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A new vision for the modern warfighter

Soldier Modernisation talks to Raptor Photonics, leaders in Integrated Camera Solutions

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Long range surveillance comparing VIS (above) and SWIR (below) imaging

Technology shapes war, and war shapes technology. Gaining a tactical advantage in warfare has been a primary impetus for invention and engineering. Of course, many of these technologies have beneficial peacetime advantages, as well. Examples include Alfred Nobel’s dynamite and the technology behind the Internet as developed by DARPA.

The field of imaging and detection is no exception. For the warfighter on land, in the air, or at sea, vision and reconnaissance are of supreme importance. Infrared imaging capability provides superior vision in the dark, through smoke and obscurants, haze and light mist. So what is SWIR and how can it be used to increase effectiveness of the modern warfighter. We let Raptor explain.

Compact Handheld SWIR Monocular with See Spot Function.

Compact Handheld SWIR Monocular with See Spot Function.

Q: Could you give our readership a quick overview of Raptor Photonics?

A: Raptor Photonics is a UK-based specialist camera company, developing ruggedized, SWaP enabled camera cores and integrated camera systems for surveillance, defence and special forces markets.

Established in 2006, Raptor operates out of a facility in Larne, Northern Ireland, offering full design and manufacturing capabilities. Our customers are primes, government organisations (Government Labs other NATO customers), special forces groups and systems integrators. Seeing in day, night and low light is desirable over a broad range of environmental conditions. Raptor cameras are compact and rugged, operating in harsh climates. Integrated camera systems are used in “mission critical” applications.

Q: With many forces relying on camera technology for advancement in Soldier Systems, for relay of information, or to see better in various scenarios, how is SWIR technology making advancements over current market offerings?

A: SWIR is an interesting wavelength with a number of advantages over visible, mid-wave and long wave. The main advantages are that SWIR integrated camera systems can generally “see through” and image higher contrast images compared to their visible counterparts. SWIR camera systems can see through smoke, haze, mist, rain and other challenging atmospheric conditions.

SWIR also offers superior imaging at dusk, transitioning between day and night-time images. It is also the perfect band to see key laser lines 1064nm and 1550nm used in laser targeting and See-Spot functionality.

Q: Within this area you have been working with many forces, developing new products and solutions to help overcome issues that they have faced, could we look at these and how they could benefit other countries military?

A: Raptor cameras can be found integrated into gimbals and turrets for land, sea and air applications for day/night/light low light vision. By adding fixed or motorised optimised lenses, we are now developing integrated camera systems, covering UV, VIS, NIR and SWIR wavebands. In 2020, we developed a compact hand-held SWIR monocular, with its own power source and integrated OLED. This is used by special forces personal for surveillance including See-Spot.

Orcus VIS-SWIR integrated camera system suitable for remote operation.

Orcus VIS-SWIR integrated camera system suitable for remote operation.

Q: On its own I wanted to talk about your Beacon product and how it protects against blue on blue situations and how it can be integrated into existing kit?

A: The compact SWIR beacon that we are developing is a soldier or vehicle mounted, compact SWIR beacon that emits at 1550nm. Using one of Raptor’s integrated camera systems, either the compact handheld SWIR monocular or one of Raptor’s SWIR bearer-based systems, the beacon can be identified from up to 1 mile away. With the right frequency decoder, the viewer can easily identify unique individuals or teams who are wearing these beacons avoiding potential blue on blue situations.

Q: Raptor as a company is innovating in many new areas, could you talk through any new technology we can expect to market?

A: Raptor has been developing its camera systems capabilities over the last few years. As well as our SWIR Monocular, Raptor now offers the Orcus family of Bearer-compatible systems for remote operation. These were developed on the back of various government contracts that Raptor has secured to offer a flexible, modular range of VIS-SWIR and low light VIS-NIR cameras coupled to both fixed and motorised lens systems to offer short (up to 500m), mid (500m-3000m) and long-range (beyond 3000m) solutions for surveillance, observation, recognition and reconnaissance, delivering full visibility for day and night.

The Orcus system offers exceptional quality, high resolution stable images in all environments. The SWIR option offers See Spot functionality highlighting all pulsed laser sources in the field of view.

All of our Integrated Camera Systems are rugged and compact designed to IP67 and MIL-STD-810H standards, enabling use in harsh climates. They are rail mountable and accessories include rails, cables, monitors, SWIR beacons and torches.

We will continue to develop iterations of the Orcus family, as well as the handheld devices and associated accessories for day / night vision imaging.

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