DARPA tests breakthrough camera tech

The scientists at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency want to build high powered scopes and cameras for soldiers and Marines up to 2,000 times more powerful than current imaging capabilities.

A recent test found a camera could accurately read signs and license plates up to 270 yards away. Run under the Advanced Wide Field of View Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation (AWARE) program with Duke University, the recent test used a 1-gigapixel camera made up of 100 micro-cameras.

DARPA leaders want to eventually build a 50-gigapixel camera that would usher in the imaging capabilities that are 2,000 times more powerful than today’s cameras. The next step is to build a 10-gigapixel  camera capable of reading license plates 540 yards away.

Scientists and engineers understand the camera is no good to soldiers on the ground if it can’t work at night or in bad weather. These super cameras are being built for both.

DARPA officials have said they have seen major breakthroughs with their High Operating Temperature Mid-Wave Infrared (HOT MWIR), which will allow engineers to build more powerful  hand held thermal imagers and long-range thermal scopes. The HOT MWIR developments also fall under AWARE.

Research has found the “advances in cooling, novel high operating temperature detector design and small pixel spacing allow for a large format sensor in a small, low power package,” according to a DARPA statement.

“Never before has a MCT MWIR with ‘see spot’ capability been developed into such small handheld sights and potentially unequaled performance in future sniper scopes,” said Nibir Dhar, the DARPA program manager for AWARE. “The HOT-MWIR scope’s range is significantly farther than the current thermal weapon sights. Such a capability should lead to increased standoff distance for snipers and provide a significant advantage over adversaries.”

21 Comments on "DARPA tests breakthrough camera tech"

  1. The easier I can see you with US citizen.

  2. How about this notion. We keep this kind of information out of the press and until we have placed it into action and tested the product we all shut the hell up. Our enemies will now make plans/change plans based on what we put in the media. We shut our mounths and maybe they won't be ready for us and we can save some lives if we even have to confront them. What a novel concept. Unless this is something we are going to see in the commercial world, keep it quiet. DAMN!

  3. That tech would probably be usefull in heat seeking missiles too.

  4. They're taking a page out of the use of distant arrays for astronomical imaging.

    Then again, it *is* time to slash NASA's budget again…

    Edit: A concomitant advance in image recognition capability is needed to make this work, though having much higher quality images will help greatly. No use trying to make a mountain out of a molehill of five pixels. This isn't the movies now…

  5. The cameras in our spy satellites in the late 1960's could read the license plates of Russian trucks from 150 miles up…

  6. It's tech like this we need tin America to compete with Asian imports in general. I want a chance for a 10 giagpixel cam

    Anyways, put these super cams on everything. Drones, carriers, outposts, minesweepers.

    Surveillance and ability to learn from scenarios recorded are a huge factor in today's warfront.

    Hope this is not just hype.

  7. Police State.

  8. Film was used before digital cameras. The resolution of the film is at the molecule size, far higher than any digital camera will ever be on a per shot basis. Here is a web page explaining this fairly well. I think military film size was 70 mm? Anyways here is the site. http://kenrockwell.com/tech/film-resolution.htm

  9. My math may be off, but if a 10gpx camera/scope can read a plate at 540 yards, a 50gpx camera/scope can read at 2700 yards. Current record for longest range kill is at 2475 yards (according to Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_recorded_sni…. This record was achieved with a combination of great skill, excellent weaponry and perfect weather conditions (mountains of Astan) and is extremely difficult to reproduce at lower climes (Military Channel tried to recreate the 2nd longest- 2430 yds- shot also accomplished in Astan mountains, while in the AZ desert and could not spot the round to make adjustments- assuming this means the round was too far off trajectory and wouldn't succeed anyway). This means the limitations of weapon/weather put the stand-off distance closer in. How does an enhanced camera increase the stand-off distance?

  10. We will develop it here…then we'll send it to the Chicom's to be manufactured, all the time convincing ourselves that they won't steal our technology.

    This country is getting dumber and dumber…the Ruskies and Chicoms have got to be laughing their heads off.

  11. Lothar Loc'nar | August 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply

    Waiting on the smart weapons that recognize personnel from that far away and only hit them, singling them out with bio readings, it's one thing to see a human and another to verify it's the exact target.

