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Preview – Night Vision 101

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Night vision devices (NVDs) have been used by the military and law enforcement for decades. The ability to see in complete darkness gives any NVD user a distinct advantage in tactical situations. As with many military-derived technologies, these capabilities have now found their way to the civilian market. RECOIL recently spoke to Victor Di Cosola, NVD expert and president of Tactical Night Vision Company (TNVC), about today’s applications.

“NVDs are actually image enhancers that collect small amounts of available infrared and visible light and amplify them so that we can see with our naked eye,” Di Cosola said. “This light is collected and converted by a device called an image intensifier tube.”

Night vision has actually been is use since the 1930s. Each major advancement in night vision technology has been classified by generation. Generation 0 saw parallel development in Germany and the United States and was used by both countries during World War II. Gen 0 used active infrared technology, which required that an infrared light be projected in order for the NVD to be utilized.

Amplifying light by 1,000 times, Gen 1 was the next leap and brought in the use of passive infrared technology. It was called Starlight by the U.S. Army and was used in Vietnam. Passive infrared allowed ambient light, such as bright moonlight, to be gathered instead of requiring the projection of a separate infrared light.

Light amplification for Generation 2 approached 20,000 times, and there was a marked improvement in image resolution and system robustness. Gen 2 NVDs allowed users to see even on moonless nights. Continual development of Gen 2 technology has improved to a point where it is even comparable to some Gen 3 devices.

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