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Air Force funds more research on camera for airborne surveillance

Jason Hannon, (Toyon Research Corp.), and Greg Wagner (FLIR-EOC Inc.) test a high-definition, short-wave infrared camera. The Air Force Research Laboratory, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is managing the project to ultimately provide the warfighter with enhanced airborne surveillance. (Courtesy photo)

Jason Hannon, (Toyon Research Corp.), and Greg Wagner (FLIR-EOC Inc.) test a high-definition, short-wave infrared camera. The Air Force Research Laboratory, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is managing the project to ultimately provide the warfighter with enhanced airborne surveillance. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The need for unmanned aerial vehicles that can provide 24-hour surveillance and deliver understandable imagery still exists among Air Force warfighters. The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program office recently provided nearly $750,000 of follow-on funding for a SBIR effort that will give the warfighter a high-definition, short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera for airborne surveillance applications.

The objective of this SBIR Phase II follow-on contract is maturation of the technology and manufacturing readiness. Toyon Research Corp., located in Goleta, California, and its subcontractor, FLIR Systems, will be transitioning Phase II SBIR technology into a high-definition SWIR camera. The effort will include the design and fabrication of a high-definition SWIR camera using the latest in small pixel-pitch, high-definition focal plane array technology. The novel camera components to be designed under this program include the SWIR lens assembly, camera housing, back-end electronics, sensor configuration and control, imagery data serialization and other associated algorithms.

"With this additional effort, we are expecting development of a very compact, high definition SWIR camera that exceeds the performance of the contractor's currently available systems in resolution, frame-rate and signal-to-noise ratio," said AFRL's Anthony Absi, who is managing the project. "It will also be smaller, lighter, and more powerful."

Additionally, officials say the modular design will reduce the complexity of these types of systems and enable better performance in small, low-cost sensor gimbals.

"We are anticipating that the SBIR Commercialization Readiness Program funding will enable us to see a transition of this work to a commercial product and, eventually, get it into the hands of the Air Force warfighter," Absi added.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs are mission-oriented programs that integrate the needs and requirements of the Air Force through research and development topics that have military and commercial potential. The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) through small businesses of 500 or fewer employees.  The STTR program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities. 

Since 2006, the has directly linked Air Force centers to Air Force Research Laboratory technical points of contact to identify and evaluate Air Force needs and innovative solutions.  Its primary objective is to accelerate the transition of SBIR/STTR-developed technologies into real-world military and commercial applications.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $300 million in funding for research and development activities by small businesses annually.  With this budget, the Air Force funds research from the early stages of concept development until it transitions to military or commercial use.

For more information about these programs, call the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Office at 1-800-222-0336, email info@afsbirsttr.com, or visit the website at www.afsbirsttr.com.