    Also teleportation should definitely be on our agenda just tag the enemy and teleport him/her into the interrogation room.Tagged with nanobots and bio status/recognition.

    Wonder whatever happened to rail gun tech? (shrug)

    Also heat dispersion uniforms so the heat signature ammo cannot focus on our soldiers. With drones ability to p/u sweat emanations we will need a de-orderizer as well…lol

  12. several of the comments here are spot on The enemy knew our capabilities because we would use photos to warn them that certain activities were known and that we would discourage such activities with certain escalations of scale or force.

    Zeiss Jena was kept open by the Russians because they were one of the very few places they could grind the lenses necessary for their own satellites, which were quite inferior but serviceable. Don't know where the Chinese get their optics. This is all open source.

    and always assume the enemy is reading your mail.

  13. The fridge size cam that weights 1/2 a ton. Chill down. Many DARPA projects ended wrapped in dirts and spider webs.

  14. How about writing an article that shows a bit of technical literacy? 2000 times more powerful (repeated a few times) says nothing, since "power" is not defined. It's hard to tell what the article is about. Is it about the high temp thermal imager, or a multi-gigapixel optical imager, or what?

    Sigh

  15. You know, it's one thing to be vigilant of the government overstepping their boundaries, it's another thing to shout "police state" at a breakthrough in camera/optic development. The first is reasonable, the second is crazy.

  16. What our troops really need is a rifle scope with GPS/Gyro/Rangefinder abilities that can act as a target locator and designator. No more radioing in coordinates. If you can point at it with your rifle and lase it, you can call in CAS or indirect fire on it, uploading the coordinates to the battlefield network wirelessly and in real time.

    Combined with augmented reality, each soldier and vehicle crew member connected to the network would be able to see the locations being marked in their heads-up display, and react in kind with suppressive or direct-fire options.

    Oh, and since every scope would have a camera mounted in it, troops would be able to point their guns around corners and get a picture-in-picture view in their eyepiece of what their gun sees without exposing their body.

    Now THAT would be a game-changer. The trick is to make the electronics cheap enough.

  17. “A recent test found a camera could accurately read signs and license plates up to 270 yards away….The next step is to build a 10-gigapixel camera capable of reading license plates 540 yards away.”

    Really not very impressive distances… this story is probably missing some just info–just line many of the stories on here.

  18. LOL, weren't we reading license plates from space years ago, says the squint.

  19. The point is you could give this to a soldier and increase situational awareness. Is there a guy hiding in that building over there? Zoom in and get a better look.

  20. http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2012/07/

    "DARPA successfully tested cameras with 1.4 and 0.96 gigapixel resolution at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC. The gigapixel cameras combine 100-150 small cameras with a spherical objective lens. Local aberration correction and focus in the small cameras enable extremely high resolution shots with smaller system volume and less distortion than traditional wide field lens systems. The DARPA effort hopes to produce resolution up to 10 and 50 gigapixels—much higher resolution than the human eye can see. Analogous to a parallel-processor supercomputer, the AWARE camera design uses parallel multi-scale micro cameras to form a wide field panoramic image."

    I think we're not emphasizing the panoramic part of it as much as we should. Sure, one can develop high quality optics that can zoom, but at a severe situational awareness penalty.

    Combined with machine-learning systems to recognize distant objects, you could use it for target recognition or base security. And instead of employing clouds of cameras, all highly zoomed in but with terrible situational awareness, you have one camera that delivers high zoom panoramic images.

    Put it on a mast and use it for cav scouts. You acquire high quality imagery over a whole area, then zoom in to what you need, versus pushing up the mast and trying to find needles in a haystack.

    Another interesting possibility might be IED detection. A powerful panoramic camera could watch a swath of road ahead of a convoy, and image it to incredible fidelity. With panoramic mode, it wouldn't just be imaging a piece of roadside but with wide field you would get the road and off-road, so while checking the road for characteristics of someone putting a IED you might be able to see the wire leading off towards the house nearby.

    And of course, with one camera you can image a huge swath of busy street and won't be as vulnerable to blind spots from smaller, high-zoom, small-field-of-view surveillance cameras…

  21. What's the point of fielding a scope that outperforms its weapon? The ROI is a little sketchy too. This seems more applicable to small espionage drones than sniping platforms.

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