A group of European scientists are developing a surveillance camera harnessing new photonics technology that will dramatically reduce coastal rescue times in low visibility conditions, target pollution and keep us safer on the Underground.
The camera, measuring the size of a shoebox, uses Multi Spectral Imaging, a process that captures the same image at different frequencies from the electromagnetic spectrum. Certain combinations of multispectral images can reveal information that humans cannot see, such as invisible or poisonous gasses, or fire sources through dense fog, providing an unrivalled level of surveillance.
Current MSI cameras are unsuitable for moving objects or real-time observation because they are not ‘snapshot’ devices and use a filter wheel that needs to be rotated. They contain sensors which use technology that needs to be cooled to work, meaning the equipment is bulky. Weighing less than 2kg, the breakthrough device deploys the latest photonic sensing technology, featuring a multi-aperture, multi sensor camera capable of capturing several wavelengths simultaneously in one place. With the World Health Organisation estimating in 2014 that nearly 600,000 deaths are a result of air pollution in Europe, and with monitoring of civil infrastructures being an important area for video surveillance equipment and services in the future, this device looks set to play a key role in high-tech safety and security.
Coordinated in Spain, the SEERS, or ‘Snapshot spectral imager for IR surveillance’, project has received a grant of €3,750,535 from Horizon 2020 via the Photonics Public Private Partnership. Project coordinator, Anton Garcia-Diaz explains: “The SEERS device is equipped with integrated computational imaging. It has no need for cooling and can process the images in real-time, meaning key parts of processing are embedded within the device.” This is not just good news for coastal and traffic surveillance but also the implications for the future of safety in tunnels and the Underground tube train network are exciting.
"Accidents in tunnels, while rare, are extremely serious when they do happen. Responding quickly and in a targeted manner is vital. We expect rescue and response times will be cut significantly with the SEERS camera", Garcia-Diaz said.
Based on CMOS compatible FPA manufacturing technology means it is much cheaper than alternative IR technology. A commercial monochromatic camera working in the mid infrared range of 3-5 µm wavelengths is a bulky, cooled device that costs anything over €70,000.
“Few imaging systems exist with the capability to identify gases, but even they can cost over €100,000. The SEERS project aims to deliver MSI technology in an extended infrared domain at under €40,000 with improved persistence and gas identification capabilities”, said Garcia-Diaz.