DoD SBIR 23.3 BAA

Active
No
Status
Closed
Release Date
August 23rd, 2023
Open Date
September 20th, 2023
Due Date(s)
October 18th, 2023
Close Date
October 18th, 2023
Topic No.
AF233-0002

Topic

Power Efficient Digital Binocular Night Vision Imaging System (PEDBNVIS)

Agency

Department of DefenseN/A

Program

Type: SBIRPhase: BOTHYear: 2023

Summary

The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking proposals for a Power Efficient Digital Binocular Night Vision Imaging System (PEDBNVIS). The objective is to develop a digital binocular night vision system that has the imaging performance of analog goggles in the reflective infrared bands, while also being power and mass efficient for long-term helmet-worn use. The system should integrate visual situational awareness and be capable of night/day/adverse weather operations. The technology should leverage emerging technologies such as metaoptics, advanced vacuum electronics-based infrared II designs and materials, power efficient algorithms and processors, and CMOS digital visual-band sensors and microdisplays. The Air Force has a mission need for a digital binocular night vision goggle operating in a reflective band, including near infrared (NIR), shortwave infrared (SWIR), visible (VIS), or a combination. The system should have a 1:1 overlapped left/right channel architecture, with high resolution reflective band sensor-processor-display device chain providing a visible representation of the scene sensed in infrared. The system should have interfaces for conformal symbol overlay, external video source display, and native helmet-view transmission. The performance goals include spatial image resolution of 2000x2000 px, field-of-view of 40x40 deg, acuity of 1.3 arcmin, frame rate of 60 Hz, latency from objective-to-eye of 17 ms, head-born mass of 2 kg, power of 12W, volume of 2000 cc, and head-mounted battery time of 4 hr. The project will have a Phase I for design and justification, Phase II for fabrication and delivery of prototypes, and Phase III for production and field testing. The technology has potential applications in defense, non-defense federal and state agencies, civil and commercial aviation, outdoor recreation, and consumer electronics.

Description

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Microelectronics;Human-Machine Interfaces;Advanced Materials;Advanced Computing and Software

 

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

 

OBJECTIVE: Develop digital binocular night vision system having the imaging performance of analog goggles in the reflective infrared bands with power and mass properties consistent with long-term helmet-worn use.  System must integrate visual situational awareness

 

