SoldierMod.Com :: Soldier Modernisation
  SoldierMod Volume 10 - Jan 2013
Volume 10 Articles

QioptiqQioptiq Design Team:
Sights Set Firmly on the Prize

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QIOPTIQ: Photonics for Innovation

Budget and scheduling constraints in any industry means time allocated for the design phase of projects comes under increasing pressure whilst design requirements get tougher. Achieving the project milestones and dealing with the challenges thrown up along the way is the measure of a good design team. Qioptiq knows that this is particularly true in the defence industry where new product development is vital to mission success and equipment needs to be developed and deployed within very short timeframes.

Saker Fused Weapon Sight
Saker Fused Weapon Sight

Qioptiq is known for its design and manufacturing of photonic products and solutions serving the defence and aerospace markets. Significant investment in new facilities and equipment along with cutting-edge design, the latest technology and top-end manufacturing in Western Europe & North America combined with low-cost yet high-quality manufacturing in Eastern Europe and Asia means that our design and production capabilities are very extensive.

Yes, Qioptiq is known for its research and development capabilities, its leading-edge innovation, its precision manufacturing and its responsive global resourcing. And yes, it is associated with a scalable international manufacturing capability coupled with expertise in every known optical material. However, we also benefit from strong technology development teams, a highly competent workforce and over 200 people devoted to the design and development of state-of-the-art photonics and processes. When you combine this with the organisational ethos of close customer relationships you find Qioptiq is ideally positioned to assist its customers with innovative and cost effective solutions as highlighted with the FIST (Future Integrated Soldier Technology) program and the STIC (Sniper Thermal Imaging Capability) UOR (urgent operational requirement).

Through discussions with user groups and customers, and through involvement in a number of programs addressing the requirements and potential for combining image intensified and thermal sighting technology into a fused system, the requirement for a FWS (Fused Weapon Sight) for the Dismounted Close Combat User and the wider Soldier Modernisation community became clear. A top level specification was generated using Company knowledge of the target market, plus inputs from DSTL (UK MOD). This was used to determine the requirements but it was not quite as simple as that; the sight later known as SAKER would require the combination of two complementary but very different technologies.

SAKER would be a Fused Weapon Sight (FWS) providing the Dismounted Close Combat User with an enhanced Detect, Recognise and Identify capability combining image intensifier and un-cooled thermal imaging sensors into a single sight unit. SAKER would need to be built around a forward facing architecture that would result in a flexible system that could take power from a range of standard batteries including AA and CR123, along with having the ability to integrate with powered rails and other centralised power supplies. The use of Man Machine Interface (MMI) developed on the DRAGON thermal weapon sight family combined with simplistic controls for managing the fusion elements of the system would significantly reduce the training burden in both time and cost terms.

This would be a remarkable piece of equipment but, perhaps more remarkable, is how this product was conceived, designed, manufactured and delivered in an incredibly tight time schedule by the Qioptiq design team.

The Design Team faced a number of challenges. SAKER needed to be compact, lightweight and to have low power consumption. SAKER also needed to give all the recognition and identification advantages of a visible image, coupled with the detection capability of the thermal image combined into one sight. In order to achieve this result a number of innovations needed to be made in the package, the two objectives and the image-combining optics and they needed to be made quickly.

The design commenced in October 2011 with the aim of a product launch at WBR Soldier Technology Conference in June 2012. An extremely tight plan was drawn up that delivered a prototype by 1st June. By Christmas, the date for the conference was confirmed as being earlier than anticipated. In addition, a second parallel launch was required in USA. This meant that two prototypes had to be delivered by 21st May. A key feature of the product would be an innovative combination of optical, mechanical and electronic technologies to provide the optimum size, weight, power and cost trade-offs. However by mid February the programme was running 2 weeks late. In order to meet the new launch date all team members, including two key suppliers, would have to really perform.

The electronic design was completed ahead of time but there was still a long way to go. Many design challenges still needed to be overcome, including that of the collimator optics. The conventional approach for the design of the collimation optics can result in a complex and expensive collimator. To avoid this problem, the team used electronics processing to scale the TI image on the display, resulting in a much simplified collimation optic.

The software development was completed 2 weeks early however the plastic (low mass) beam splitter was not going to be available on time. In order to meet the launch date an alternative glass version was needed but this meant last minute changes to the housing and the electronics. By early May some assembly had been carried out but there was a significant amount of work left to do. With only days to go a monumental effort by the team resulted in the delivery of two fully operational prototypes in time to go to the launch conferences.

In all a total of 4174 person-hours were required to deliver the project on time resulting in SAKER winning “Best Situational Awareness Device” at the WBR Soldier Technology Conference. The team’s efforts were also quickly recognised with them winning the “Design Team of the Year Award 2012” at the Beea “British Engineering Excellence Awards”. The Awards aim to demonstrate power of engineering design innovation within the UK to the world. Qioptiq has demonstrated what can be achieved by recognising a requirement and having the right team fully supported and determined to deliver it.


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