If the U.S. military wants to spot an enemy creeping up at night using only his body heat, it relies on bulky thermal cameras that need to be lugged around in tanks, planes and helicopters. Only now the Pentagon’s far-out researchers think they’ve developed infrared cameras and targeting systems small enough to fit in a soldier’s hand.
Darpa announced yesterday that one of its partners, New Jersey defense contractor DRS Technologies, has developed an infrared camera with pixels sized at only five microns across, or five-millionths of a meter. That’s about the standard pixel size of a smartphone camera or DSLR. Unlike that hardware, the Darpa camera uses thermal imaging — long-wave infrared — to detect body heat. The military’s night-time targeting sensors could start becoming a lot smaller and more pervasive.