The design of optronic systems requires expertise in numerous areas, ranging from optics to electronics (low noise), precision mechanics and micro-positioning servos. Optical technology is crucial for the development of subsystems installed on a number of key Leonardo products, such as radar systems where the distribution and processing of microwave signals from the antenna on an optical carrier is one of the enabling technologies of the new multi-functional Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA)  radar systems.

Leonardo’s optical centre of excellence is equipped with new-generation machinery for ultra-precise production and treatment of optical surfaces, and even higher-performing optical measurement systems. Leonardo’s capability in design and production across all areas of optronics (from detectors to optics) allows the group to supply state-of-the-art systems.

Leonardo’s foundries develop infrared detectors, particularly cooled detectors (in the UK and with DRS in the USA), pyroelectric detectors (in the UK, a world leader in the supply of instrument sensors) and microbolometers (with DRS in the USA).

These technological capabilities are developed vertically, from the study of basic materials and processes to work with them (such as materials for the focal play array sensors used in infrared or IR vision systems), through to subsystems (such as lasers, thermal chambers, optics) to electro-optical instruments and their integration into a variety of systems and platforms. Advanced knowledge in the field of optronics, materials and assembly processes enables development of components and equipment offering unique features.

In parallel with the development of hardware technologies, image and signal treatment technologies are also evolving, focused on optimisation of display and the search for automatic detection and tracking systems to detect potential threats or targets without operator intervention.

Leonardo’s optronic technologies and systems are also used in space applications. The space industry is a driver of innovation, generating solutions which can then be applied to systems used in the air, at sea and on land.