TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Weapons
OBJECTIVE: To improve sensor survivability and operations by developing blocking technologies that protect detectors from damaging/blinding spikes in signal intensity.
DESCRIPTION: Many insects have very wide field-of-view (FOV) compound eyes that can see almost everywhere at once enabling them to maintain situational awareness, disambiguate optical flow, etc. This feature has a potential drawback, however, since the sun (or moon) is often going to be in their FOV, which can damage photosensitive cells and/or significantly reduce sensitivity in that region of their vision. As is common, however, such animals have evolved a clever mechanism for dealing with this problem: they have blocking pigments that move in response to bright sources, optically reducing or blocking the bright signal in the affected region of their FOV while maintaining sensitive vision in unaffected regions. New multi-aperture optical systems are leading to novel weapon seeker concepts that have very wide FOVs and therefore may have to deal with bright sources such as the sun that can damage focal plane arrays and cause significant undesirable effects such as blooming. This topic solicits innovative approaches to addressing this issue for wide FOV multi-aperture optical systems. The system must be able to quickly respond to bright sources by blocking or reducing the energy in that region of the FOV while maintaining sensitive imaging capability elsewhere. Such a system may also present the opportunity to establish an optical communication channel with another object in the FOV, which is of interest. Current state of the art for the visible band implements an approximate 1010 reduction in intensity in a ±3º exclusion zone within a ±45º field of view. The Air Force will prioritize novel concepts that at least double this field of view while maintaining similar optical performance. Response time for switching the optical exclusion zone of < 100µs is desired. The Air Force anticipates that no government furnished property will be required for the effort and that all development will take place at the contractor facilities.
PHASE I: Develop the concept and preliminary design. Build a breadboard system to test and demonstrate the concept. The preliminary design should be consistent with an optical sensor for a small unmanned vehicle with total volume < 70 in3 excluding any needed power source.
PHASE II: Further develop the Phase I system and create a prototype design. Build the prototype system and test. Demonstrate the capability and deliver the prototype.
PHASE III: Partner with industry partner to develop the Phase II prototype into a commercial product and market it. Commercial applications may include automotive and non-military aerospace sectors.
1: Stavenga, Doekele G. "Pigments in compound eyes." Facets of vision. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 1989. 152-172.
2: Ribi, Willi A. "Ultrastructure and migration of screening pigments in the retina of Pieris rapae L.(Lepidoptera, Pieridae)." Cell and tissue research 191.1 (1978): 57-73.
KEYWORDS: Sensor Survivability, Optical Communication Channel