History and future of night vision

by Maisie

Night vision has long been an integral part of our lives. It is used everywhere and brings great benefits to people. Despite such popularity, this technology is still relatively young and promising. In the future, it will actively develop and delight users with important innovations.

How did it all start?

Until recently, military operations could only be carried out during the day. At night, there were problems with movement and communication, which increased the likelihood of the failure of the offensive. To solve this problem, night vision devices were invented. They were able to partially correct the situation and give the army a noticeable advantage over the enemy.

Night vision was first used in World War II. In 1939, devices supporting this technology were added to the equipment of the soldiers of the German army. These were very simple devices that used the infrared spectrum to detect various objects in the dark, ranging from equipment to enemy soldiers. The use of such technologies made it possible to amplify the available light several hundred times. The most advanced, at that time, models had a 1000-fold increase in brightness, allowing you to consider only the contours of objects of interest. German NV devices were large structures, the weight of which could reach several hundred kilograms. Also, for their effective operation, special large-diameter infrared illuminators were required, which were transported to the battlefield using large trucks. Such gigantic dimensions required the creation of additional protection, since any shot could damage the searchlights and render the entire installation unusable. These devices were classified as zero generation. They began to gradually improve, and by the end of 1943, German tanks, portable complexes and rifles began to equip night vision.

After the end of World War II, the Americans began to work on the development of NV technologies. They used German equipment as a basis and gradually made their own changes to the design. For two decades, there has been no significant breakthrough. However, already in the 60s, the first devices of the first generation were produced. They were passive devices that needed the use of an IR brightener. These were not as large devices as the 0 generation models, so it was much more comfortable to use them. This optics showed itself perfectly in Vietnam. Due to the multiple amplification of light, it allowed the soldiers to see at night and easily navigate in the dark jungle.

The real breakthrough took place in the 1970s. At this time, the development of second generation devices began, which are actively used today. These devices are far ahead of their predecessors in terms of image quality and degree of image enhancement. In their design, there was a microchannel plate with a photocathode, which allows you to maximize the brightness not only in the center of the frame, but also along its edges. On average, the manufactured devices had light amplification by 15-20 thousand times. That made it possible to see even in the absence of the moon and stars in the sky. In addition, the changes also affected the resolution. It has become much better, which made it possible to see various small details in the image.

By the 90s of the last century, devices of the II+ generation became available. The developers equipped them with improved optics, and were also able to achieve the highest possible resolution and minimal noise. Such devices proved to be excellent during Operation Desert Storm. They gave a noticeable advantage over the enemy and made it possible to conduct hostilities in the dark.

The development of night vision was unstoppable. In this regard, a few years later, third-generation devices were introduced to the world. This modern optics also used a microchannel plate, but instead of an outdated photocathode, a new one, just created, was placed on it. Thanks to these changes, it was possible to achieve a 50,000-fold amplification of light, which significantly expanded the area of operation of the equipment. The changes also affected other parts of the design, which were considered the weak point of the second generation models. This made it possible to maximize the reliability and increase the life of night vision devices.

Today, the development of NV technology continues. Already, there are some developments that are intended for the military. These devices are being tested and will be known to everyone in the near future. In the future, night vision will not stop its development and will give mankind many useful devices.

New developments and commercialism

Initially, night vision was available exclusively to the military. For civilians, devices using this technology have been released relatively recently. This made it possible for manufacturers to make good money and invest in the development of new optics. Such investments have led to a constant modernization of devices with all the ensuing positive consequences.

The main features of new developments:

  1. Versatility. Manufactured devices every year become more and more universal. They are suitable for military purposes and can be used in the civilian field. In the future, this trend will continue, and manufacturers will continue to manufacture optics that are useful in various fields of activity.
  2. Reducing weight and size. New developments of most companies are gradually becoming lighter and more compact. This improves user comfort and simplifies the process of transporting devices to their place of use. Also, small dimensions and weight have a positive effect on the speed of completing tasks.
  3. Applications of wireless technologies. Every year there are more and more wireless devices. All of them are easy to use and open up the widest possible possibilities for the user. Thanks to this, it is possible to quickly exchange data (for example, with command), remotely adjust settings and access useful information right at your location.
  4. Speed ​​up work. The very first night vision devices processed the collected data within a few minutes. Because of this, users received a picture with a long delay, which led to the need for additional monitoring of the situation in real time. Modern devices process data almost instantly. In the future, they will become even faster, which will avoid even minimal delays.
  5. Durability. Low reliability and short service life of devices has always been one of the main problems for developers of optics for the night. To solve this problem, it was decided to use only high-quality components made from modern materials in production. Also, to increase the durability indicators, thorough research is carried out in laboratories, the purpose of which is to identify the weakest points and eliminate all minor shortcomings. This approach to business gives its result. Modern appliances are becoming more durable, and this trend will continue in the near future.
  6. Image enhancement. Good picture quality was not immediately available to users. The first models of optics provided only a remote similarity of the image, on which only the outlines of objects could be distinguished. Modern devices have partially solved this problem. Most of the devices are able to create a high-quality picture with good detail. At the same time, do not forget that there is no limit to perfection. In the coming years, manufacturers will continue to develop this direction and the clarity of the image will become higher and higher.
  7. Cost reduction. A lot of money is being invested in night vision technology. Such investments lead to the emergence of a large number of private firms that are engaged in the production of optics. This increases competition and automatically leads to a downward trend in prices. Thanks to this, even modern devices become available to everyone.
  8. Augmented reality. Among all modern developments, augmented reality deserves the most attention. It is the most promising, as it potentially opens up the widest possible opportunities for users. In the future, this direction will become the main one and its development will go as quickly as possible.

Night vision was created relatively recently. Despite this, it quickly gained popularity and began to be used in various fields of activity. With the help of this technology, night military operations and work at industrial facilities have become available, as well as safe driving in total darkness, hunting after sunset, and much more. In the future, night vision will become even more in demand and will bring many benefits to humanity.

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