Defense Department scientists are working on a new, digital night vision and thermal device that’s smaller and lighter than the Army’s latest Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.
The PIXNET camera is designed to provide small combat units with a “helmet mounted shortwave and longwave infrared blended imager with wireless networking capability,” according to officials from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the May 11 DARPA Demo day at the Pentagon.
Currently, soldiers use the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, or ENVG. The Army began fielding the first generation of the ENVG in 2009 and has since fielded a slightly improve version in the ENVG II.
The ENVG technology consists of a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the older PVS-14 and a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display.
Army officials plan to field the ENVG III in 2017.
The PIXNET system will give soldiers enhanced imaging capability and allow them to wirelessly transmit an image to an android-based phone a head-mounted google, said John Bazzano, UTC Aerospace Systems, the firm that is developing the technology with DARPA.
“Think of this as the ENVG 4,” Bazzano said, adding that the streamlined prototype is being developed to weigh about 1.5 pounds with the battery pack that mounts to the rear of the helmet. The ENVG III weighs about two pounds.
DARPA officials are hoping to have a working prototype ready sometime this year, said Jay Lewis, program manager for Microsystems Technology Office at DARPA. The system will still have to be ruggedized to withstand battlefield conditions, he said.