By David G. Dawes
Keeping one step ahead of our adversaries is top priority for security forces with terrorist threats growing daily around the world. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are the core situational awareness tools for the global war on terrorism (GWOT). Just as night vision equipment has denied terrorists the cover of darkness for more than a couple of decades, emerging shortwave infrared imaging technology is now removing weather and environmental limitations from the ISR equation.
Shortwave infrared exploits the third and final atmospheric window in the infrared spectrum. SWIR, long the domain of the high altitude U-2 spy plane with its cryogenically-cooled focal plane array (FPA) technology, has powerful capabilities not widely known outside the intelligence community until recently. SWIR makes long slant range imaging possible under practically any conditions. A revolution in imaging has recently been developed via breakthrough, indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) FPA technology, resulting in lighter weight, more compact cameras. These new uncooled InGaAs imagers offer the advantages of the shortwave infrared spectrum to see beyond the visible, and because of their ultra-compact design, they can be implemented on the smallest UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and man-portable platforms.