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DARPA Tests Gigapixel Cameras

Jul. 17, 2012 - 10:57AM   |  
By LAUREN BIRON   |   Comments
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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could be a step closer to its long-term goal of building cameras that would provide better resolution than the human eye and allow analysts to zoom in great detail around images.

The agency announced in July that it has tested cameras capable of generating images with 0.96- and 1.4-gigapixel resolution. Ultimately, DARPA wants to develop cameras capable of delivering 10- to 50-gigapixel resolution, which would be “much finer resolution than the human eye can see,” according to DARPA.

A 1-gigapixel image contains 1 billion pixels, or 1,000 times the information in a 1-megapixel image. Most standard point-and-shoot cameras and cellphone cameras range from 4 to 12 megapixels, but even high-end professional cameras rarely top 40 megapixels.

DARPA provided no details beyond a July 5 notice on its website.

The agency said it tested the cameras at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., under a program known as AWARE for Advanced Wide FOV (field of view) Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation.

The blueprint for each camera is “analogous to a parallel-processor supercomputer,” DARPA said. Each makes use of 100 to 150 smaller cameras. These “parallel multi-scale micro cameras” form panoramic images with “less distortion than traditional wide field lens systems,” according to DARPA.

DARPA’s goal under the AWARE program is to supply dismounted soldiers with the best possible imagery, whether through finer resolution or multi-band imaging. As with all things military, there is also a focus on reducing size, weight, required power and cost.

Ideally, AWARE systems will increase the possible distance for identifying targets, improve day and night visibility, and replace multiple rifle sights with a single day/night sensor, according to DARPA. Other applications of improved imaging technology will affect “targeting, persistent surveillance, sensing, and imaging with color fusion.”

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