ARL quantum image

C4ISR

ARL’s ‘ghost imaging’ cuts through battlefield turbulence

Soldiers in the field trying to see what’s in the distance don’t always get a clear view. Smoke can obscure objects, waves of heat can distort them and not even the best imaging technology can compensate for the turbulence.

At least, not the best conventional imaging technology. But the Army Research Laboratory is developing a way to “see through” the distortion and obscuration with quantum imaging.

Two researchers from the lab’s Research Development and Engineering Command, Ronald E. Meyers and Keith S. Deacon, recently received a patent for an innovative technology called System and Method for Image Enhancement and Improvement, which builds on their work to use quantum properties to get high-resolution results out of low-resolution transmissions, according to the Defense Department’s Armed With Science website.

Meyers, who has 19 patents in quantum physics and related technologies, described the Quantum Imaging Camera as “a new and better way to get a picture.” It not only eliminates the distortions that visible-light imaging can fall victim to, but it also improves on infrared imaging, which, while effective in low light, does have its limitations.

"We are overcoming problems that classical imaging can't cope with, and solving them with better physics solutions enabling quantum imaging applications," he said.

Quantum imaging, also known as ghost imaging, is based on the quantum properties of photons, electrons and atoms. The method filters out atmospheric turbulence and other irregularities, creating an image that you couldn’t see through the lens of a camera, and works at any wavelength, ARL said.

Researchers tested the system at a distance of 2.33 kilometers (about 1.45 miles) and came up with a surprisingly clear image despite a high level of turbulence and low-light conditions, ARL said.

The ARL team has been studying ghost imaging since 2003 — and invented remote ghost imaging in 2007 — and has set a goal of using it to improve Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance from the ground, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles. The new system represents that latest in what have been regular improvements in the technology.

And for troops, the bottom line is that quantum imaging can give them a clearer view of what’s ahead.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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