“Own the Night… and Share It”

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.
signal_e_a000580649.JPGThe 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.

  • Noah (the other one)

    Here’s an idea: let’s turn warfare into a video game: “point, click and Kill” Somebody has been playing too much CounterStrike.
    Good recruiting tool for all those high school dropouts they are targeting to fill the enlistment quotas.

  • Stefan

    High school dropouts aren’t allowed to serve in the armed forces without a GED.

  • Mike

    Good call there Noah… Freaking genius.
    On a better note, being able to see your enemy better has obvious advantages.

  • Brian

    The other Noah has a grudge. Don’t listen to him.
    This would be excellent technology for our soldiers. You can only improve a gun so much. The strength of our future soldiers will be in situational awareness.

  • Haninah

    I like the idea a lot, but… d*mn, that Predator-looking headset looks heavy…

  • Noah Shachtman

    One reader says…
    It is one way we might re-own the night. The sensor work (LWIR i believe) was the long pole for a man portable, no refridge system. There are still major issues around accurate location, how to display other people’s video and IMHO ‘point-click-kill’. PCK requires very accurate pose determination and accurate maps - updated with battle damage. (hmmm he’s looking through the bombed out building at the one behind, but my map says there is a building there, so it must be the target). Non-sensor issues like this will keep the system out of the field for a while. Like shipping all that video around the wireless battlefield? if the enemy gets that, we’ll nice small RDF to guide anti-personnel missiles. Radiating on the battlefield is not a good
    thing.

  • Robot.Economist

    I can’t count how many times I’ve seen that video around the office. No offense to DARPA, but MANTIS is such a nerdy name for a piece of military kit. It reminds me of that old FOX show M.A.N.T.I.S. that around for about a season in the mid-1990s.
    Fusing sensoring imaging is a great idea, but I think sharing it in a PIP format among ground troops would be prohibitively distracting. Might be useful to pipe it into the Stryker brigade commander though (like the space marines in the much cooler “Aliens” movie).

  • dizzle404

    i would like to know if they were taking g.e.d again to join the military with it being a new physical year and all!!