Panoramic Thermal Imaging Technology

A New Concept in Naval Defense

SPYNEL sensors are passive wide area surveillance systems with automatic intrusion detection and tracking capabilities. The 360° thermal sensors offer 24/7 situational awareness by detecting and tracking an unlimited number of targets in real time, on land, air and sea. HGH Infrared Systems recently won a multi-million contract from a leading shipyard, to equip three new warships with the latest generation of SPYNEL panoramic thermal cameras.

Real-Time Situational Awareness

SPYNEL continuously rotates to provide a full thermal panoramic view of the environment, with unlimited threat detection capabilities. Each threat, once detected, can be automatically followed in a different zoom window, as if it were tracked by multiple PTZ cameras. Algorithms were optimized to distinguish small boats from far-off waves.

The image quality provided by the IR sensor has a resolution of up to 120-Mpixels, at a rate of up to 2Hz. Equipped with advanced Detection Recognition & Tracking software called CYCLOPE, SPYNEL provides early target discrimination over extremely wide areas, at night and during the day, whatever the weather. The CYCLOPE automatic tracking software ensures real time security against an unlimited number of conventional and asymmetrical threats. Hardly detectable targets like crawling men, RHIBs, UAVs and stealth aircraft are detected and their distance & geolocation are indicated on the same interface.

Infrared “Radar”

Image 1. From left to right : Spynel-M, Spynel-U, Spynel-C, Spynel-S, Spynel-X

SPYNEL IRST covers a wide range of security & defense applications from perimeter security at installations such as industrial sites, nuclear plants, dams, power stations, prisons, solar & wind farms, to VIP events, the fight against piracy and self-protection of ships, to coastal and border passive surveillance, FOB protection, and UAV detection.

The specific application determines which SPYNEL system will perform the best based on the required detection and recognition ranges, the type of targets to be detected, the site's perimeter and building configuration, climatic constraints, and data storage requirements.

SPYNEL systems have been selected for their ability to maintain a high detection rate without false positives, to resist all the vibrations that affect ships and to be stabilized at very high sea state levels. When most ships rely on radar and the use of night vision goggles, with which operators can be visually impaired in inclement weather, SPYNEL provides high resolution imaging regardless of fog and precipitation levels.

Spynel sensors have proven to be robust and reliable, while being easy to integrate and to maintain. It all began in the mid- 2000s, with SPYNEL's first customer: the US Army. As the first SPYNEL cameras were intended for military applications, they were designed according to the appropriate military standards such as IEC 945 (maritime standard), MIL-STD-810 (military standard), and MIL-STD-461 (EMC standard). SPYNEL cameras can be operated in a wide temperature range (from -40°C to +71°C) and have been field tested in diverse environments. SPYNEL cameras are currently deployed in deserts in the Middle East, in tropical regions in Central America and the Caribbean, in countries with very cold winters in eastern Europe and, of course, in maritime environments.

>Image 2. Naval defense and security systems must operate in harsh sea environments under wartime conditions.

Regarding maritime applications, onboard surveillance equipment can be subjected to constant wind, temperature changes, moisture and corrosive sea water exposure. The seas’ forceful movement creates structural vibrations that can be harmful to delicate surveillance technologies. SPYNEL systems were designed to take these challenges into account. Specific maritime cameras with anti-corrosion painting and a water sprinkler are delivered for these types of applications. The water sprinkler can be controlled remotely to clean the seawater out of the lens of the camera. An innovative optomechanical and digital stabilization system was also developed for SPYNEL's maritime applications. With CYCLOPE's powerful image processing, the false alarm rate is very low despite waves, vibrations and solar glare.

Maritime Applications

Image 3. SPYNEL cameras can effectively detect small wooden watercraft in open sea.

SPYNEL systems used for shipborne applications can be installed on a mast for the self-surveillance of ships, on offshore platforms, or on rooftops in port cities. Maritime applications can be both civil and military. Built up to military standards, SPYNEL sensors have already been chosen by several Navies and installed on multiple war frigates and maritime platforms around the world. Today, the SPYNEL cameras delivered to the French Navy almost ten years ago proved they could effectively detect small wooden watercraft in open sea, choppy conditions, and could efficiently monitor the entire 360-degree perimeter while docked.

Challenges Faced in Developing Panoramic Thermal Imaging Technology

SPYNEL cameras introduce a unique concept with panoramic thermal imaging. The first and biggest challenge is to explain this new approach to the market and make sure that the client does not assimilate SPYNEL to traditional PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras, which are intended for identification purposes.

The second challenge is to present SPYNEL as an alternative to radar, which is a well-established technology in the maritime sector. SPYNEL differs from radar in many ways. It is a passive system, which means it is undetectable and cannot be jammed. It offers a real-time panoramic visualization, enabling the management of several detections & recognitions of different targets simultaneously. That doesn't mean SPYNEL systems and radars are incompatible; SPYNEL systems are often installed in conjunction with radar to provide a double-layered surveillance system. To facilitate surveillance, SPYNEL's CYC-LOPE software facilitates the merger of data from radar and AIS (automatic identification systems).

Maritime Situational Awareness

Image 4. AIS Plugin Display

In order to facilitate the identification of threats as quickly as possible, the data from boats can be fused to CYCLOPE's automatic thermal detection, for an augmented filtering of threats. CYCLOPE's AIS plugin displays AIS data of ships for an immediate identification. CYCLOPE can also sort out ships with AIS identification from targets without AIS data, and detection can be set out only on targets without AIS, in order to highlight them.

In conclusion, SPYNEL infrared systems allow for an effective coverage of ultra-wide areas on land, at sea, for civil, military and private applications. Whether at sea or along the coast, SPYNEL panoramic cameras provide a constant surveillance, day and night, even under the worst maritime conditions. They are proven shipborne solutions, offering the best combination of long-range detection, panoramic video streaming, and low false alarm rates. Entirely passive, the systems operate while being protected from electronic jamming and camouflaging. The cameras are rugged enough to operate under the harshest weather conditions, and their innovative technology allows for a unique optomechanical and digital stabilization. Robust and compact, SPYNEL systems are flexible enough to be used both as a stand-alone surveillance system or to be part of a complete surveillance solution.

This article was written by Coline David, Communications Officer, HGH Infrared Systems (Igny, France). For more information, visit here .