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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Battlefield Displays

Today's Technology is Solid, Tomorrow's Stands to be Revolutionary
Aydin Display System
An Aydin display system deployed in the field.
Monocular Display
eMagin
A soldier system using a monocular display.
Monocular Display
eMagin
A monocular display can provide a depth of information in a small package.
OLEDS
eMagin
In addition to monocular displays, OLEDS are finding their way into compact sighting and observation systems.
OLEDS
eMagin
Flexible OLED Display
Universal Display Corporation
Flexible OLED display.
Flexible OLED Display
Universal Display Corporation
Flexible OLED displays have potential applicability in consumer, commercial and military applicaions.
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By Keith Reid

The digitization of the battlefield has been an ongoing process for a number of decades now. This trend is accelerating today with a ranged of digital data being provided the soldier on the ground -- from text, to imagery (both from remote reconnaissance platforms and line-of-sight weapons and surveillance systems), to the 3d visualization of terrain for navigation and mission planning.

The core technology that provides the final interface for this data is the display. LCDs replaced CRTs early on as the battlefield technology of choice due to weight, size, ruggedness and reliability issues. While LCDs have some issues as well in this demanding environment, in many applicaitons these can be minimized. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are coming up strong as a competitor to LEDs, however the technology has to mature further to become more mainstream. And somewhere down the road, are flexible OLEDs that bring the promise of wearable displays to life.

Currently, LCDs offer the major advantages of being a proven technology that is naturally rugged, and that has cost efficiencies associated with the high volume consumer markets. The goal, particularly with high volume ground-based systems is to take advantage of any commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) opportunities. That does not tend to be the case with aerial equipment where the needs can be more specialized and the cost factor compared to the aircraft for specialized hardware not nearly as great.

However, there are some limits to off-the shelf technology. The core of a military LCD display may come from a consumer fab, but the display system that is created from those core components is hardly comparable to the display found in your typical office. For example, the equipment is required to operate across a wide range of temperatures that would cover environments from the arctic north, to a steaming jungle to an arid, baking desert.

"We employ heaters in the units to go down to the low temperatures such as -31°C we also use certain techniques for increasing the storage temperature, which goes down to -56°C," said Larry Radvill, senior vice president, engineering at Aydin Displays Incorporated (Birdsboro, Penn.). Aydin has spent 35 years developing specialized display solutions for the military and other demanding markets. "On the upper end of the scale we operate at 49°C which with solar loading takes the temperature internally up to 70°C and we have to use certain techniques to get rid of heat inside the units which are sealed.

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