The University of Sydney Nano Institute’s Jericho Lab has designed and created a new “neuromorphic” sensor for use within the Australian Defence Force.
The sensor, which is hoped will improve the ability for military vehicles to monitor rapidly unfolding events and moving objects, emulates neurobiological processes in the camera's operation to enhance sensing abilities.
“Whereas a traditional camera is constrained by frame rates, each pixel in a neuromorphic camera functions independently and is always ‘on’. This means the imaging system is triggered by events. If it’s monitoring a static scene, the sensor sees nothing and no data is generated,” a statement by the university read.
The sensor, labelled the MANTIS, is controlled via a dashboard and can undertake the imaging analysis while onboard the vehicle.
Professor Ben Eggleton, director of Sydney Nano, explains how biology was the conceptual basis of the MANTIS sensor.
“Combining traditional visual input with the neuromorphic sensor is inspired by nature. The praying mantis has five eyes – three simple eyes and two composite. Our prototype works a bit like this, too,” Professor Eggleton explained.
“When there is an event, the sensor has incredible sensitivity, dynamic range and speed.
“The data generated is elegantly interfaced with an IT platform allowing us to extract features using machine-learning artificial intelligence.”
Professor Eggleton continued, “We look forward to developing this device further and collaborating with other experts in this area, including Western Sydney University’s International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems, which are the leaders in neuromorphic research in Australia.”
Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, welcomed the development of the MANTIS sensor.
“There are many things that excite me about MANTIS. The level of detail that it provides and its ability to track high-speed events is very impressive,” she said.
“It's a promising sensor fusion that has really strong potential across Defence," AVM Roberts said.
The new sensing capabilities were developed due to collaboration between the RAAF's Jericho Disruptive Innovation team and the University of Sydney Nano Institute, with support from the Defence Science and Technology Group.