Certain operating environments for ruggedized systems call for the need to be unseen. This is where Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS) come in. In simplest terms, these infrared-driven solutions allow operators to use their tactical equipment, without emitting significant light. As you could imagine, the most popular application is military. These systems are found in tanks, field command posts, on ships, etc. Essentially, NVIS is used anywhere the operator doesn’t want to be seen. This also includes industrial, marine, medical, avionics, and other uses.
You’ve likely seen NVIS technology used in action movies or ads for the armed forces. Despite how cool those night vision goggles look, at the heart of every NVIS system is the display. Many LCDs today feature LED backlights, which produce a modulated frequency of light. Users can see the screen, without getting overwhelmed. They maintain a low light environment, which avoids the disruption of natural light. Since the applications for these systems are wide and varied, an extensive range of attributes and options are available.
A blackout switch on this combat-ready Barracuda helps prevent giving away your position to the enemy
Let’s break down some of the bigger ones:
Ruggedization Factors – these refer to any specialty design consideration that is driven directly by the application’s physical environment. Will it be used in a dusty desert? Deep under the sea? In a tropical climate? These factors will determine if the monitor needs to be sealed, or perhaps requires specialty glass or other material/design considerations.
For applications where operators may be on the bridge of a ship or on a flight deck, EMI is a concern. This can be reduced or eliminated with the addition of an optically bonded vandal shield.
Screen Size and Resolution — as we’ve mentioned in the past, resolution doesn’t tend to be a huge driver of cost. That said, you’ll always want to get the best resolution available. As for physical size, it is dictated by the application itself. Just imagine: a shoulder mounted missile system could only accommodate a small display unit, while a spacious command center would demand something much larger.
Mounting/Enclosure — does the unit need to flip-down from the ceiling, will it stand alone or perhaps “plug in” to a much larger workstation? Rack or panel mounted? Answers to these questions will determine the type of enclosure and mounting options that are best for the application.
Connectors — this one might be obvious, but certainly worth mentioning. When sourcing an NVIS LCD, the buyer needs to make sure they are selecting one with outputs that are compatible with the system’s input requirements. They’ll want to avoid the use of converters or adaptors when possible, to help keep the system more efficient, while saving some space and money.
While the above-mentioned factors are the bigger ones, there are many other options on the market to help accommodate the range of use cases. Here are a few:
- Blackout switch — In certain situations, some light could be visible when it’s pitch black, particularly in open environments. Hit the blackout switch, and all will immediately shut off.
- NVIS/Daylight mode shifting — For many applications, the equipment is used during day and night. To accommodate both, the user will need the ability to control intensity and frequency. Dual mode monitors can facilitate this by using two LED back rails for illumination, one for each mode. The user can easily switch from one to the other.
- Antireflective/Antiglare Coatings — as the name suggests, these will reduce reflections and glare which can prevent the display from being readable in bright settings.
As with many mission and safety-critical applications, component attribute selections are determined by the environment itself. Since many options are available, it’s important to specify a solution that, at very least, hits your minimum requirements. In some cases, you’ll need to try and prepare for the more extreme scenarios to optimize the equipment’s usability. But be sure to analyze and accommodate all potential factors and related options before making your final selection. The mission’s success could depend on it!