Overview

This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) call aims to develop and demonstrate a number of novel technologies or applications in the area of Electro-Optic and Infrared (EOIR) sensors to address the future needs of defence and security for highly capable and affordable sensors for surveillance, target acquisition and threat detection.

Scope

DASA would like to focus on the following three key challenge areas. All sensors and technologies must operate from the Ultra Violet (UV) to the Far Infrared (IR) range.

Challenge 1 – Novel Optics and Materials – which may include but are not limited to:

  • metamaterials or nano-photonics that allow switchable or tuneable properties like refractive index or absorption/polarisation
  • low cost multiband optics and their associated coatings
  • new concepts for lightweight rapid pointing of lasers and sensors
  • novel optical components including lasers, lenses, detectors, modulators, polarisers, filters etc., which are switchable / tuneable / multiband
  • new concepts for lightweight lenses to provide wide contextual situational awareness and narrow targeted surveillance simultaneously

Challenge 2 – Novel Sensors– which may include but are not limited to:

  • novel detector materials addressing multiple wavebands, or photon counting in the IR frequency range
  • temporal sensing / event based read-out
  • neuromorphic sensors
  • novel LiDAR, synthetic aperture LiDAR, passive aperture synthesis, covert LiDAR
  • low cost distributed sensing (for example, ‘disposable’ or short-lifetime) for wide area coverage or 3D scene generation
  • multifunction concepts for sensors; sensors that can provide more than one function or operate in multiple modes, for example, imaging an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) payload that provides wide area ISR imagery, but can also operate as an optical communications receiver or a threat warner
  • software defined sensors
  • very low cost / novel integration of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) Solutions

Challenge 3 – Embedded/Edge Processing applied to EOIR sensing– which may include but is not limited to:

  • adaptive / autonomous processing concepts that can adapt to changing imagery and extract information appropriately
  • very low power embedded image processing (for remotely deployed and / or ‘on-the-man’ systems)
  • machine learning for sensor and image improvement or image interpretation
  • rapid extraction of 3D imagery from low photon Lidar data
  • semantic extraction of information in real-time
  • novel approaches to structured light or modulated illumination imaging
  • real time application of fusion / registration / spectral techniques
  • novel real-time super-resolution
  • processing pipelines for neuromorphic sensors
  • real-time semantic labelling of objects
  • real-time / low latency contextual scene understanding (for example, a man is climbing the fence, a riot is in progress, person(s) with weapon(s) in the scene, etc.

Your proposal should include evidence of:

  • an innovative or creative approach
  • feasibility of revolutionary concepts
  • clear demonstration of how the proposed work applies to defence and / or security applications of EOIR sensors
  • clear indication of the expected performance improvement compared to current approaches, and how that improvement will be measured / demonstrated

Types of Application

DASA expect to fund two distinct types of work:

  • short term investigations into existing concepts lasting no more than 9 months – DASA expect to fund up to 10 of these in Phase 1
  • longer term ‘deep-dive’ investigations into novel materials or disruptive concepts with a maximum duration of 2 years. It is expected that DASA will fund up to 3 of these in Phase 1. Note that DASA will only fund work of this long term nature for topics that offer a significant step-change in either performance and / or cost / size / power

For both types of work within Phase 1, they are looking for delivery of proof of concept demonstrations (early maturity / Technology Readiness Level (TRL)) that show feasibility for application to defence relevant application areas, some of which are suggested below.

Proposals in Phase 1 will be capped at £150k (ex VAT) for the short term demonstrations of concept, and £200k (ex VAT) per year for the longer term deep-dive investigations. Proposals will be rejected if the financial cost exceeds these capped levels.

Contracts are expected to be awarded in March 2020.

Example Applications

Example applications for solutions include:

  • imaging in difficult environments – such as through cloud or smoke, atmospheric turbulence, extreme low / no light, through foliage or camouflage
  • detecting and identifying difficult to distinguish objects passively and actively in low light / no light / different wavebands (UV – LWIR) at long range – such as small slow air targets like drones, snipers, small high velocity objects in wide field of view, man portable guided weapons, concealed surveillance sensors, individuals (faces and other features) / weapons / vehicles (number plates and other features)
  • identifying objects at extreme long range (»20km) – such as a specific kind of vehicle belonging to an adversary vs. a friendly vehicle. Identification means gathering sufficient information about an object to be able to classify it in a way that supports further military actions
  • real time assistance for situational awareness – such as when dealing with a large number of objects in a scene (urban environment, crowded sea lanes in the littoral environment etc.) there is a critical need to rapidly extract objects of most interest / represent threats to allow users to prioritise efforts

Exclusions

For this competition, DASA are not interested in proposals that:

  • constitute literature reviews which just summarise the existing literature without any development
  • will likely remain at TRL 1 by the end of Phase 1
  • operate outside of the electro-optic band (0.2 – 20 micron wavelengths), e.g. radar or THz sensors
  • are solely based on in-fibre optics based innovations, for example, telecommunications
  • are an identical resubmission of a previous bid to DASA without modification
  • do not offer significant potential benefit to defence or security capability
  • offer demonstrations of off-the-shelf products requiring no experimental development (unless applied in a novel way to the challenge)
  • offer no real long-term prospect of integration into defence capabilities
  • offer no real prospect of out-performing existing technological solutions
  • are stand-alone optical communications concepts
  • consist of technologies specifically intended for chemical, biological and radiological defence related applications
  • consist of technologies specifically for deployment in space

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