An eagle-eyed reader points us to an interesting-looking Darpa program that could tip the night vision equation back in America’s favor. If it gets beyond the goofy video stage, that is.
The goal of the Multispectral Adaptive Networked Tactical Imaging System (MANTIS) project is to combine images from three slices of the spectrum — short wave infrared (SWIR), long wave infrared (LWIR), and visible light — into a single view.
The SWIR sensor operates in the 1- to 2-micron range, providing low light performance, a primary image and scene context with the ability to see through fog, MANTIS manager Jeffrey Paul tells Signal magazine. The LWIR camera operates in the 8- to 12-micron range, and as a thermal imager needs no light; it penetrates smoke and dust and can find partially hidden targets. All of these bandwidths can be digitally imaged. Once that occurs, we can do whatever we want with the imagery in real time, including fusing it to use that one best image to present to the soldier.
In that way, MANTIS would be similar to other image fusing projects that the military is currently investigating. MANTIS’ twist is that the combined image is then supposed to be beamed wirelessly to the helmet visor of every soldier in a squad, “so that each person sees what every other person sees.”
“We also have a TiVo-like record and playback capability so that the last 10 seconds can be called up and played again. Digital information and high-speed processors handle these functions and connect them over the network to enable image sharing, Paul maintains. MANTIS also uses inertial navigation and global positioning system receivers so that each soldier will precisely know his location and the processor will know where he is looking at all times, his fields of vision and of fire.”
OK, OK. So it all sounds a little far-fetched. And I’m sure MANTIS suffers from all the same limitations discussed here. But there do seem to be some prototypes floating around, at least. And the system is scheduled to make the transition from Darpa to the Army at the end of this year.