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Machine vision goes hyperspectral

06 Jun 2014

Collaboration between IMEC and Ximea delivers tiny hyperspectral camera suitable for mass production and deployment on drones and UAVs.

The Belgian microelectronics research institute IMEC and machine vision company Ximea have developed a tiny new camera that combines hyperspectral imaging (HSI) with an ultra-compact optical package.

They say that the result – an xiQ camera from the German firm measuring just 26.4 x 26.4 x 21.6 mm, weighing only 27 g and consuming just 1.8 W – makes the technology practical for deployment on drones for the first time.

Jerome Baron, a business development manager within imec’s imaging unit, said that although HSI is not new in the world of high-end remote sensing instruments like satellites and airborne systems, this new partnership would broaden its applicability greatly.

“It will bring this new technology into the hands of the numerous drone and UAVs companies that want to fly compact multispectral or hyperspectral imaging cameras to serve the emerging precision farming industry,” he said.

Mass production
Andy Lambrechts, program manager for imaging & vision systems at IMEC, added that the combination of the research institute’s hyperspectral sensor with Ximea’s remarkably compact xiQ cameras was “a new milestone”.

“The high-speed USB3.0 interface includes power supply over USB that removes the need for expensive and bulky frame-grabbers and separate power supplies,” said Lambrechts. “It will enable our partners to design and mass-produce extremely compact hyperspectral imaging camera solutions.”

By applying narrow-band spectral filters at the pixel level, IMEC says it has made HSI sensors extremely compact and light, but with the kind of reliability necessary for mass production at low cost.

Three types of standard spectral image sensors are now available: a 100-band linescan design, a 32-band “snapshot” tiled design; and a new snapshot mosaic design featuring 16 bands in a matrix of 4x4 per-pixel filters.

Ximea’s xiQ series cameras are said to be the world’s smallest for industrial machine vision using the USB3.0 interface. The company uses a single planar rigid board construction to achieve the ultra-compact design, rather than competing multi-board and multifold flexi-rigid PCB approaches.

This is said to make the xiQ easier to integrate into specialized equipment and OEM designs. In addition, the XiQ cameras consume only 1.8 W, easing the power and thermal management design challenges of UAVs.

Ximea’s CEO Max Larin said: “This cooperation effectively presents the smallest, lightest, least power consuming and most cost effective solution in hyperspectral field today.”

SPECTROGON ABLASEROPTIK GmbHMad City Labs, Inc.Hyperion OpticsABTechLaCroix Precision OpticsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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