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Shortwave infrared for night vision applications - illumination levels and sensor performance

: Adomeit, Uwe; Krieg, Jürgen


Stein, K.U. ; Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers -SPIE-, Bellingham/Wash.:
Optics in Atmospheric Propagation and Adaptive Systems XVIII : 22 September 2015, Toulouse, France
Bellingham, WA: SPIE, 2015 (Proceedings of SPIE 9641)
ISBN: 978-1-62841-851-4
Paper 964104, 11 S.
Conference "Optics in Atmospheric Propagation and Adaptive Systems" <18, 2015, Toulouse>
Fraunhofer IOSB ()
airglow; nightglow; night vision; SWIR; InGaAs; focal plane arrays; illumination levels; atmospheric conditions

Radiation created by stimulation and recombination/deactivation of atoms and molecules in the higher earth atmosphere is called nightglow. This nightglow can be found in the spectral range from the ultraviolet up to the thermal infrared, with a maximum in the shortwave infrared (SWIR). During moonless nights the illumination in the SWIR is by an order of magnitude higher than the visual one. Within the last years the SWIR sensor technology improved to a level of using the nightglow for night vision applications. This necessitates understanding of the highly variable illumination levels created by the nightglow and the performance assessment of the SWIR detectors in comparison to the image intensifiers respectively Si focal plane array detectors. Whereas the night illumination levels for the visual are standardized, corresponding ones for the SWIR are missing. IOSB started measuring and comparing night illumination levels and camera performance in both spectral ranges based on continuous illumination measurements as well as recording imagery of reflectance reference targets with cameras and analyzing the resulting signal-to-noise ratios. To date the number of illumination measurements are not yet statistically sufficient to standardize the levels, but at least allowed a first comparison of the two technologies for moonless night, clear sky conditions. With comparable F-number, integration time and frame rate, the SWIR sensors available in Europe were found to be inferior to the visual technology. An improvement of at least one magnitude would be necessary to ensure similarity between SWIR and visual technologies for all environmental conditions.