Digital Battlespace

EO/IR Special Report: Leonardo eyes Asia SAR market

20th February 2018 - 09:00 GMT | by Beth Stevenson in London


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Infrared detector technology has a wide appeal in the Asia-Pacific, not least to support airborne search and rescue (SAR) operations in the aftermath of natural disasters.

To this end, Leonardo’s IR detectors are undergoing a resurgence in the region, where the company is successfully competing with local suppliers based on its experience in developing sensing technology, at a cost point that fits with the budgets requirements of these countries.

‘This region is a rapidly expanding market for us and we successfully compete with indigenous suppliers,’ David Bishton, head of sales and marketing for IR detectors, told Shephard.

‘We are leaders in the EO/IR market as we offer an affordable mature capability backed by extensive research in materials and processes to produce world beating products required by the market.’

While unavailable to sell the IR detectors directly to military customers due to export restrictions, Leonardo has discovered that there is a requirement for the use of this technology for airborne SAR in the Asia-Pacific, Bishton noted.

‘We found the uptake of our products here quick indeed,' he said, noting that the prevalence of earthquakes in the Far East has resulted in funding allocation for airborne SAR assets and subsequent sensing capability.

In terms of new IR technology development, the company’s Superhawk offering is an example of it leading in this market, Bishton noted, a detector that uses 8-micron blur-free pixels, and can produce a 1280x1024 resolution image in total darkness.

This provides ‘better than HD-quality' images in darkness, and can detect temperature differences as small as 1/50th of a degree.

Leonardo is in the process of incorporating the Superhawk array into a complete camera system, and will begin to take orders for this system soon, Bishton says.

While the IR detectors cannot be sold for military use in the Asia-Pacific, the company is able to sell complete camera systems for military use, subject to government export rules. 

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