L-3 Offers Miniature Infrared Camera

A division of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. has developed a small infrared camera for drones, sniper rifles and ground vehicles.

L-3 Cincinnati Electronics, part of New York-based L-3, said its NightWarrior 640 is among the smallest, high-resolution, mid-wave infrared cooled cameras. About the size of a baseball, the device weighs less than a pound and offers far more imaging power than its predecessor, officials said.

The company unveiled the camera in a news release on April 29 to coincide with the start of a conference in Baltimore, Md., organized by the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers. Officials want to get word out about a new technology that they said is cheaper and more advanced than existing designs, and thus well-suited for an era of declining defense budgets.

"If you need to do more with less, you have to go to these," said Stephen Schmidt, a business development manager with the company.

L-3 in 2012 had $13.1 billion in revenue, which was flat from the year-ago period, according to its annual report. About $1.7 billion, or 13 percent, of that came from infrared-related products, according to Don Gill, director of business development.

The device succeeds the NightConqueror 640 and takes advantage of new materials in so-called focal plane array technology that don't need to be cooled as much to deliver high-quality images, the officials said. The result is a miniature camera that can capture thermal images anywhere from three to 15 kilometers, depending on the type of lens used, they said.

The product, which sells for slightly more than $20,000, is designed for a range of weapons with sensitive size, weight and power requirements, including unmanned systems such as the Aerosonde and ScanEagle, sniper rifles, binoculars, even combat vehicles such as blast-resistant trucks and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Gill said.

The company spent about $6 million developing the technology, he said. The process, which normally takes three to five years, took less than a year -- possibly the fastest time ever for a unit product, he said.

"We're pretty excited," Gill said. "We've made a serious investment."

Despite concern that automatic budget cuts will threaten spending on defense hardware, L-3 expects the market for such components to increase tenfold over the next five years, to about 4,000 units a year in 2017, up from about 400 units a year today, Gill said.

In a downturn, the thinking in the military goes, "you typically upgrade what you got instead of buying new," he said.

Show Full Article

Related Topics


November is Military Family Appreciation Month

Throughout the month, military families are honored and recognized for their commitment and contributions in support of our military and nation.

View the Tribute

Most Popular Military News