Multi-spectral camera has life-saving potential

A team of European scientists has developed a new Multi Spectral Imaging camera that could be used for search & rescue, identifying pollution, and improving tunnel safety.

(Credit: Jagokogo via CC)
(Credit: Jagokogo via CC)

Based out of Spain, the SEERS – ‘Snapshot spectral imager for IR surveillance’ – project harnesses the latest photonics technology. The 2kg camera is about the size of a shoebox and captures the same image at different frequencies from the electromagnetic spectrum. Combinations of multi spectral images can reveal information invisible to humans, such as fires hidden by fog and poisonous gases.

According to the researchers, current MSI cameras use a filter wheel that needs to be rotated, meaning they are unable to capture ‘snapshot’ images across the spectrum in real time. However, the SEERS device features a multi-aperture, multi sensor camera capable of capturing several wavelengths simultaneously.

“The SEERS device is equipped with integrated computational imaging,” said project coordinator Anton Garcia-Diaz. “It has no need for cooling and can process the images in real-time, meaning key parts of processing are embedded within the device.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that 600,000 deaths across Europe in 2014 were attributable to air pollution. SEERS could help identify previously unknown sources of urban pollution, assist in coastal search & rescue, and help improve safety in tunnel systems and underground transport networks.

“Accidents in tunnels, while rare, are extremely serious when they do happen,” said Garcia-Diaz. “Responding quickly and in a targeted manner is vital. We expect rescue and response times will be cut significantly with the SEERS camera.”

SEERS was funded with a grant of €3,750,535 from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme via the Photonics Public Private Partnership. According to Garcia-Diaz, the outcome is a device that can be produced for significantly less than current infrared alternatives, and that will ultimately save both money and lives.

“Few imaging systems exist with the capability to identify gases, but even they can cost over €100,000,” he said. “The SEERS project aims to deliver MSI technology in an extended infrared domain at under €40,000 with improved persistence and gas identification capabilities.”