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Multispectral camera to assist coastal and road tunnel surveillance

06 Sep 2016

SEERS project developing breakthrough approach to imaging in the infrared domain.

A project supported by Europe's Horizon 2020 research program is developing a multispectral imaging (MSI) platform targeted particularly at surveillance of road tunnels and coastal areas in low visibility conditions.

SEERS (Snapshot Spectral Imager for IR Surveillance) will produce a modular, compact and cost effective snapshot spectral imaging system in the infrared domain of 0.7 to 14 microns wavelength, based on low cost uncooled focal-plane arrays, and with embedded vision and cognitive fusion capabilities.

The project, running until 2018, was created in recognition of growth in the market for surveillance and monitoring of civil infrastructures, now becoming a major area of application for video equipment and services as cuts in defense spending restrict the military sector. In total the market is expected to be worth $57.3 billion by 2020.

Coastal surveillance - monitoring security at ports to combat smuggling and trafficking - along with traffic surveillance in confined environments, where a suitable imaging system could measure air quality and provide environmental data as well as assisting in case of an accident, are two particular examples of the demand for low cost imaging and sensing solutions that now exists, and which SEERS is targeting.

Funded by a grant of €3.75 million from Horizon 2020 via the Photonics Public Private Partnership, and led by Spain's AIMEN, the project is undertaking a new design of multispectral imager, since current MSI cameras are unsuitable for moving objects or real-time observation, according to SEERS. Existing systems employ a filter wheel that needs to be rotated along with sensors requiring cooling, configurations which make them unhelpfully bulky.

The new device, in contrast, is designed to weigh less than two kilograms, and will use a multi-aperture multi-sensor camera capable of capturing several wavelengths simultaneously in one place.

Lower cost imaging
According to SEERS project data, the development process will involve first the design of a suitable snapshot multispectral imager in the IR domain, followed by "an embedded approach to image reconstruction, cognitive image fusion, video pre-processing and event-driven operation." Then the benefits of multispectral imaging to performance and persistence for smart networked operation will be demonstrated, using a novel video analytics solution.

"The SEERS device is equipped with integrated computational imaging," commented project coordinator Anton Garcia-Diaz of AIMEN. "It has no need for cooling and can process the images in real-time, meaning key parts of processing are embedded within the device."

Alongside an embedded processing architecture, the project will address the design of a microbolometer focal-plane array adapted to multi-aperture imaging requirements; an optical design combining that multi-aperture imaging with suitable beam splitting; and development of sensor arrays for both multispectral and super-resolution imaging.

The project's belief is that use of CMOS-compatible focal-plane array manufacturing technology will reduce costs compared to alternative infra-red technology. A commercial monochromatic camera working in the mid infrared range of 3 to 5 microns can cost over €70,000, according to Garcia-Diaz.

"Few imaging systems exist with the capability to identify gases, but even they can cost over €100,000," he commented. "The SEERS project aims to deliver MSI technology in an extended infrared domain at under €40,000, with improved persistence and gas identification capabilities."

SEERS consortium members include AIMEN, New Infrared Technologies (NIT), the University of Glasgow, and Thales Italia.

SPECTROGON ABFirst Light ImagingHÜBNER PhotonicsBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationABTechHyperion OpticsLaCroix Precision Optics
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