Optical Eye Camera

Spectral Imaging Laboratory (SPILAB) has received a small business innovation research (SBIR) Phase II follow-on contract to continue work on the US Air Force’s (USAF) wide field-of-view (WFOV) seeker programme.

The $100,000 grant was awarded by the Air Force SBIR Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Office. It requires SPILAB to address critical sub-system technologies in the WFOV system and it’s biologically inspired artificial compound eye (ACE) optical technology.

The WFOV imaging seekers are expected to offer USAF personnel several advantages over using legacy imaging seekers in munitions, including improved capability and lower cost.

Air Force Research Laboratory WFOV seeker programme researcher Dr Nicholas Rummelt said: "The WFOV seeker concept was originally inspired by insects, such as bees which use the optic flow field to control their flight and navigate.

"One of the advantages of having a WFOV seeker is the potential for GPS-denied navigation."

"One of the advantages of having a WFOV seeker is the potential for GPS-denied navigation."

The new ACE optical systems would be capable of generating 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 implemented within the camera system’s data acquisition hardware to seamlessly stitch together the sub-images and produce a smooth, easily readable image.

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

The SBIR and STTR programmes were established in 1982 and 1992, respectively. They integrate the needs and requirements of the USAF through research and development topics that have military and commercial potential.

More than $300m in funding for research and development activities is provided by the mission-oriented programmes to small businesses every year.

Image: The artificial compound eye hybrid camera developed by Spectral Imaging Laboratory. Photo: courtesy of www.wpafb.af.mi.