IMAGING

Smile at that police officer giving you a speeding ticket--he or she may be taking your picture. A video camera small enough to fit into a police badge is expected to be commercially available as early as October 1997. The device is based on research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL; Oak Ridge, TN) where a commercial video camera has been fitted with a special 6-mm-wide lens (see photo on p. 46).

Apr 1st, 1997

IMAGING

"Smile, you`re on candid camera"

Smile at that police officer giving you a speeding ticket--he or she may be taking your picture. A video camera small enough to fit into a police badge is expected to be commercially available as early as October 1997. The device is based on research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL; Oak Ridge, TN) where a commercial video camera has been fitted with a special 6-mm-wide lens (see photo on p. 46).

David Sitter, one of the inventors of the lens, says that the technological barrier to developing such a small camera has been the inability to shrink the size and number of lenses in the optical system. The ORNL unit uses just two lenses. The aperture of the camera is 6 mm, focal length is 6.1 mm, and depth of field ranges from 7 cm to infinity.

According to Preston Leingang of Turtle Mountain Communications (Maryville, TN), the technology licensee, a key aspect of the development of a camera this size and power is placing the aperture in front of the lens instead of behind it, which is the case in a typical 35-mm camera. With the aperture in front of the lens mechanism, light throughput is about 12,000 times greater than that of a typical camera.

The technology also involves integrating a photosensor with an RF transmitter--a miniature part of a chip. Turtle Mountain is currently combining the technology with a charge-coupled-device (CCD) camera that will be able to transmit photos directly to a remote computer.

The camera can be used for law enforcement, unobtrusive monitoring, hidden body surveillance capability, and advanced sighting for weapons. "We already have requests to beta test [the camera] here in the USA and in the UK," says Leingang. These have come from fire fighters, search and rescue groups, large shopping centers, US military, and the UK Ministry of Defense.

Turtle Mountain is developing three basic transmitting products: a microtransmitter that transmits at a radio frequency of 16 GHz, a lens integrated into a miniature video camera, and a camera combined with a transmitter.

Laurie Ann Peach

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