The warfighter's effectiveness in current and future combat missions can be severely limited by inadequate target discrimination, and an inability to view the operational scene with larger fields of view and longer standoff distances. For ground combat and near-ground support operations where tactical information is urgently needed to make timely decisions, there is a significant capability gap for day and night intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Existing electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) capabilities have already proven to be important and necessary tools for warfighters. However, current imaging systems have narrow fields of view and narrow wavelength sensitivity with relatively poor resolution. These limitations highlight the need for cameras sensitive to larger ranges of wavelengths and capable of high-resolution imaging.
DARPA’s PIXNET program aims to develop a low size, weight and power (SWaP) digital infrared (IR) camera that can render real-time, single and fused, multi-band imagery in a portable package. This program also seeks to significantly reduce the manufacturing cost for IR sensors with the goal of making the technology deployable by all warfighters. Achievement of program goals for cost and small form factor would enable new applications, such as surveillance with small UAVs, multi-spectral weapon sights, and handheld surveillance systems.
Imagers simultaneously sensitive to different IR wavelengths could help warfighters discern targets of interest, thereby reducing the need for data processing while also improving the display. A key objective of the PIXNET program is to demonstrate that real-time image fusion can be achieved with on-board resources within a low-power budget.
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