AF research will improve camera for targeting munitions

  • Published
  • By Timothy Anderl
  • Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program Office
In order for an imaging munition to find and make its mark, a variety of information is required, including high-resolution video imagery.

Future Air Force munitions will likely feature wide field-of-view (WFOV) imaging seekers that provide Air Force warfighters several advantages over using traditional imaging seekers, including improved capability and lower cost.

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program office recently provided nearly $100,000 of additional funding for a SBIR effort that will give the warfighter a WFOV technology system.

The objective of this SBIR Phase II follow-on contract is to address critical sub-system technologies in the WFOV system and its biologically inspired Artificial Compound Eye (ACE) optical technology. Spectral Imaging Laboratory, located in Pasadena, California, will use the additional funding to address the data acquisition hardware and software requirements needed for image acquisition and processing, maturing the technology for the WFOV Seeker Program.

According to Dr. Nicholas Rummelt, an Air Force Research Laboratory researcher involved in the project, new ACE optical systems generate images from multiple sub-images that view different parts of the field-of-view, similar to the compound eye of an insect. Image processing is then required to seamlessly stitch together the sub-images and produce a smooth, easily read image. By implementing this processing within the camera system's data acquisition hardware, the video output quality improves significantly.

"The WFOV seeker concept was originally inspired by insects such as bees which use the optic flow field to control their flight and navigate. So one of the advantages of having a WFOV seeker is the potential for GPS-denied navigation," Rummelt said.

This program leverages more than $100,000 in additional AFRL project funds. These funds will help ensure the Phase II project graduates into a Phase III program that successfully transitions the technologies into military or private sectors.

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 nonprofit U.S. research institutions, such as universities.

Since 2006, the Commercialization Readiness Program has directly linked Air Force centers to AFRL 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.