By Paolo Valpolini
Photonis Defense, part of Photonis, is well known for being the European champion for image intensifying tubes and CMOS sensors. Since March 2021 it can also provide its customers with top-level uncooled thermal sensors, having acquired Device-ALab, which roots go back to historical companies such as Thomson-TCS.
Initially a design-only company, it has now moved one notch up and is able to provide its customers with small to middle volumes of products chosen from its portfolio, the company being also ready to customise them according to customer’s needs.
The main business in the defence world, at least for the time being, is that of Long Wave InfraRed (LWIR) modules. For military use its SmartIR series can be provided in different resolutions, with matrix going from 160×120, to 384×288, 640×480 and finally 1024×768, all with a 17 µm pitch. Recently the 640×480 engine core was selected by OIP of Belgium for the FPSA (Fusil de Précision Semi-Automatique, semi-auto precision rifle) programme; the thermal core by Device-ALab operating in the 8-14 µm band is one of the key elements of the Tigris IR thermal sight, of which 1,500 were part of the contract. Currently 600 devices have been delivered to the Armée de Terre, part of them being deployed downrange. The SmartIR 640, as well as the 1M0 with the higher resolution, have a frame rate up to 120 Hz, a NETD (Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference) lower than 50 mK, and can be used in a shutterless solution. Device-ALab portfolio also includes 12 µm pitch arrays, know as IrLugX, with respective resolutions of 320×240, 640×480 and 1280×1024.
The company, based in Grenoble, also produces a Short Wave InfraRed (SWIR) 640x512module with a 15 µm pitch, operating in the 0.9-1.7 µm frequency band, with a frame rate up to 178 Hz. Named IrqLA640 it provides the typical advantages of SWIR sensors, allowing i.e. to see through windows and to provide better images when operating in difficult conditions such as haze.
Although acquired by Photonis, Device-ALab remains an independent entity, as its President, Mr. Daravan Ly told EDR On-Line. The good results obtained by its sensors within the FPSA programme put the company among those considered reliable by the French DGA, which opens doors on the export market, Australia being one of the potential customers. Its R&D division is working on constant improvements, also thanks to the fact that business is gaining momentum. According to Mr. Ly in 2021 Device-ALab expects a 60% growth in its turnover, while for 2022 the results of the current year might increase by 100%. Fully produced in France, Device-ALab products are obviously ITAR-free and are submitted o EU export regulations.
Photo courtesy P. Valpolini