Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has combined the results of recent advances in CMOS imaging sensor, signal
processing and embedded computing technologies to produce a new high performance military video camera. In this
paper we present the design features and performance characteristics of this new, large format camera which was
developed for use in military airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), targeting and pilotage
applications. This camera utilizes a high sensitivity CMOS detector array with low read noise, low dark current and
large well capacity to provide high quality image data under low-light and high intra-scene dynamic range illumination
conditions. The camera utilizes sensor control electronics and an advanced digital video processing chain to maximize
the quality and utility of the digital images produced by the CMOS device. Key features of this camera include: rugged,
small physical size, wide operating temperature range, low operating power, high frame rate and automatic gain control
for all-light-level applications. This camera also features a novel pixel decimation filter to provide custom image sizes
and video output formats.
Video cameras have increased in usefulness in military applications over the past four decades. This is a result of many advances in technology and because no one portion of the spectrum reigns supreme under all environmental and operating conditions. The visible portion of the spectrum has the clear advantage of ease of information interpretation, requiring little or no training. This advantage extends into the Near IR (NIR) spectral region to silicon cutoff with little difficulty. Inclusion of the NIR region is of particular importance due to the rich photon content of natural night illumination. The addition of color capability offers another dimension to target/situation discrimination and hence is highly desirable. A military camera must be small, lightweight and low power. Limiting resolution and sensitivity cannot be sacrificed to achieve color capability. Newly developed electron-multiplication CCD sensors (EMCCDs) open the door to a practical low-light/all-light color camera without an image intensifier. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp (BATC) has developed a unique color camera that allows the addition of color with a very small impact on low light level performance and negligible impact on limiting resolution. The approach, which includes the NIR portion of the spectrum along with the visible, requires no moving parts and is based on the addition of a sparse sampling color filter to the surface of an EMCCD. It renders the correct hue in a real time, video rate image with negligible latency. Furthermore, camera size and power impact is slight.
The primary mission of the upcoming HiRISE instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft is to better
understand the geologic and climatic processes on Mars and to evaluate future landing sites. To accomplish this goal, a high resolution space-based camera is being developed that employs a 0.5m aperture Cassegrain-type telescope coupled to a large focal plane array (FPA) measuring approximately 14" (L) x 2" (W) x 2" (D). The FPA is populated with 14 time delay and integrate (TDI) format custom charge-coupled device (CCD)-based detectors. The FPA includes
panchromatic, near infrared, and blue-green spectral channels. The panchromatic channel has 20,000 pixels in the cross track direction. Each color channel consists of 4,000 pixels in the cross track direction. The minimum ground sampling distance of all channels is 50 cm per pixel. The instrument’s instantaneous field of view is 1.43o x 0.1o. Over the 5-year mission, the FPA will map a portion of the surface of Mars with high spatial resolution and high signal-to-noise
ratio (>100:1 at all latitudes). Electronics are housed immediately behind the FPA, which yields a low noise, compact
design that is both robust and fault tolerant. Test and characterization data from the FPA and custom CCD-based detectors is discussed along with the results from performance models.