DESCRIPTION: Analog binocular night vision goggle (NVG) sets remain ubiquitously fielded to enable combat operations by aviators and ground operators because an acceptable digital replacement has not emerged over the past 20 years.  As a result, higher-performance white-phosphor (HPWP) image intensifier (II) tubes are currently being retrofitted into the AN/AVS-9 and other NVG housings as an improvement over lower-performance green-phosphor tubes fielded in the 1990s.  Attempts to optically overlay digital information over analog night scenes in aviator binocular NVG sets via a clip-on device to the objective or ocular optics – including a digital eyepiece (DEP) for the AN/AVS-9 and Night Vision Color Display (NVCD) for the AN/AVS-10) – have failed due to their unacceptable human machine interface (HMI) performance, including dramatically and unacceptably increased power, neck-born mass properties (weight, moment-arm), and image latency.  Similarly, attempts to completely replace the functionalities performed by analog tubes – which run on 0.50 W while generating visible representations of near infrared (NIR) scenes with 0.6 ms latency at 20/23 Snellen acuity under quarter-moon illumination over a 40° circular field-of-view (FoV) – with various assemblies of digital devices have failed for similar reasons.  Pilots and ground special operators need a digital helmet mounted visualization system that enables night/day/adverse weather operations.   The currently fielded analog night and digital day vision helmet systems are not integrated. The opportunity now exists to replace these two separate pilot helmet systems—one for night, another for day—with one, hybrid system leveraging emerging technologies including metaoptics, advanced vacuum electronics-based infrared II designs and materials, power efficient algorithms and processors optimized for human foveal visual perception (e.g neuromorphic, neural-net optimized pipeline), and complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) digital visual-band sensors and microdisplays developed for the ultrahigh definition television (UHD TV) and computer gaming/metaverse industries.  The Air Force has a mission need for a digital binocular night vision goggle operating in a reflective band.  Reflective bands of interest include near infrared (NIR, 700-1100 nm), shortwave infrared (SWIR, 900-1700 nm), some visible (VIS), 400-700 nm), or a combination (VNIR, NSWIR, VNIRSWIR). Architectures of interest include 1:1 overlapped left/right channels, each inline with eyes, with the high resolution reflective band sensor-processor-display device chain providing a visible representation of the scene sensed in infrared with interfaces for conformal symbol overlay, external video source display, and native helmet-view transmission off-helmet to other battlespace participants.    The power, mass properties, and volume must be minimized sufficiently to achieve end-user acceptance, to avoid neck injuries over years of use and minimize probability of head lock during high g maneuvers.  The device must be comfortable for wearing under combat conditions for hours and be usable as a vision aid during night (including overcast starlight), day, and all-weather operations.    The power efficient digital binocular night vision imaging system (PEDBNVIS) sought must have an organic helmet mounted battery and an interface to off-helmet power and an image generator for symbology/imagery.  PEDNVIS housing, helmet mounting system, and controls must be simple, intuitive, operable with gloved hands, and similar to those for AN/AVS-9 sets.   Performance metric threshold (objective) levels sought in the Phase II PEDBNVIS prototypes include:  reflective band sensor NIR (VNIRSWIR); spatial image resolution 2000x2000 px (7680x4320 px); field-of-view 40x40 deg. (128x72 deg.); acuity 1.3 arcmin (1.0 arcmin) under quarter moon illumination; frame rate 60 Hz (240 Hz); latency from objective-to-eye, 17 ms (1 ms); head-born mass 2 kg (1 kg); head-born moment arm 0.1 kg-m (0.05 kg-m); power 12W (1W); volume 2000 cc (1400 cc); and head-mounted battery time 4 hr (8 hr) at 22°C.  Volume and weight metrics include the digital goggle with its helmet mount and conformal battery pack.   No government furnished materials, equipment, data, or facilities will be provided.

 

PHASE I: Design PEDBNVIS having size, weight, and power (SWaP) consistent with helmet-worn implementation.   Justify all design performance metrics (listed in Topic Description) via laboratory experiments and analyses.  Explain any estimated performance less than the thresholds described in the topic description and state why a warfighter would accept/select it for combat use over their currently fielded analog NVG set.  Develop a system architecture for PEDBNVIS integration (a) with standard helmets (e.g. HGU-55/P, USAF Future Fixed Wing Helmet, or special operations) and (b) with aircraft cockpits or special warfare kit.  Develop a System Implementation Plan (SIP) for evaluating PEDNVIS operating performance in combat environments, including producibility and supportability. Describe components and fabrication processes required to build prototypes.

 

PHASE II: Fabricate and deliver Qty(2) PEDBNVIS prototypes at TRL6 whose performance meets or exceeds thresholds for all metrics simultaneously.  Incorporate mechanical, electrical, and software interfaces required for integration into fielded cockpit helmet systems or special warfare operations kits. Support operator testing, provide special test equipment, and refine prototype performance based on feedback.    Performance metric threshold (objective) levels sought in the Phase II PEDBNVIS prototypes include:  reflective band sensor NIR (VNIRSWIR); spatial image resolution 2000x2000 px (7680x4320 px); field-of-view 40x40 deg. (128x72 deg.); acuity 1.3 arcmin (1.0 arcmin) under quarter moon illumination; frame rate 60 Hz (240 Hz); latency from objective-to-eye, 17 ms (1 ms); head-born mass 2 kg (1 kg); head-born moment arm 0.1 kg-m (0.05 kg-m); power 12W (1W); volume 2000 cc (1400 cc); and head-mounted battery time 4 hr (8 hr).  Volume and weight metrics include the digital goggle with its helmet mount and conformal battery pack.   Deliver prototype optimized for weight, power, HVS compatibility, reliability, and ruggedization consistent combat operations.   Develop and deliver prototype user/maintainer/training manuals.  Finalize and deliver a Bill of Materials describing each component with details including its vendor, TRL and MRL.  Create roadmap to mature technology to TRL8/MRL8.

