Meet the Team: Q&A with Rick Bryant, Director of Advanced Programs, on the future of night vision

Posted by Aimee Schenck on Aug 26, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Rick Bryant joined Rochester Precision Optics in 2013 after his service in the United States Marine Corps and nearly 20 years as the Director of Visual Augmentation Systems for Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Rick, in collaboration with our VP of Engineering Bob Benson, has been integral to the development and launch of RPO’s CNOD CMOS system and the direction of our night vision R&D. In addition to his R&D leadership, Rick has also led fielding, logistics, and other responsibilities that come with heading advanced programs.

 

Rick, why did you join RPO?

Frankly, they recruited me. They wanted to build the CNOD, and I knew what it would take it get it in the field. During my time as night vision director with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, we put 50 technologies in the field, and RPO built the optics in 38 of them. They’ve got an impressive track record with DoD programs.

These are the technologies used to enable some of our Special Forces’ most historic missions.

The team pursuing Bin Laden used night vision with four image tubes for a wider field of view. Traditional night vision goggles are limited to two image intensifier tubes to keep the system to a feasible weight for soldiers. RPO’s lightweighting expertise and the sophistication of their plastic optics made this operation a success.

I had seen proof of RPO’s engineering and manufacturing capability, and when the idea for CNOD came up, I was on board.

 

What’s been the reaction to RPO’s release of the CNOD?

We set out to develop the CNOD to get the right equipment in Special Forces’ hands. We obviously can’t share the military’s test data, but every military lab that’s requested it has kept it longer and pushed it further, far beyond today’s performance requirements. At 600 meters, the CNOD can identify whether a target is holding a cell phone or a weapon. The CNOD allows for facial identification, day or night.

The CNOD is about 1/3 the cost of available monocular night vision systems today, with broader usability and higher performance.

Night vision systems are traditionally either image intensification or thermal imaging systems. The CNOD is neither—it’s digital. With still image and video capture capabilities, it has so many applications for military defense, police, SWAT, and border patrol.

 

What’s the difference between the types of night vision technologies?

With thermal imaging, you can’t see through glass because of the reflectivity. In a scenario in which you’re pursuing someone in a car, like border patrol or SWAT, this introduces risk. CNOD’s digital system is useable in low light, moonlight, or daylight, and can overcome reflectivity.

With both thermal imaging and image intensifiers, weight matters. Soldier fatigue is critical, and the monocular design appeals to the military both to reduce equipment weight and cost.

 

Watch for more on the CNOD and night vision technologies in future posts.

Topics: Blog