Significant progress has been made over the past decade on uncooled focal plane array
(UFPA) technology development and production capacity at DRS as well as other
domestic and overseas suppliers. This resulted in the proliferation of uncooled IR
detectors in commercial and military markets. The uncooled detectors are widely used in
firefighting, surveillance, industrial process monitoring, machine vision, and medical
applications. In the military arena, uncooled detectors are fielded among diverse systems
such as weapon sights, driver enhancement viewers, helmet-mounted sights, airborne and
ground surveillance sensors including UAVs and robot vehicles. Pixel dimensions have
continually decreased with an increase in pixel performance.
This paper presents an overview of the DRS 25- and 17-micron pixel pitch uncooled VOx
detector technology development and production status. The DRS uncooled FPA
products include 320x240 and 640x480 arrays while the larger 1024x768 17-micron pitch
array is at engineering prototype quantities. Current production of the 25-micron pitch
320x240 and 640x480 arrays exceeds 5,000 units per month, supporting U.S. military
systems such as Army thermal weapon sights (TWS) and driver vision enhancers (DVE).
Next generation systems are moving towards the 17-micron pixel pitch detectors.
Advancement in small pixel technology has enabled the 17-micron pitch detectors performance to surpass their 25-micron pitch counterparts. To meet future production demand of the 17-micron pitch UFPAs, DRS has made significant investment in production infrastructure to upgrade its tools. These investments include a new DUV stepper, coater, and plasma etcher plus improvements in its manufacturing techniques to enhance yield. These advanced tools reduce the minimum line width in production below 0.35μm and are now being used to manufacture the 17-micron 320x240 and 640x480 arrays.
To further technology development, DRS continues to engage in R&D activities focusing on VOx microbolometer detector design, packaging, test capability, materials and fabrication processes to further improve the detector performance, reliability, producibility and yield. Some of the results are summarized in this paper.