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USAF Seeking Low-Cost Electro-Optical Drone Sensors

The US Air Force (USAF) is asking the defense industry to develop a low-cost electro-optical sensor for small, attritable unmanned aircraft.

In an announcement posted on its System for Award Management website, the service indicated that the sensor must be smaller, lighter, less expensive, and less complex than conventional optical systems.

It must also employ “novel” optical technologies such as planar optics components to maintain suitable performance for future missions.

The USAF will utilize the electro-optics for infrared target identification, missile warning, or other cueing sensor applications.

Once selected, the contractor must demonstrate the ability to leverage planar optics and computational imaging to reduce power requirements and achieve warning or situational awareness functionality.

“The contractor shall prepare authoritative reports, papers, presentations, technical data, and best practices guidance for the purposes of assisting the USAF and USSF [US Space Force] to assess new optical technologies, performance characteristics thereof, and relative performance within proposed mission, installation, and cost,” the announcement read.

Investments in Electro-Optics

Last month, the US Marine Corps awarded a $252 million contract to Northrop Grumman to supply a handheld electro-optical laser target designation system.

The system will quickly acquire targets, execute guidance against targets, and generate target location data during combat operations.

The electro-optical system will reportedly combine target location, laser spot imaging, and laser target designation.

Florida-based technology firm L3Harris has also developed a state-of-the-art electro-optical sensor system designed for automatic target detection and tracking, as well as day and night video surveillance.

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