The aim of the electro-optic systems theme of this research programme is to provide technology solutions for improved sensors in terms of performance, cost, size, weight, power consumption and reliability. In architectural terms, an EO sensor can be generalised as comprising an optical system to collect the radiation, a detector to convert it to an electrical signal, and processing to condition, analyse and/or display the information carried by the signal. Additionally, some systems may provide their own source of radiation, often a flashgun in simple cameras but more often a laser in military systems.
Remote EO sensing systems rely on detectors whose performance is determined fundamentally by their sensitivity to radiation and their signal-to-noise ratio. The performance of imaging sensors is additionally determined by spatial (angular) resolution and stability in the operating environment. Using a design that is tuned to be sensitive to particular features of objects of interest e.g. a laser wavelength, polarisation, or phase of the radiation can considerably enhance a sensing capability.
The aim of the DTC is to research areas where the desired defence S&T outcomes can be met. A key outcome is to provide sensing capability at longer ranges. This sensing capability includes the ability of the system to detect, recognise and identify potential targets. This can be by improved imagery to make the task easier on the operator or by automatic means. Algorithm development and sensor signal processing are essential elements of this ability. This area will also be addressed within the DTC.
To allow effective management and clarity of purpose, this research theme has initially been divided into 4 closely related sub-themes.
Detectors are a key component of EO systems, and the Novel Detectors sub-theme is concerned with technologies with potential to give real improvements in this specialist and diverse area.
The Active Imaging sub-theme addresses issues specific to the burgeoning class of possible applications for systems using lasers to enhance target acquisition.
The Advanced Optical Techniques sub-theme groups projects that aim to provide improved sensors by introducing new technologies into system designs.
The fourth sub-theme is Hyperspectral Sensing which is an example of an optical technology which is conceptually mature and which now requires “technology bricks” to allow it to move towards full development.
The projects in the initial programme have been selected by matching available technologies and resources to recognised capability gaps and priorities. It is intended that the programme will develop to encompass other emerging technologies when appropriate. At this stage, many areas such as post-detector processing and indirect sensing (e.g. using the effect of a target on its environment to establish its location) are not explicitly represented. The longer-term plan is that the research programme will grow into other related areas as opportunities arise to make significant progress.
The first phase of the DTC research programme has been planned in detail, and involves projects spanning timescales of between one and three years. The work has been grouped into a number of sub-themes that are summarised below, together with the planned contributors to the research programme.
The applicability of the research sub-themes to the desired defence S&T outcomes, as defined by MOD, is indicated according to the following codes: