Thales Land and Joint Systems is flagging potential development of a bi-spectral thermal imaging camera for UAVs and other surveillance aircraft types, which would simultaneously cover mid- and long-wave spectra in a single hardware unit.
The sensor would be an evolution of a new bi-spectral sensor developed by the company under a joint programme with the French DGA armaments acquisition agency. That unit is a derivative of the existing production series Catherine thermal imaging fire-control system. A first bi-spectral prototype – designated Catherine XP – was completed in March.
The prototype allows selection of either 3-5 or 8-10 micron spectrum viewing, with rapid switching between the two possible. The system uses twin detector arrays mounted in a shared 258 x 172 x 100mm (10 x 6.7 x 3.9in) housing. Development began one year ago.
That demonstrator is to be tested by the French army in ground-based applications to assess its operational potential, says Michel Papuchon, optronics technical director with Thales Land and Joint Systems. Adaptation for UAV or other surveillance aircraft is being explored by the company as part of the product growth strategy.
The dual spectrum unit allows highlighting of a broader array of features on a target of interest in a wider range of atmospheric conditions.
A more advanced demonstrator is planned based on a new detector array that will allow for the viewing of mid- and long-wave images at the same time rather than using switching modes. “We are working on the specific detectors in order to have simultaneous images,” says Papuchon.