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Light Secure, See-Through Display




ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMM-113.5, Product Manager Optics and Non-Lethal Systems (ONS), MCPC 240111

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop, demonstrate and manufacture low size, weight, and power (SWaP) display and optical technologies for presentation of enhanced vision system imagery for dismounted Marine mobility (i.e., movement in darkness and degraded visibility environments) and target acquisition, and electronic display symbology for command, control, and navigation applications, while retaining the ability to see the outside world in a manner that does not reveal the operator’s location via stray light emissions. This topic addresses energy efficiency and operational costs by combining the functionality of multiple display devices.


DESCRIPTION: Marines utilize low light imaging sensors in the form of night vision goggles (NVGs) to conduct movement, target acquisition, and manual tasks in conditions of low ambient light. The most commonly utilized NVG is the AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device (see Ref 1). The majority of NVGs occlude the eye when in use, and must be rotated over the head or detached when entering environments of high ambient light to allow the Marine to have an unrestricted field of view (FOV). The transition from bright and dark environments and corresponding stowing and re-engagement of NVGs creates periods of vulnerability as the Marine’s attention is temporarily diverted to make the adjustment. Similarly, hand held command, control, and navigation devices, such as Global Positioning System receivers, typically require supplemental illumination to view, such as a backlit display or flashlight. However, this could potentially reveal location at night and inhibit local situational awareness and use of individual weapons when hands and attention are occupied. The predominant example of see-through displays applied to NVGs is the AN/PVS-21 Low Profile Night Vision Goggle (LPNVG) (see Ref 2). The LPNVG optically folds the output of standard night vision image intensifiers, which are offset to the side of the head, to partially transparent display surfaces in front of the operator’s eyes overlaying the images onto the outside world. Visible light emissions are not readily apparent through the display surfaces when observed from in front of the operator. However, the relatively low transparency of LPNVG display surfaces limit the ability to acquire targets when ambient conditions are too bright for night vision sensors and too dark to clearly see through the display. Monochrome head mounted displays (HMDs) developed for pilotage applications are increasingly available, and may be extremely bright (1,500 candelas per square meter or greater) for daytime viewing, but color HMDs utilize broadband light sources with partial reflectance optical surfaces that allow light to pass out the front. Light emission limitations are not critical for pilotage applications due to the extreme distance of any potential observer; however, light security is essential to dismounted operations to prevent hostile forces from detecting Marines by the illumination from their night vision or other electronic display devices reflecting off their eyes and skin.

The U.S. Marine Corps in interested in innovative approaches in the development of light secure, see-through display technology (ies) amenable to monocular and binocular configurations while providing the ability to view high resolution (described below), full color (red/green/blue - no less than 256 greyscale levels per color) video imagery, while transmitting no less than 50 percent of incoming ambient light (average across visible spectrum) to the operator without noticeable haze, distortion, or optical seam line artifacts. Light security shall be from the perspective of an observer with unaided, dark-adapted eyes standing ten meters in front of the operator and attempting to detect illumination on surfaces (skin, eyes) directly occluded by the transparent display when operating at nighttime brightness settings and clear starlight (0.0007-0.002 lux ambient illuminance). For all proposed concepts the display optics, light engine (light emitting array or illumination source and modulation system), and associated minimal structural framework to maintain alignment and spacing between elements shall be no greater than 250 grams per eye.

For the purposes of Phase II demonstration, the weight specification does not include articulating structures for head mounting and optimal positioning of the display in front of the eye(s), or associated application platform electronics, protective enclosures, heat dissipation, cabling, and power sources. Proposed light engine and associated alignment/spacing structures concepts shall not occlude viewing below or to the sides of the display optic. Transparent or wireframe structures concepts that do not significantly occlude vision are acceptable, but shall count toward the total weight. The display shall require no more than 1 Watt of power per eye for the light engine (assumes the use of a Low Voltage Differential Signaling or similar interface for pre-processed video inputs) when operating at moonlit night (0.27-1 lux ambient illuminance) viewing brightness and presenting full resolution imagery (all pixels active at an average of 50 percent peak night viewing brightness) at no less than 60 frames per second. The display should (objective specification) require no more than 1 Watt of power per eye when presenting symbology, such as GPS waypoints, compass headings, and/or target locations, comprising no less than 0.2 percent of active pixels viewable under indoor lighting operating brightness (320-500 lux ambient) conditions. Thresholds are specifications that meet requirements; while objectives are specifications that exceed minimal requirements and are of a particular interest.

