This program is focused on building wide-field, video-rate, gigapixel cameras in small, low-cost form factors. Traditional monolithic lens designs, must increase f/# and lens complexity and reduce field of view as image scale increases. In addition, traditional electronic architectures are not designed for highly parallel streaming and analysis of large scale images. The AWARE Wide field of view project addresse these challenges using multiscale designs that combine a monocentric objective lens with arrays of secondary microcameras.
Currently, a two-gigapixel prototype camera has been built and is shown below. This system is capable of a 120 degree circular FOV with 226 microcameras, 38 microradian FOV for a single pixel, and an effective f-number of 2.17. Each microcamera operates at 10 fps at full resolution. The optical volume is about 8 liters and the total enclosure is about 300 liters. The optical track length from the first surface of the objective to the focal plane is 188 mm
The AWARE-10 5-10 gigapixel camera is in production and will be on-line later in 2012. Significant improvements have been made to the optics, electronics, and integration of the camera. Some are described here: Camera Evolution. The goal of this DARPA project is to design a long-term production camera that is highly scalable from sub-gigapixel to tens-of-gigapixels. Deployment of the system is envisioned for military, commercial, and civilian applications.
A major advantage of this design is that it can be scaled. Except for slightly different surface curvatures, the same microcamera design suffices for 2, 10, and 40 gigagpixel systems. FOV is also strictly a matter of adding more cameras, with no change in the objective lens or micro-optic design
MSNBC Future of Tech – 50 gigapixels is the upper limit because it is the precision limit of lens-manufacturing technology, and also because beyond that you start running into the resolution limit of the atmosphere, i.e. what can be discerned through all those pesky air molecules between the camera and the subject. So it’s no surprise that they’re considering imaging at that size for astronomical rather than terrestrial photography.
Brady explains that right now, the size and quality of images is limited by the quality of the main objective lens, but they have already built a superior lens for 10-gigapixel images.