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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Benjamin Harris looks through his night ocular device during a night patrol on July 26, 2018. New thermal-imaging developed by the Army Research Laboratory might help servicemembers see better in complete darkness.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Benjamin Harris looks through his night ocular device during a night patrol on July 26, 2018. New thermal-imaging developed by the Army Research Laboratory might help servicemembers see better in complete darkness. (Gabino Perez/U.S. Marines)

Soldiers may eventually be able to see better in complete darkness, as Army scientists develop a new thermal-imaging camera designed to help identify battlefield threats.

The new cameras detect polarization, an aspect of light not traditionally captured by cameras, to see objects hidden underground, behind camouflage or that would be undetectable using regular thermal images.

“The technology is still very new,” Kristan Gurton, an experimental physicist at the Army Research Laboratory’s computational and information sciences directorate, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday. “I envision that one day, soldiers will be able to look at a traditional thermal image, then press a button and immediately see if there are any objects hidden.”

The new polarimetric cameras can also detect and identify specific human subjects in much greater detail than traditional thermal imaging.

Researchers at the laboratory are working on several platforms for the new technology, including thermal goggles that would help identify bombs and drones capable of identifying individual targets from afar.

Polarization states exist in nature, but man-made objects tend to have significantly more of them. The cameras would lock on to the polarization states and deliver the images.

“Our primary goal was to develop a new type of camera system that could detect objects that were difficult, or impossible, to see using current state-of-the-art thermal cameras,” Gurton said in a statement.

Soldiers using these cameras in the future would be better able to identify tripwire, vehicles, drones and many other threats, Gurton said.

Due to Army testing, development and ruggedization, it might be up to seven years until these cameras are available to most soldiers on the ground, researchers said.

egnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter: @Marty_Stripes


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