High Performance Infrared Zoom Lenses for UAVs and Drones: Low-SWaP, Extended-Range, Ruggedized Lenses

New MWIR Continuous Zoom Lens Released for UAS Applications

By Caroline Rees / 18 Aug 2021
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MWIR Continuous Zoom Lens

MKS Instruments, Inc. has released a new continuous zoom lens, the latest addition to the LightIR family of lightweight, long-range, motorized continuous zoom lenses developed by the company’s Ophir Optics Group.

The LightIR 16-180mm MWIR f/3.6 is a compact thermal imaging lens optimized for smaller size 10μm pitch VGA Focal Plane Array (FPA) detectors. 

Featuring a folded optics design that significantly reduces the length of the lens and, therefore, the overall size and weight of the optical system in which it is incorporated, the lens is 65% smaller than existing Medium Wave Infrared (MWIR) 10μm VGA lenses. 

At only 460gr, its light weight and compact size make it ideal for the demanding requirements of reduced Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) and small gimbal thermal imaging applications, including drones and tactical Unammed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) IR cameras as well as micro-/mini-tactical payloads in the commercial, homeland security, and defense markets. 

The folded optics design enables long optical lengths, which produce a reduced sensitivity to tolerances in compact configurations that incorporate fewer optical elements. 

The innovative design also enables near diffraction-limit performance in harsh environments, and addresses challenges such as Line-Of-Sight (LOS) stabilization and athermalization. The mechanical and electrical interface assures easy integration into camera systems. 

“The LightIR 16-180mm f/3.6 folded zoom lens addresses the new market shift toward smaller size detectors,” said Kobi Lasri, General Manager of Ophir Optics Group. “With its disruptive combination of SWaP capabilities, detection range over 13+ km, and cost-effective pricing, the new zoom lens is an enabler for advanced drone, UAV, and small gimbal thermal imaging applications.” 

According to Chris Johnson, President, Sierra-Olympic, “Once we recognized the market’s movement toward low-SWaP MWIR 10μm pitch VGA FPA optical systems, we began collaborating with Ophir’s R&D and Engineering teams to design an innovative and cost- effective zoom lens. Their low-SWaP 10μm pitch VGA zoom lens has allowed us to be first to market with our newest optical systems. 

“We have worked in partnership with Ophir for years and are confident in their advanced optomechanical design and manufacturing capabilities. The end result of this partnership is that Sierra-Olympic continues to maintain its market leadership, while answering the demands for low-SWaP optical systems for long range observation, and securing significant integration opportunities in both military and commercial systems.” 

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Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact