Raytheon Vision Systems (RVS) has awarded a research & development (R&D) contract to LightPath Technologies to develop processes for low cost production for thermal infrared sensors.

The $1.1m order is in support of the $13.4m Low Cost Thermal Imaging Manufacturing (LCTI-M) programme contract awarded to RVS in December 2011 by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The programme aims to develop wafer scale manufacturing processes that will make thermal imagers affordable and accessible to every warfighter.

Raytheon Network Centric Systems’ Advanced Programs vice president Charlie Cartwright said making high-performance thermal imagers available to every vehicle, surveillance device and dismounted soldier will provide enhanced situational awareness in low light, adverse weather and obscured environments.

The wafer scale manufacturing processes will eventually reduce the size, weight, power and cost of thermal cameras so that they can be integrated into a range of military devices for real-time target recognition, acquisition, and network sharing of data.

Due to small size and low power requirements, the imagers can be easily integrated into small, hand-held units including cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), rifle sights, helmets, eye glasses, micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as well as other form-factor devices.

Wider availability would enhance situational awareness and information sharing among dismounted soldiers and individual intelligence personnel at the tactical edge of the battlefield.

The captured images can also be shared instantly for intelligence analysis, surveillance and reconnaissance, or mission command.
The LCTI-M programme aims to bring the cost of micro-camera, optics, manufacturing, and software to under $500 per unit, with 25g as the target weight of the device, as opposed to the existing devices, which are bulky and cost about $1000 to several thousand dollars each.