Sandia's adaptive zoom riflescope offers push-button magnification

Oct. 28, 2014
Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell led the development of the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) prototype.

IMAGE: A member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, left, demonstrates the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles prototype developed at Sandia National Laboratories. (Image credit: Sandia National Laboratories)

Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM) optical engineer Brett Bagwell led the development of the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) prototype. At the push of a button, RAZAR can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles. "The impetus behind the idea of push-button zoom is you can acquire what you're interested in at low magnification and, without getting lost, zoom in for more clarity," Bagwell said.

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In addition to military riflescopes, RAZAR technologies are now being considered for other applications where speed, size, weight and power count. Applications include medical imaging, binoculars for the entire range of users from the military to birdwatchers, hunters’ scopes and cell phone cameras where optical zoom is needed to avoid the pixelated images associated with digital zoom.

Bagwell began work on RAZAR in 2006 responding to Department of Defense interest in a compact zoom riflescope that could rapidly toggle between magnifications. Early work had been funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Bagwell found no commercial products or components that would enable the riflescope to meet military requirements, so he had to design and build the first RAZAR from scratch and develop a manufacturing process.

The RAZAR prototype uses a patented active optical zoom system, called "adaptive zoom," invented by David Wick, who was working as a Sandia optical engineer at the time. Traditional optical zoom changes magnification by adjusting the positions of the lenses along the optical axis. For example, a 35-mm camera mechanically moves the lenses as you zoom in on or out from a subject. Adaptive zoom changes the focal lengths of two or more lenses by varying the curvature of the lenses’ surfaces to provide optical zoom without changing their overall positions relative to one another, allowing the user to view either a wide-angle image or zoom in on an area of interest with a compact, low-power system, Wick said.

SOURCE: Sandia National Laboratories;

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