The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is encouraging proposals for the development of advanced helmet-mounted and clip-on camera systems for dismounted soldiers, as part of its pixel network for dynamic visualisation (PIXNET) programme.

Using existing cameras and sensors, the portable systems will be designed to combine all mission critical outputs of visible, near infrared and infrared sensors into a single shot under all weather and visibility conditions.

The resulting image will be viewable on the pilot’s heads-up display (HUD), and can possibly be shared throughout other small combat units to improve situational awareness and also enable threat detection and identification in the battlefield.

Fusion of currently used systems, each functioning independently of one another, into a single-shot multiband device is expected to lessen logistic burden on deployed troops.

DARPA PIXNET programme manager Nibir Dhar said the programme would seek innovations for merging reflective and thermal bands for maximum visibility during the day or night, followed by its packing for increased portability.

"What we really need are breakthroughs in aperture design, focal plane arrays, electronics, packaging and materials science."

"What we really need are breakthroughs in aperture design, focal plane arrays, electronics, packaging and materials science," Dhar added.

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"Success will be measured as the minimisation of size, weight, power and cost of the system and the maximisation of functionality."

Sensors developed through PIXNET programme will be designed to support wireless integration with an Android-based smartphone for image fusion and networking among units, with reduced power, size, energy consumption and operating costs.

Those submitting proposals are also encouraged to design required applications for achieving the desired functionality for phone and camera, as well as focusing on sensor development.

DARPA has also invited applicants to devise plans for advancing the low-cost helmet-mounted system into manufacturing phase, and set up a preferred cost goal of $3,300 for each unit with an expected development of 10,000 units a month.

Image: PIXNET sensors will combine all critical visible, infrared images into a single shot. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.