Night vision goggles typically use an image intensifier to amplify natural ambient light from the moon and the stars to create an image that can be seen with the human eye or detected by digital image sensors. A built-in infrared illuminator enables users to operate effectively on cloudy nights or in the total darkness of a basement or blacked-out building.
There is a night vision device for almost every role and mission, each corresponding to a different set of operational scenarios. Some users need the best range and resolution, while others require outstanding imaging performance with virtually no ambient light. Certain missions call for ultra-compact devices that perform well in a variety of unpredictable situations.
Back in 1996, Thales revolutionised the market for night vision goggles with Lucie, one of the first products to combine a low-profile design for added comfort with an enlarged field-of-view for better situational awareness.
A few years later came Minie-D, the first connected night vision device with an integrated video display and the ability to communicate with C4I systems and other soldier equipment. The Minie-D/IR variant combines image intensification with infrared imaging technology, offering unique image fusion capabilities for better threat detection, while assuring total discretion because no visible light is needed.
More recently, Thales has developed a succession of new products including Bonie HP, a wide-aperture device for special forces operating on the darkest nights, and Minie, a compact new night vision device to replace the French Army's legacy fleet of Lucie goggles.
Minie weighs less than 350 g and features a patented low-profile design that shortens the distance between the eyes and the centre of gravity of the equipment to minimise neck strain and improve wearing comfort for prolonged use.
The latest addition to the family is Nellie. Launched in 2020, this new product packs in all the latest optical and light intensification technology to provide high-resolution stereoscopic vision with an extra-wide (47°) field of view in an ultra-lightweight (<460 g) binocular that's comfortable to wear and easy to use.
In addition to outstanding optical performance, it features a handy push-and-turn control button on both sides of the unit, so users can adjust the goggles with either hand. A new lateral flip-up feature also makes it easier to push one side of the goggle out of the line of sight to gain perspective and improve all-round vision and situational awareness.