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Compact, Configurable, Real-Time Infrared Hyperspectral Imaging System


There is a compelling DoD need to create a low cost, compact and reconfigurable infrared imaging spectrometer that can operate in real time, and in a variety of backgrounds and ambient conditions. Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) systems have been fielded for the detection of hazardous chemical and explosives threat materials, tag detection, friend vs. foe detection (IFF) and other defense critical sensing missions. Such systems currently exist in airborne and ground sensing configurations in short-wave, mid-wave and long-wave infrared (IR) spectral regions. They are based on HSI sensor hardware architectures combined with multivariate analysis algorithms [1,2]. While these imaging systems can provide sensitive and specific detections of targets and identification of materials in complex backgrounds, they are typically large, costly to field, operate, and support, and generally do not operate in real-time. Those systems that operate in real time typically compromise some degree of freedom, such as the number of spectral bands, image definition, or number of targets being detected. Reconfiguring the system to an alternative set of targets or backgrounds requires significant effort, which makes adjusting to dynamic mission conditions impractical. Nonetheless, intelligence based on HSI systems has proven very useful, resulting in an increasing demand for it; but due to the high cost of procuring and maintaining an HSI system, they are only available to privileged users. Specifically, what is needed is an IR hyperspectral imaging and sensing capability with the following characteristics: (1) rapidly field-configurable operation to adapt to different targets or operating conditions; (2) real-time, target on-the-move operation, ideally at the frame rate of the focal plane array camera; (3) real-time automated target signature detection, performed within the system to dramatically reduce data bandwidth, downlink transmission bandwidth requirements, and post-processing; (4) significantly reduced cost, size, and weight; and (5) imaging operation with minimal support infrastructure. The resulting system should be able to support one or more of the following missions: counter IED detection, IFF, bio/chemical WMD detection and tag, track and locate (TTL) missions. The performance goals of such a system are: • Frame rate 10 frame per second (fps) or greater • Free spectral range covering at least one band of 850-1700 nm for SWIR, 3-5μm for MWIR, 8-11+μm for LWIR • Form factor, suitable for operation as a handheld, wearable or UAV-mounted configuration • Weight less than 5 lbs. • Run time greater than 4 hours, with power source included in weight metric • Cost of less than $50,000 in volume of 1000 or more • High Definition Chemical Image - Megapixel (1Kx1K) or greater • Low latency of less than or equal to 100ms • Interface compatible with XML schema • Autonomously link to existing military architecture or infrastructure (e.g., cell phone). In summary, a Compact, Mission-Configurable, on-Demand, Real-Time, Infrared Hyperspectral Imaging Sensor is envisioned. It is acknowledged that all spectral ranges may not be accommodated in a single sensor, and that the objective vision may not be fully realizable during the course of a Phase II SBIR. However, concrete and compelling hardware/software progress towards this vision is expected to be demonstrated. PHASE I: Design a concept for an infrared hyperspectral imaging system capable of real-time, and multi-mission configurable-on-demand operation with specific performance objectives as described. Develop an analysis of predicted performance, and define key component technological milestones. Establish performance goals in terms of parameters such as time of operation; probability of detection and false alarm; detection time; spectral range; image quality; field of view; day, night and obscured condition visualization; image frame rate; and size, weight and power (SWaP). In addition, provide a contrast with existing hyperspectral imaging systems. Produce an initial mockup, possibly using 3D printed parts and/or solid models, showing the system form factor at the preliminary design level. Phase I deliverables would include: • A description of the system design and functions mapped to real-time imaging system requirements, • A performance assessment against existing approaches, • An evaluation of key tradeoffs, and • A risk reduction and demonstration plan. • Final report/phase II proposal PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a prototype real-time mission-configurable infrared hyperspectral imaging sensor system with the specified features, including on board detection, and operation at 10 fps or higher sampling rate. Construct and demonstrate the operation of a laboratory prototype, which would have the core features needed to achieve mission configurability capabilities. Exercise relevant software functions and exposure to different mission conditions, including demonstration of ability to change system detection configurations against multiple different target sets through rapid field configuration. Perform additional analyses as needed to project eventual performance capabilities. Phase II deliverables would include: • A final design with all drawings, simulations and modeling results; • One prototype of the real-time chemical imaging system; • Software applications as needed; • Performance data compared with performance and environmental goals; and • Schedule with financial data for program execution. • Preliminary and critical design reviews • Monthly reports PHASE III: As described above, the military utility of the data and intelligence that is generated by the current large and costly systems has been demonstrated. Driving the SWaP and cost down such that the system can be used by a dismount or on a small UAV will enable proliferation of the capability in the same way that night vision goggles or cell phones have become an integral part of the soldier’s arsenal. Requiring the system to be compatible with existing systems and data formats will help ensure more rapid acceptance and use. Commercial application of hyperspectral imaging has been increasing in parallel to military applications. These include agriculture, mining, medical imaging and diagnoses, environmental management, disaster management and hazard assessment. Like military applications, the cost and size of these systems limits their availability to all but the most privileged users. Driving the system cost and SWaP down would enable proliferation of these devices to a potentially large user base, including municipalities (police, fire, etc.), agriculture (farmers, land managers, etc.), and healthcare (health screening and microbiology).
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