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Strengthening Situational Awareness

Bringing Visibility to the Invisible

Detect suspicious targets through foliage and camouflaged obscurants. Maintain persistent surveillance in complete darkness or in the face of glare from external light. Perform successful reconnaissance even through smoke, fog and haze.

These are just a few of the capabilities that our soldiers rely on and only thermal imaging sensors can provide.

Understanding this Superpower

Thermal sensors and cameras create video images by directing the waves to an electronic component known as a focal plane array. The FPA uses substances that generate electrical impulses when infrared energy strikes them. These impulses are then sent in the form of temperature values to an image-signal processor that turns them into video data for presentation on a display.

The primary source of infrared radiation is heat. Any object with a temperature above minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit radiates in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which occurs between the visible and microwave portions. Even objects we think of as frigid, such as an ice cube, emit infrared energy. Day or night, in any environment, every object, animate or inanimate, gives off infrared waves. 

Thermal (or electro-optical) technology, an area of expertise for DRS Technologies, has the distinct advantage of enabling humans to clearly detect the invisible. This technology provides clear images and video through smoke, haze, dust, light fog or on the darkest night, ideal for 24-hour military surveillance.

Two types of thermal technology are available, each with its own advantages. For some devices, DRS uses “uncooled” sensors, which are built with a vanadium oxide detector that allows a very small camera size, low weight, and minimal power requirements. The company’s “cooled” systems employ mercury cadmium telluride technology, which uses a highly efficient cryogenic cooler that enables the detector to sense smaller differences in infrared emissions. Cooled technology often can capture images at a greater distance, create a higher-resolution image, and operate with smaller optics.

DRS Pioneering Thermal Advancement

DRS Technologies has over a half of a century of infrared detector development, manufacturing and support. This development work has resulted in ground-breaking electro-optical systems and solutions for man-portable, ground-vehicle, airborne, maritime, and space applications.

Since the inception of infrared sensor integration, DRS Technologies has been at the forefront of advancement. From the birth of the first Forward Looking Infrared equipment in the 1960’s to the maturation of the world’s most powerful thermal imaging devices of today, DRS has built a legacy of thermal advancement. In 1998, DRS purchased portions of Texas Instruments and Hughes Aircraft's infrared sensors and systems businesses from Raytheon thereby providing DRS with detector technology that dated back to the 1960's and 1970's. Texas Instruments and Hughes were two of the premier infrared sensor and system providers at the time. These assets  became the cornerstone for DRS’ superior technology and advanced manufacturing processes.

The 2001 acquisition of the focal plane array business from Boeing provided the critical infrared know-how needed to complete the technology and capability portfolio. This business segment designed and manufactured infrared sensors and systems, and was the first licensee of the uncooled microbolometer technology from Honeywell. DRS obtained this license through the sale from Boeing. These important acquisitions from 1995 to 2001, combined with continued investment in research and development, allowed DRS to become a leader in infrared technology, design and manufacturing.

DRS has been a pacesetter in the push toward the next generation of low-power, compact, size, high reliability and high performance thermal imaging components and sensor systems. Advances in mid-wave and long-wave technology, along with patented flat spring cooler technology and pixel pitch design, have propelled DRS Technologies to the forefront of uncooled and cooled thermal imaging systems.   

The evolution of the DRS infrared sensors and systems results from the company’s roots in supporting the defense industry. Supplying reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition equipment for critical U.S. and international military operations on the ground, in the air and on open water, DRS has delivered, continually and reliably, the next generations of infrared imaging systems. Well over 150,000 systems have been developed and delivered to military forces to date.

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