The Growth of Thermal IR Optics: Understanding Optical Requirements in a Market that’s Developing Exponentially

Posted by The RPO Team on Jun 13, 2017 9:34:00 AM

Last month, RPO's Director of Business Development and Marketing Adam Dunn attended AUVSI XPONENTIAL in Dallas, Texas. The conference and exhibit, the largest of its kind for unmanned technology, offered insight on the role optics is playing in this rapidly developing industry.

IMG_0469.jpgThe innovation of this technology is quickly moving from defense into applications as diverse as train inspection and firefighting. While applications and regulatory controls develop, companies were open and collaborative in discussing how performance, cost and volume requirements will develop. Across applications, these UAVs will depend upon high quality IR and visible optics.

Market Outlook for IR Optics


Meeting a new demand

Thermal applications are a large contributor to the rapid growth of unmanned technology. The development of viable UAV commercial applications will depend on low-cost, high performing IR optics. With well-thought optical assembly design and approach to optical manufacturing such as optical molding, UAV companies can meet performance and volume demands while achieving cost targets.

The rapid growth of IR optics has increased material costs. RPO's work with cost-effective, high-performing chalcogenide glasses has proven to be the advantage designers are looking for to address this issue. RPO is currently both diamond turning prototype and low volume chalcogenide optics, and molding chalcogenide IR lenses.  


Molding for high volume

In traditional markets that use high end optics 3-5 new products will be introduced in a year. UAV's speed of progression is pushing out 10-15 products every year. As the industry shows no sign of slowing down, optics companies will have to respond to meet the demand for high volume.

xpo-floor-lockheed.jpgWith extensive experience and capabilities in IR optics and IR molded glass aspheres, RPO is poised to contribute to UAV technology in a variety of applications. Expertise in molding technology is a big value-add for UAV developers because molded optics allow for volume manufacturing without the high cost.


Collaborating to succeed

With so many unknowns—regulatory environment, application environments, price points and performance demands—collaboration is required to establish products that prove use case and speed adoption. Three of the Xponential conference keynote speakers highlighted the importance of combining existing technologies into new applications to create a brand new ecosystem of technology and innovation. Rochester Precision Optics is a proven partner in IR optics, and used this opportunity to learn and advise on emerging UAV applications.  


If you'd like more information about how RPO's molding expertise can benefit your project, contact us. To learn more about designing optics with high manufacturability, download our checklist: 

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Topics: Infrared, Trends, UAV, Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles