FEBRUARY 26, 2009--A tiny parasitic fly has helped BAE Systems to build an optical imaging system with a field of view six times bigger than the cameras it is designed to replace. BugEye -- about the size of a sugar cube -- was developed by scientists at the company's Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) in Great Baddow as part of a project funded by the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD).
The project called for smaller, lighter cameras for missile tracking systems. It also wanted a lightweight device that could view 120 degrees of sky to replace heavy, gimbal-mounted equipment that can only cover 20 degrees without being moved. The ATC team spent six months studying insects' eyes to see if nature could provide a solution.
They found one in the eye of the male Xenos peckii fly, which has about 50 separate lenses and can see and process a very wide field of vision. The individual images in each lens in the fly's eye are upside down, but the fly rearranges this in its brain. The ATC used computer software to perform a similar job.
BugEye has nine lenses. The images from them are passed through a faceted, polished fiberoptic faceplate, focused down onto one focal plane sensor (similar to that of a video camera), then stitched together and corrected by image-processing software so that they are the right way up. For more information, go to: http://www.baesystems.com/Businesses/SharedServices/Divisions/AdvancedTechnologyCentre/BugEye/index.htm