NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, Patuxent River, Md.– Two scientists from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) recently earned a patent for an instrument and technique that tests the image-capturing sensor in digital cameras helping buyers determine the quality of the camera before purchase.

“The acquisition and sustainment of capability is a weapon of war and development efforts are an important aspect of what we do to support the Fleet,” said NAWCAD Commander, Rear Adm. John Lemmon. “This invention is an example of the cutting-edge technology, top-tier capability, and intellectual capital NAWCAD brings to both industry and our warfighters”.

Developed by NAWCAD scientists Aaron Hendrickson and Dr. Gary Lohman, the Focal Plane Illuminator has broad application for imaging systems across the entire military and camera industry.

“A better test technique was needed because manufacturers’ specifications are unreliable and based on outdated methods,” said Hendrickson. “Manufacturers test cameras in different ways, so comparing cameras by their spec sheets is comparing apples to oranges.”

Their first-of-its-kind invention also has application for testing cameras throughout their lifecycles.

“Until now, there’s been no standard way to test picture degradation over a camera’s lifetime – we assume cameras work until they don’t,” said Lohman. “When the Navy makes weapons-grade decisions on camera systems found in satellites, UAVs, fixed ground instruments, and aircraft turrets, it needs to understand and monitor the camera’s quality to ensure systems perform as well as when they were new.”

Additionally, the Focal Plane Illuminator tests an image sensor while still in the camera. Current test methods require users to remove the sensor from the camera body for testing, which can be time-consuming and risks damaging the camera.

The Range Commanders’ Council, a national organization of Department of Defense test and training ranges, has long recognized the need for a better test procedure. The council tapped Hendrickson to research and develop a better way.

Several ranges have already expressed interest in the new test capability. While few test kits exist at this time, ranges send cameras to Hendrickson at NAWCAD’s Atlantic Test Ranges where the Focal Plane Illuminator was incepted and successfully supports testing for naval aviation today. Interested ranges should contact Hendrickson to leverage the new technology.

NAWCAD advances capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and our warfighters. The warfare center is where naval aviation takes flight through research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment of both fielded and not-yet fielded naval platforms and technologies that ensure America’s Sailors and Marines always go into conflict with significant advantage. With sites in Patuxent River, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida, the command is the Navy’s largest warfare center with a diverse force of military, civilians, and contractors building the Navy of today, the Navy of tomorrow, and the Navy after next.

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