Friday Night Lights: Leonardo DRS DVE – Thermal Hummer

    Today we get a special look at something only servicemen and women may have seen – the Leonardo DRS DVE (Driver’s Vision Enhancer). Thanks to @WildBillHMMVW, I got a chance to check ut his Thermal Hummer. As always, Friday Night Lights is brought to you by ATN Corp, manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics like the THOR LT. As with all of our sponsored series, Friday Night Lights will continue to bring you unbiased news and reviews from a variety of companies.

    Thermal Vision Devices @ TFB:

    DVE (Driver’s Vision Enhancer)

    Leonardo DRS makes a wide variety of electronic systems and weapon systems for the military. One such product is their DVE (Driver’s Vision Enhancer) thermal system. It is a thermal camera system that connects to a display inside a vehicle so you can drive at night or through dust and smoke,

    Here is an example of a thermal camera seeing through the smoke.

    The Leonardo DRS DVE is part of their ESA (Enhanced Situational Awareness) system. They use multiple thermal cameras in a vehicle to provide the driver with more information to safely maneuver the said vehicle.

    Wild Bill’s Thermal Hummer

    Bill’s Thermal Hummer just has a single DVE camera mounted on it. At first glance, you might miss the DVE thermal camera.

    See it? It is the small circular thing mounted just above and in the middle of the windshield. According to Bill, these DVE thermal camera systems were utilized on MRAPs. He custom fabricated a bracket so he could mount the DVE in front of his windshield and provide an uninterrupted thermal image.

    For those of you not familiar with thermal systems, they use a different form of infrared wavelength to see. They are not dependent on photons of light, however, unlike analog night vision that uses image intensifiers, thermal cameras cannot see through glass.

    close up of DVE thermal camera

    You can see the wires from the DVE thermal camera routed around the windshield and down into the engine bay in the photo below.

    Bill routed the cable to a plug that goes through the firewall and into the cabin.

    The cables go to the Display Control Module (DCM) which is bolted to the top of the windshield frame.

    The DCM is how you control the image from the DVE thermal camera. You can switch polarity from white hot to black hot. You can adjust screen brightness as well as adjust contrast and gain of the image with the knobs just below the screen.

    Since the Display Control Module is mounted to the windshield frame, it can flip up out of the field of view of the driver for driving under normal conditions. But when you cannot see very well due to low light or smoke, you can fold the DCM down into the driver’s main field of view. This is how you can drive at night or through smoke using the DVE camera to show you the way.

    The DVE thermal camera is set up on a motorized gimble which is controlled with this joystick. You need to press down on the button atop of the stick and while you hold that button down, you can move the joystick up, down, left and right. This will tilt and pan the DVE camera. At the top left corner of the control stick, is a home button. Pressing it will move the camera back to the preset home position. Home is where you set it. So in this case the camera will be pointed forwards and angled to see the best of the road. That way if you need to move the DVE to get a better idea of what is around you, you do not have to waste time manually resetting the camera for forward movement. Just hit the home button and the camera goes right back to where it was set.

    The thermal image produced by the DVE is rather good. It was able to display some detail on the stickers I have on the side of my FJ Cruiser.

    Here is a video of Bill’s Thermal Hummer.

    The DCM has ports in the back to input or output video.

    Photo by Artisan Technology Group

    The video-out port is a BNC connection so I was able to plug in the input video cable from the PVS-21 COTM into the Leonardo DRS DCM. I was able to project the DVE thermal image into the HUD window of my PVS-21s. Click here to learn about the COTM and projecting images into the PVS-21

    Final Thoughts On The Leonardo DRS DVE System

    Bill shared with me how he got his Driver’s Vision Enhancer system. He was an aircraft mechanic for the Air Force and worked on A-10 Thunderbolts. On a side note, he did confirm A-10 pilots did use ANVIS-10 near the end of his service. Anyway, Bill likes to tinker and he reached out to a company to deals in military surplus and e-waste. He said he would buy any and all of these Leonardo DRS thermal systems. Out of the many broken units he got, he was able to Frankenstein a few working units. He sells them for around $6,800 for a complete setup. In fact, he is working on making one for me. It will be a simpler version that just has the camera and screen. I do not need the motorized gimble. I plan to mount the thermal camera using magnets and rig up a mount in the cabin for the DCM. I will run the cable through my window when I use it. The only real challenge is up converting my SUV’s 12v to 24v to power the Driver’s Vision Enhancer. But Bill thinks he has found an off-the-shelf solution for that. Stay tuned for a future Friday Night Lights when we get the system built and working in my SUV.

    TFB’s Friday Night Lights series is brought to you by ATN

    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]