Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heat-Changing Pixels Camouflage Tanks From Infrared Sensors

[Photo: BAE Systems]

Camouflage has been around for a quite a while. And though our current camouflage might seem adequate, the one thing we can’t camouflage through any practical means is the infrared radiation our bodies give off. Hotter objects give off more energy on the infrared spectrum than cooler ones  This makes it easy to pick out things like tanks or helicopters when using infrared sensors.

British defense company BAE Systems, one of the largest military contractors in the world, has just introduced a system that allows large vehicles to camouflage their heat signature. They system relies on hexagonal "pixels" placed on the surface of the vehicle. (I guess square pixels just weren’t good enough for them?)

These unique pixels have the ability to rapidly change their temperature in order to blend into their surroundings. The system can also change individual pixels to create practically any design on the vehicle. They’re quick, too: Under an infrared lens the vehicle they demo the camo on goes from visible to invisible in about two seconds--and I mean invisible.

The pixels are about the size of your hand, and they're easy to replace if they get damaged. As you can see in the video below, replacing a pixel is as easily as sticking some Lego blocks together.

The technology is based on sheets of hexagonal 'pixels' that are able to change temperature very quickly. On-board cameras collect images of the vehicle's background and display that infra-red image onto the vehicle panels, making it appear to vanish.

Adaptiv stealth technology as demonstrated on a tank

Seen through a thermal scope the stealth vehicle (R) blends into the background  Around 1000 pixel panels, each 14cm across, are needed to cover a tank.

The makers claim the technology works effectively on moving tanks and that it can even mimic other vehicles, even making a tank appear like a family hatchback.

Adaptiv stealth technology as demonstrated on a tank

Developers claim the technology can mimic landscapes or even other cars

Large identification letters can also be displayed on military vehicles which could prevent so called 'friendly fire' incidents in battle.

Adaptiv stealth technology as demonstrated on a tank

With highly visible markings identifying friend or foe becomes easier

Project manager, Peder Sjölund said: "Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because of cost, excessive power requirements or because they were insufficiently robust.

"We can resize the pixels to achieve stealth for different ranges. A warship or building, for instance, might not need close-up stealth, so could be fitted with larger panels."

Developers say the technology could be ready to use in two years time.


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