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On page 14, Contributing Editor Kristin Lewotsky gives us a look at how the defense market is leveraging new technologies and materials to create smaller, faster, cheaper imagers in the midwave and longwave IR spectral regions. One fascinating application is how many conventional imaging technologies are getting a new twist. In today's lean and mean military, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used for reconnaissance and even deployment of ordnance.
Ruggedization is a key here because of enormous strain on the sensors. One UAV, the ScanEagle, weighs around 15 kg. The aircraft experiences 35 Gs of force during its launch by catapult. At the end of a flight, it is captured by flying close to a vertical rope that snags its wingtip so it whirls to a stop, experiencing another 20G of force. The sensor payloads must be robust enough to survive these experiences again and again while continuing to provide high-resolution, high-speed imagery.
"With every month that goes by, detector technology becomes ever smaller, faster, and cheaper," Lewotsky writes. "Whether it is ferreting out improvised explosive devices, camouflaged vehicles, or enemy combatants, defense imaging technology stands ready to keep pace with the many challenges of today's battlefield."