“Rugged, small form factor (SFF) embedded vision has a long history of use in military embedded systems. ISA and PCI bus NTSC frame grabbers have been in rugged, military use for well over 10-15 years in a variety of surveillance and imaging applications. The more recent availability of SFF PCIe/104-Express frame grabbers now make possible NTSC/PAL multi-channel D1 image capture at full frame rates with a robust set of overlay features.”
For high-performance applications with high-resolution or high-speed requirements, the workhorse camera interface technology for rugged, SFF embedded vision has been dominated by Camera Link technology. This is supported by rugged, SFF PC/104 solutions from vendors like EPIX, Inc. in the USA and Active Silicon, LTD in Europe. However, these first-generation SFF Camera Link products have mostly been simple copy-and-paste derivations of PCIe desktop designs. The early designs implemented large, desktop-oriented connectors with thick, unwieldily parallel LVDS cabling which creates significant fit issues for the SFF system engineer.
Next Generation Military Embedded Vision
Next generation military embedded vision systems have a number of factors driving its rapid deployment. While 4K resolution has been very popular in consumer products for a few years now, only recently it is being seriously discussed for new military projects. This is motivated by the ever-present demand for higher image resolutions at higher frame rates for all applications. New imaging applications are being created using hyperspectral and multispectral technologies with camera framerate requirements of 1000 MB/s and beyond which really highlight the shortcomings of current image capture frame grabbers. Combine the availability of Intel processors with high-resolution digital display ports, 4K-resolution rugged cameras and rugged, SFF CoaXPress frame grabbers and the timing is right for a serious transition to next-generation rugged SFF embedded vision solutions.