 

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop, fabricate, and deliver Qty(6) PEDBNVIS production configuration units at TRL8/MRL8 with interfaces to the fielded cockpit helmets systems or special warfare kits. Support field test and evaluation activities to demonstrate end-user acceptance.  Update BoM and establish PEDBNVIS production performance specification with tolerances for each component.  By the end of Phase III, the PEDBNVIS should be capable of all-weather operation worldwide.   Finalize commercialization plan.  Evaluate PEDBNVIS and its subsystems for other USAF, USSF, and DoD operational applications such expeditionary base security police and lunar night space suites.   Develop and deliver quantitative estimates of addressable market by industrial segments including defense, non-defense federal and state agencies, civil and commercial aviation, outdoor recreation (e.g. hunting, camping), and consumer electronics (e.g. computer gaming, metaverse).

 

REFERENCES:

Darrel G. Hopper, Alternative Night/Day Imaging Technologies (ANIT), Association of Night Vision Manufacturers (ANVM), 35pp (1 Dec 2022), www.nightvisionassociation.org ; Darrel G. Hopper, AFRL alternative night/day imaging technologies (ANIT) program, in Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 10642, Degraded Environments, Sensing, Processing, and Display 2018, 1064208 (14 May 2018) www.spiedigitallibrary.org; David G. Curry, Gary Martinsen, and Darrel G. Hopper, Capability of the human visual system, in Cockpit Displays X, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 5080, 58-69 (2003);
Metalens technology:  M.  Khorasaninejad, W.T. Chen, R.C. Devlin, J. Oh, A. Y. Zhu, F. Capasso, “Metalenses at visible wavelengths: Diffraction-limited focusing and subwavelength resolution imaging,” Science 352 (6290), pp 1190-4 (3 Jun 2016); William A. Schulz, “Staking a Claim on the Next Best Thing Since Glass,” Photonic Focus, Jan/Feb 2023, pp26-29; Metalenz, Leadoptik fiber-thin 3D imaging probes, other startups; “Novel liquid crystal metalens offers electric zoom,” ScienceDaily (10 Jun 2021) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210610162353.htm ; DARPA/DSO ENVision Program, www.darpa.mil/program/envision ;
Sensor technologies including: (a) image intensifier technologies from L3Harris  www.l3harris.com , Elbit www.elbitamerica.com , Photonis Inc. www.photonis.com ; (b) electron-bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS) technologies from www.eotechinc.com ; (c) SWIR technologies from Sensors Unlimited, www.sensorsunlimited.com ; (d) CMOS image sensors from STMicroelectronics www.st.com , SiOnyx LLC www.sionyx.com ; (e) Jason McPhate et al.,  Noiseless, kilohertz-frame-rate, imaging detector based on micro-channel plates readout with the Medipix2 CMOS pixel chip, in Proc. SPIE 5881 (2005), 10.1117/12.618861; 
prior digital night vision development attempts including:  (a) Multispectral Adaptive Networked Tactical Imaging System (MANTIS), https://www.afcea.org/signal-media/us-recoups-nighttime-primacy ; (b) Enhanced Visual Acuity (EVA) http://www.collinsaerospace.com/news/news/2020/06/collins-helps-us-navy-marine-corps-pilots-fly-more-safely-new-enhanced-visual-acuity ; (c) Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) https://www.army.mil/article/264773/ivas_campaign_of_learning_ensures_development_production_and_fielding_remain_on_track ; (d) Wesley Sheridan, Binocular Multispectral Adaptive Imaging System (BMAIS), DTIC AD1033984 (2010), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/AD1033984 .

 

KEYWORDS: Power Efficient Digital Binocular Night Vision Imaging System; PEDBNVIS; pilot augmented reality system; PARS; augmented reality; AR; low latency; digital visual interface; human vision system; HVS; nanooptics; image intensifier; CMOS imagers, metaoptics