This new and innovative approach to infrared hyperspectral imaging spectrometer uses micro-optics and will be explained in this paper. The micro-optics are made up of an area array of diffractive optical elements where each element is tuned to image a different spectral region on a common focal plane array. The lenslet array is embedded in the cold-shield of the sensor and actuated with a miniature piezo-electric motor. This approach enables rapid infrared spectral imaging with multiple spectral images collected and processed simultaneously each frame of the camera.
This paper will present our optical mechanical design approach which results in an infrared hyper-spectral imaging system that is small enough for a payload on a mini-UAV or commercial quadcopter.
The diffractive optical elements used in the lenslet array are blazed gratings where each lenslet is tuned for a different spectral bandpass. The lenslets are configured in an area array placed a few millimeters above the focal plane and embedded in the cold-shield to reduce the background signal normally associated with the optics.
We have developed various systems using a different number of lenslets in the area array. Depending on the size of the focal plane and the diameter of the lenslet array will determine the spatial resolution. A 2 x 2 lenslet array will image four different spectral images of the scene each frame and when coupled with a 512 x 512 focal plane array will give spatial resolution of 256 x 256 pixel each spectral image. Another system that we developed uses a 4 x 4 lenslet array on a 1024 x 1024 pixel element focal plane array which gives 16 spectral images of 256 x 256 pixel resolution each frame.