The display should have a maximum brightness sufficient for viewing symbology outdoors under full daylight (10,000-25,000 lux) conditions. The display active area shall have a horizontal FOV no less than 48 degrees, a vertical FOV no less than 40 degrees, and a resolution of 38 to 50 pixels per degree. Eye relief and viewing offset/angle (eyebox) shall be sufficient to accommodate an operator wearing corrective vision or ballistic eyeglasses while running with the display attached to a ballistic helmet with a three- or four-point suspension system. The combined head-mounted weight of the Phase III demonstrator including optics, display, imaging sensor, display driver electronics, enclosure, and adjustable helmet mounting hardware should not exceed 1 kilogram in either monocular or binocular configurations. Computing elements for symbology generation and sensor image post-processing for display inputs, and battery power supply may be body-worn, and should not exceed 7 kilograms weight.

Potential light engine technologies amenable to power efficient low brightness, high pixel count imagery and high brightness, low pixel count symbology include, but are not limited to, organic light emitting diode arrays and microelectromechanical raster scanning laser systems (see Ref 3 and 4). Examples of lightweight display optics include, but are not limited to, multi-layer holographic waveguides, free-form prisms, and ellipsoidal mirrors (see Ref 5 and 6). Of particular interest are concepts that minimize forward protuberance, maximize airflow to prevent fogging, and prevent pooling of rain or other liquids within the active viewing area while standing or prone. Proposers should be mindful that any proposed display optic materials shall be ballistic polymers or shall incorporate structures that reduce hazardous flying debris when shattered and resistant to abrasion by blowing and hand-wiped sand and dust.


PHASE I: The small business will explore the application of innovative concepts for the development of light secure, see-through display technology (ies) amenable to monocular and binocular configurations that meet(s) the requirements as detailed in the Description above. The small business will demonstrate the feasibility of the concepts in meeting Marine Corps needs and will establish that the concepts can be developed into a useful product for the Marine Corps. As applicable, the company will conduct size, weight, and power analyses, optical modeling and will provide a preliminary design as a means of demonstrating the ability to meet or exceed the stated capabilities. Where feasible, and within the scope and resources of the Phase I effort, key technical concepts shall be demonstrated. The small business will also articulate a plan for Phase II development that identifies performance goals, key technical milestones, and, as appropriate, any technical risk reduction strategy (ies). The small business shall also provide a draft Phase II test and evaluation plan identifying any resources necessary to acquire required data for Phase II prototype design refinement.


PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II SOW, the small business will refine their designs and develop scaled prototypes with a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5, component and/or breadboard validation for evaluation in a relevant environment. The prototypes shall demonstrate the ability to meet required capabilities while utilizing optical elements with manufacturing and integration schemes representative of Phase III concepts. Simulated sensor imagery and command and control symbology may be in the form of pre-recorded inputs to the displays. The display mounting scheme shall be amenable to direct viewing of imagery and external scenery by an observer under the specified ambient lighting conditions. Low risk technologies (such as video graphics driver electronics) not part of the developmental effort that can be optimally scaled physically and for power consumption with available and proven techniques, may be represented by commercial components (e.g., a tethered general purpose computer and a high performance video graphics driver card that can be replaced with an embedded field programmable gate array solution in Phase III). As applicable, the small business will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Marine Corps use.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: If Phase II is successful the small business will be expected to support the Marine Corps in transitioning the technology for Marine Corps use. The company will fabricate ruggedized systems with a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6 (defined as system/subsystem model or prototype) for demonstration in an operationally relevant environment. Adjustable position helmet mounts will be required for evaluation to determine effectiveness without the demonstrator tethered to a fixed location. In addition to an integrated command and control symbology generator, an imaging sensor capable of demonstrating full resolution and frame rate scene presentation shall be utilized to simulate night vision capability in real-time. This can include low cost (less than $10,000) commercial silicon cameras with near-infrared cut-filters removed to permit non-visible flood illumination operation, and should be of unity magnification and aligned parallel to the display viewing angle. The company will support the Marine Corps for test and validation to certify and qualify the display and optical components for integration into future Marine Corps night vision goggle systems. As applicable, the company will prepare manufacturing plans and develop manufacturing capabilities to produce the product for military and commercial markets.


KEYWORDS: Head Mounted Display; See Through Display; Night Vision; Augmented Reality; Command and Control; Light Security

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