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Dynamic Frame Rate Throttling for High Resolution Low Light Cameras


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, 

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a Si:CMOS chip that is sensitive to low light applications that demonstrates frame rate throttling based on ambient light level conditions. 

DESCRIPTION: Current Si:CMOS low light imaging technology has matured to the point where it is relevant for military missions. However, at the lowest light levels, these sensors still suffer from a lack of photons in the VIS-NIR waveband. For the dismounted Soldier, this can cause a lack of situational awareness in the lowest light conditions (overcast starlight, building interiors, etc.). This topic will address this shortcoming by demonstrating the feasibility of frame rate throttling based on ambient light conditions. Using a Si:CMOS chip that is sensitive to low light conditions, the associated readout integrated circuit (ROIC) should be capable of dynamically changing frame rates based on the amount of available light in order to maximize Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) while avoiding saturation. This should support frame rates from 240 Hz down to 15 Hz based on the light level available and be able to throttle in two frame times or less. Solutions that also provide dynamic pixel area aggregation are preferred, but not required. This would have sufficient resolution for situational awareness applications and would be able to fit on a small UAV or be carried on a helmet. These and other potential applications align closely with the Soldier Lethality Army Modernization Priorities. 

PHASE I: The vendor shall show technical feasibility through design, modeling, and analysis. The design shall be optimized to operate in low ambient light conditions. Demonstrate a clear path to achieving manufacturability and to meeting small SWAP-C goals. 

PHASE II: Produce the ROIC solution designed in Phase I and integrate into prototype imager system. Accompany the imager on at least one field event to observe frame rate throttling performance. 

PHASE III: Refine product developed in Phase II into a Standards Compliant Low Light Level Camera (SCL3C)-type module for integration into military applications. Military applications can include dismounted Soldier and autonomous vehicle mobility. This topic supports SL (e.g., IVAS/Digital Soldier, SBS, Smart Sight, ENVG-B), NGCV (e.g., OMFV, RCV), and FVL (e.g., FARA). Nonmilitary commercialization opportunities would include autonomous navigation and integration into scientific CMOS imaging systems. 


1. Choi, B.-S, et al. (2017). A Low-power CMOS Image Sensor Based on Variable Frame Rate Operation. Journal of Semiconductor Technology and Science. 17. 854-961.

KEYWORDS: LLL, Low Light Level, Imaging, Camera, ROIC, Frame Rate 

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