Modern Sensors for Defence and Military Applications

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Security systems rely on smart and intelligent sensor technologies and, hence, sensors have become an essential part of military systems. This article covers some latest sensors used in military applications.

Modern military and defence environments require proven, reliable and scalable technologies. Sensors are a critical part of the technologies as these provide solutions to the whole defence ecosystem, including complex controls, measurements, monitoring and execution. Military and defence systems include drones, spacecrafts, missiles, military vehicles, ships, marine systems, satellites and rockets. These systems work in the harshest of environments during normal as well as combat operations. Internal and external security systems rely on smart and intelligent sensor technology for surveillance, intelligence and combat operations. Thus, sensors have become an integral part of military systems and the performance needs of all military vehicles, equipment and related systems.

Sensors are used in flight controls, propulsion, environmental monitoring, weaponry controls, indicators, communications and so on. You can find sensors in various security systems, explosives detection systems, chemical warfare, crime detection systems, intrusion detection systems and civil establishments, among others. Sensors are also used in battlefield surveillance systems for the conduct of modern warfare. These are deployed on land, aerial platforms, in space and underwater, to keep a 24×7 watch over a particular targeted zone.

The electronic circuitry including various sensors is a critical part of the missile system. For example, Bloodhound missile was a relatively advanced missile for its era (the Cold War) with an advanced continuous-wave semi-active radar homing system, offering excellent performance against electronic countermeasures and fire control. With modern technology, especially in sensory systems, now the missiles are much more sophisticated, powerful and accurate as compared to traditional ones.

Bloodhound missile (Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org)
Fig. 1: Bloodhound missile (Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org)
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Some of the important sensors include advanced earth observation (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors, target and weapon seekers, laser sensors for detection and imaging of targets, radar sensors for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and inverse SAR (ISAR), sensors for manned and unmanned aerial platforms, and electro-optical sensors to detect fog, smog and dust. For example, Cartosat-2C, India’s latest EO satellite, can capture various images including trucks and army columns from space. It can be used to monitor the borders and internal regions for security purposes. Images received from this satellite are also used by defence forces to conduct surgical strikes.

Types of sensors

There are many other sensors used in military applications. This article briefly covers some latest sensors used in military applications including active sensors, smart sensors, intelligent sensors, camera sensors, IR sensors, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), nano-sensors and wearable sensors.

Active sensors. The radar is an example of an active sensor. Active sensors rely on their own sources of radiation to illuminate objects so that the energy reflected and returned to the sensors can be measured. The radar operates in the microwave and radio wavelength regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

One way to comprehend the active sensor is the ultra-wide band radar module such as the one shown in Fig. 2. It is based on Raspberry Pi 3 that supports various algorithms including distance detection, moving object detection, intrusion detection and vehicle detection.

Radar module (Credit: www.umain.co.kr)
Fig. 2: Radar module (Credit: www.umain.co.kr)

The radar used in military environment uses the same aforementioned principle. High-tech radar systems are associated with digital signal processing, machine learning and are capable of extracting useful information from very high noise levels.

Smart and intelligent sensors. These sensors have rich features including user-friendly, easily accessible, flexible, multifunctional, good processing power, self-testing, self-diagnosis, self-compensation and more. High reliability is one of the key aspects of military specifications. Many manufacturers qualify for such specifications, having reliability to a degree that consumer markets generally do not demand, and the conditions that are unique to military applications.

Visual information plays an important part in intelligent decision making for humans as well as machines. Electronic visual intelligence depends on the image sensors in camera systems. For instance, short-wave IR (SWIR) cameras offer a new weapon in the war on terror and other combat operations.

Camera sensors. Key features of image sensors include face, motion and scene detection. Motion detection technology is used to detect the speed and direction of movement. It limits the effect of blurring of the subject, and scene detection technology determines the optimal settings including brightness, contrast and distance to the subject and colour of the entire image.

Viooa Imaging Technology has been producing smart camera sensors for use in various military applications for unmanned platforms including air, ground and sea. These are designed for use in extreme indoor and outdoor harsh environments to get one or multiple points of interest from different directions.

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