Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Smart Bullets to Feature SWIR Image Sensors

Princeton Infrared Technologies wins a Phase II SBIR contract with the US Army at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ. The contract will fund the development of a small size, weight, power, and cost SWIR camera for precision guided gun launched munitions based on successful technology demonstrations in Phase I.

Princeton Infrared Technologies, Inc. will develop a small, low power, lightweight, uncooled 640x512 on 8 μm pixel pitch SWIR seeker for the precise engagement of targets during daytime, nighttime, and poor environmental conditions. This camera will enable the user to image and track laser designators and pointers deployed on the battlefield.

The $999,982, 2-year project will develop a gun hardened small InGaAs SWIR camera with the processing capabilities and frame rates to meet the imaging requirements of tracking targets on board of a small high speed gun or mortar launched projectile.

President of Princeton Infrared Technologies, Martin H. Ettenberg, notes, “The advantages of InGaAs SWIR imagers are their ability to image at long range through atmospheric obscurants better than visible cameras without a requirement for cooling. They support very high frame rates for negating the effects of image blur in very fast moving munitions. In prior programs, we have demonstrated that InGaAs SWIR imagers survive gun launched mechanical shock which we will leverage in this development.

From the company's previous SBIR contracts talking about its camera design capabilities:

"We have shown that InGaAs SWIR imagers survive the 20,000g gun shock. We will be manufacturing a small 300 frame per second [camera] needed to meet the imaging needs of the user to track targets while inside small gun launched projectile.

The advantage of SWIR is its ability to image at long range through the atmosphere while being an uncooled technology thus minimizing the SWAP and cost. The removal of the cooling system and the minimum number of components to operate the imager with high speed imaging is necessary to survive launch shock. The imaging system will weight less than 60g with the battery and the lens while using less than 900mW of power.


  1. I find this quite worrisome to be honest.

  2. In the late 90's I was approached at Photobit to do something similar with a CMOS image sensor to provide greater range-accuracy for long shots. I decided this was not something I wanted to contribute to and declined. Sometimes it is not about the money esp. when it is clear the technology can be easily misused. Even if I was convinced by the need outweighing the potential for misuse, this is definitely something I would NOT advertise by a press release. We all have to abide by our individual moral compasses and I know my "true north" is not necessarily the right one or the same as anyone else's. It is just the right one for me.

    1. Eric,better have the projectile accurately hit enemy targets than civilian population or other infrastructure such as hospitals.

    2. That depends on who you consider the "enemy". For example protesting civilians could also be targeted more accurately. I guess this is the ever on going discussion about these type of "smart" weapons.

    3. Then it becomes a more fundamental question of whether you trust your army & government & the definition of enemy as defined by these institutions. Remember that in a battle, if you don't neutralize them first -- they very much will neutralize you!
      Again.. why restrict to ammunitions- any technology including image sensors or AI - can & will be used by both your government. So, would you stop working on it altogether?
      If you argue that morality is based on circumstances, then I would consider it to be moral to work on anything that helps reduce causalities/ collateral damage, as in this instance.

    4. Albert Theuwissen - Harvest ImagingOctober 25, 2019 at 4:22 PM

      "Mother, should I run for president?
      Mother, should I trust the government?"

      from "Mother" of Pink Floyd.

    5. Richard Feynman had some relevant words about the nature and use of technology (and I paraphrase here); "You find that the keys that unlock the gates of heaven are the same keys that unlock the gates of hell".

  3. The question remains: Do you want to help your government, or allow another government to develop the technology first? Inevitably, both will get it eventually.

    1. Indeed, that is the very question that has powered the arms race since the beginning of time, no doubt first asked by the devil himself, and posed in such a way that one might sound unpatriotic if answered without an enthusiastic yes. Binary questions like this one, and like "are you with us or against us" ignore the wide gray area between extremes. Personally, I spent time working on smart seekers for missiles at Hughes. I am comfortable with my contributions then, but also knew that life is short and there were non-lethal devices I could work on, such as for the US space program, that were equally patriotic and probably more impactful. Making smart bullets, in the end, will hardly stop collateral civilian deaths. Generally though, I do support technology that keeps our US forces and civilians safer and more secure from our real enemies, but I am tormented daily about the darkside use and abuse of such technology.


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