Detection of small targets in the infrared: An infrared search and track tutorial

Ronald Driggers, Eytan Pollak, Robert Grimming, Ectis Velazquez, Robert Short, Gerald Holst, Orges Furxhi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Airborne target detection in the infrared has been classically known as infrared search and track or IRST. From a military point of view, it can be described as target detection at long ranges where the target image is subpixel in size. Here, the target is “unresolved.” It can also describe the detection of aircraft near the observer using distributed apertures in a spherical detection field. From a commercial point of view, an important application is drone detection near live airport operations. As drones become more common, the dual-use functionality of IRST systems is expanding. Technology improvements for IRST systems include the wide proliferation of infrared staring focal planes. New readout integrated circuits allow for time-delay-integration of large format detectors. Stare-step sensors in the future appear to be as common as gimbal-scanned thermal imagers. Detection probability analysis and IRST sensor design is different than targeting system design. We provide a tutorial here on IRST system calculations as well as discussions on broadband versus spectral calculations and new technology considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4762-4777
Number of pages16
JournalApplied optics
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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