By Josh Perry, Editor
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ATL) in Adelphi, Md. have developed a new thermal imaging camera that recognizes polarization state, not just thermal radiation, and allows soldiers see objects in complete darkness that were previously undetectable.
Army researchers show an example of human identification using conventional and polarimetric thermal cameras. The thermal polarimetric image allows for fine facial details to emerge. (U.S. Army)
According to a report from the Army, the camera registers imagery based solely on polarization state rather than the intensity of the radiation. This allows the camera to register man-made objects that emit much lower levels of radiation and, also, radiation with much lower polarization.
While this technology can be used by soldiers to find booby traps, trip wires, and camouflaged targets at night, adding polarization also increases the details of a thermal image. This means that polarization removes the ghosting effect common in thermal images and allows users to see detailed facial features.
The Army has been working with Polaris Sensor Technologies, Inc. in Huntsville, Ala. on this project to overcome technical issues and to reduce the complexity that plagued earlier attempts to make this technology viable.
Researchers believe that commercialization of the new cameras will require “earlier micro-pixel FPA approach that proved so difficult, and is still extremely technically challenging. In spite of the difficulties, Polaris has successfully produced a micro-pixel-based camera using uncooled microbolometers and is demonstrating it in Army field tests and on drones.”
Next steps include miniaturizing the cameras and also making them more cost-effective.
The article added, “Earlier this year, ARL published work on similar research that focused on machine learning algorithms used to synthesize a more visible-like image. That research looked at these images as a way to facilitate the matching of visible watchlist imagery with conventional or polarimetric thermal imagery. This work, focusing on new and emerging camera technologies like the polarimetric thermal cameras, introduces another way to bring greater visual technology to Soldiers in total darkness.”
Learn more about this technology in the video below: