Improving Situational Awareness and SWaP in UAV Optronics

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) play a critical role in modern defense applications, providing vital situational awareness for border monitoring, search and rescue, threat detection, and anomaly identification. Equipping UAVs with the right optronics system is crucial for mission success. This white paper explores key considerations for defense contractors designing and integrating optronics for UAV-based surveillance systems.


Every Component Counts

Defense contractors face complex challenges when
selecting optronics for UAV-based surveillance. UAV
optronics are not “one-size-fits-all” System performance
must align with mission requirements and consider image resolution, altitude and operational ranges, and weather
Payload (or gimbal) can represent 20% to 30% of the
entire UAV system cost. Choosing the right optronics
solution demands careful consideration of performance, compatibility, and compliance.

Optimizing Performance within SWaP Constraints

With UAV payloads’ strict SWaP limitations, every
component counts in terms of operational capabilities and efficiecy. Given the critical nature of defense missions,
when image quality is paramount, consider systems
with active stabilization and vibration compensation
technologies. Look to lightweight, high-precision systems to minimize payload weight while ensuring successful
integration into space-constrained UAV platforms.

Stabilized steam low-light

Unimpeded situational awareness is critical. Look for a system
with high stabilization performance and fast “Step & Stare”
capabilities to facilitate panoramic or mosaic image generation with a high refresh rate to maximizing terrain coverage.

Stabilized steam thermal

Effective deep-learning models and video analytics rely on
stable thermal imagery. Active stabilization ensures smooth,
unblurred video streaming in low-light or IR environments.
Techniques like gyro-stabilization further enhance image clarity during operation on shaky platforms or in high winds.

Compatibility and Compliance

Look for a system that physically integrates within the structure,
but also complies with communication protocols and existing data formats, and security protocols from the DoD.

Dual EO/IR Cameras: Effective day/night surveillance requires
both electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) cameras. Platform Compatibility: Consider compatibility with various
UAV platforms like quadcopters and small fied-wing UAVs.

Ensure the optronics system integrates seamlessly with
commonly used platforms, such as the NVIDIA platform. Third-party integration to analytics and custom software is also

The optronics system should comply with relevant industry standards, including:

  • MIL-STD-810: Environmental testing
  • MIL-STD-461: Electromagnetic interference
  • MIL-F-499: Coatings for optical components
  • ISO 9001: Quality management and continuous improvement
  • ISO 14001: Environmental management

Velox: Rock-Steady for 24/7, Fast Clear Imagery

Velox’s gimbal systems excel in steadiness, speed, and optimal size, weight, and energy efficiency. This fine-tuning is essential for scenarios demanding minimal energy usage, like drones in route to their destinations without the need for stabilization.

See further and track sharper. Velox surpasses the competition with industry-leading stabilization of <80 microradians achieved through:

  • High-Performance Piezoelectric Motors: Delivering rapid and precise control for jitter-free video, even in harsh conditions.
  • Advanced Closed-Loop Control System: Continuously adjusts for vibration and wind, ensuring a rock-steady platform for your cameras.
  • 12 Megapixel Visible Camera: Captures stunning, high-resolution images in broad daylight.
  • Uncooled 640 x 512 LWIR Thermal Camera: Provides clear vision in low-light and complete darkness