next five years to improve weapon sights so that they yield high-definition images. Scientists also are working on triangulating the weapon sight for improved range accuracy and advancing the sensor output so that the corresponding images appear in the soldier's helmet-mounted display.

The Army is aiming for a digital battlefield in which all of its sensor data is pooled in a gigantic network called the global information grid. …

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