Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions are the backbone of modern military tactics. During these missions, electro-optical and infra-red (EO/IR) systems are critical for collecting data, leading to global investment in the sector.
Strategic Defence Intelligence’s (SDI) latest report expects the global EO/IR systems market to value US$9.1 billion in 2015 – a figure forecast to reach US$14.3 billion in 2025. EO/IR systems gather high-resolution electro-optic (EO) data during daylight and infrared (IR) imagery during the night. Globally, the need for advanced situational awareness and information dissemination is rising, making EO/IR systems a highly sought-after commodity. Many countries are investing in the development and procurement of several EO/IR based aircraft, naval vessels, ground vehicles and UAV payload systems.
“Recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that accurate information about enemy formations and other associated intelligence is very important during precision strike missions. EO/IR systems have helped to save the lives of many soldiers, while simultaneously enabling allied forces to overpower the enemy,” says Mainak Kar, analyst at SDI.
Huge demand for EO/IR for UAVs and aircraft
Most of the ISR activities in a conflict zone are performed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aircraft. This has created a worldwide demand for airborne EO/IR systems. Aircraft now incorporate a number of EO/IR systems such as targeting and navigation pods, or infrared search and track (IRST) systems. “The arrival of UAVs has provided substantial impetus to the EO/IR market, as these unmanned vehicles are highly endurable and are thus capable of carrying more weight during take-off,” says Kar.
Technological innovations drive adoption of EO/IR
According to SDI, technological innovations are also responsible for the widespread incorporation of EO/IR systems. New versions of EO/IR systems provide higher-resolution images, while simultaneously reducing size and power consumption so that more cameras can be used on platforms that are less expensive. “This is also one of the major reasons why EO/IR systems – once only available to elite Special Forces – are now prevalent in regular army units,” adds Kar.