Infrared technology is developing and adapting to the needs of its various intended markets.
The field of defence shares a number requirements with other markets: smaller sensors, as light a weight as possible, and optimized use of available resources - or to put it another way, excellent autonomy. The need to fulfil these criteria has led to SWaP detectors becoming increasingly sought-after. SWaP stands for Size, Weight and Power, which are the defining features of thermal detectors that are being developed to be smaller and lighter without compromising on performance.
We have laid out the three main advantages of SWaP products in thermal imaging, along with some concrete examples.
Three advantages of SWaP products
IR SWaP detectors are compact products that don’t take up much space. In the field of defence, their ultra-miniature size makes them perfect for applications that necessitate carrying heavy loads with integrated IR sensors.
Infrared sensors that fulfil SWaP criteria are widely sought-after for any application involving equipment carried by humans: integrating substantial IR sensors on large structures is not a major problem. However, as frontline equipment is already very heavy, being compact and space-saving are crucial features.
IR SWaP detectors are also renowned for being lightweight, making them particularly apt for mobile use.
The latest generation of cooled LYNRED products features detectors that are 40% lighter and whole cameras that are 7% lighter. The lower energy consumption means you can have a smaller battery without affecting autonomy. The reduced energy consumption also means batteries for cooled products can be considerably lighter.
SWaP infrared sensors boast considerable autonomy in terms of battery use. This autonomy means they can be used for longer periods in active situations and when moving around.
Examples of SWaP product applications
These three advantages of SWaP detectors make them particularly suited for applications relating to the defence field, as they meet a large number of industry needs perfectly.
- Application 1: Optimizing night vision and autonomy
Microbolometer detectors are embedded in soldiers’ helmets to improve visibility at night.
These ultra-high performance IR sensors can be integrated into handheld cameras and embedded in binocular and monocular vision systems, such as night vision goggles. These vision solutions are now vital in the field for improving safety for troops. Correct performance requires energy resources. That is why SWaP detectors, which have great autonomy, are particularly suited to this kind of application.
- Application 2: Optimizing lightness
Soldiers working in the field are also particularly interested in lightweight products. They are already obliged to carry heavy safety equipment and weapons and need to have access to effective, lightweight instruments so they can move as quickly and easily as possible.
For example, a sight mounted directly on their weapon's rail interface and which works in two different ways, infrared and video, so the image can be sent to an individual screen, their night-vision goggles, or their helmet-mounted eyepiece. This is a compact TWS (µbolo).
Another example is integrating cooled SWaP IR sensors into high-performance HHTI goggles, which helps reduce weight and consumption, thus increasing autonomy.
Finally, SWaP IR sensors can be either carried or airborne, meaning they can be used and integrated in mobile surveillance systems.
The defence market is developing more and more sophisticated products with the aim of saving lives and protecting troops. As such, this effort to reduce SWaP seems increasingly to be the main deciding factor for future applications.