Night Vision Devices, commonly known as NVDs are tactical devices that are capable of amplifying light to illuminate the dark surroundings of their users. This game-changing technology has effectively transformed the battlefield of the 21st century and given its user a clear-cut advantage over their adversary. All establishments unanimously concur to its abilities to provide a distinct edge. However, the NVD market is challenging, and MSME MKU Company based in the UP Defence Industrial Corridor, is one of the companies, to enter the niche global market. To handle this challenge of exporting NVDs globally, young Ms Prachi Gupta, Vice President, Electro-Optics Division, MKU has been silently breaking through the global market. From making presentations to the global customers, carrying out negotiations to the shipment of the products, she does it all. In an exclusive interaction, Ms Gupta shares more about this journey and the NVDs with Huma Siddiqui.

Prachi Gupta, Vice President, Electro-Optics Division, MKU

Following are excerpts:

What is your role in your company and how did you get interested in NVD?

I am heading the electro-optics division of MKU in the capacity of Vice President. I joined this division two years ago after getting trained in other divisions of MKU. It is an exciting field to work in and the opportunities for development in technology and products are huge. This was a compelling reason for me to join this field.

I feel proud to witness women in India dedicating their lives in service of the Nation by joining the Armed and Police forces. And, equally, I feel honoured and privileged to be a part of the Defence Manufacturing fraternity and to be one of the few women who are a part of this field and contributing in Indigenisation of Defence Technologies. I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity.

Is your company the only one in India making NVD? If not who are your competitors?

MKU is designing and manufacturing top of the line Night Vision Devices based on Generation 3 Image Intensification Technology in India. Our competition is not just limited to India, as we are also exporting our Night Vision Devices outside India. In addition to Night Vision Devices based on Image Intensification technology, we are developing and manufacturing Thermal Imaging systems as well.

So what is Generation 3?

Like all technologies, NVDs have also gone through multiple evolutionary stages to reach their current capabilities and can broadly be differentiated into four separate generations. There are different stages starting from Generation “0” — used an IR illuminator as an active method of forming an image, which is old technology and not available commercially. Then came Generation “1” which used an S 20 multi-alkali photocathode to form an image and is also considered outdated compared to the present standards. This was followed by Generation “2”, a monumental step up was initiated in the quality of the image obtained. Even though it too employed a multi-alkali photocathode, it also used a micro-channel plate (MCP) in the image intensifier tube for the amplification of the photoelectrons.

Then came the fourth and the last generation is known as generation ‘3’ which uses an image intensifier tubes that contain Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) photocathode and is capable of offering a much higher sensitivity to light — up to 1600~2000 µA/lm and a ?spectral range?of?up to 900nm. And the photocathodes used in?generation 3?NVD’s? Image intensifier display a negative electron affinity that in turn provides the photoelectrons a ‘proverbial’ free ride towards the vacuum band. ?Generation?3 NVDs are ideal for Special Forces, Search & Rescue and Border Surveillance.

How is MKU NVDs different from your competitors?

MKU’s USP is that we control the complete process from design and development to manufacturing and extensive testing. We have been able to build a team of engineers, technicians and skilled workers who bring lot of uniqueness in the way we work. We collaborate with the best suppliers worldwide for sensors and optics.

In order to compete with world leaders in the International market, we constantly work on cutting edge technology to make our Night Vision lighter and perform better in dark conditions. For example, Gen 3 technology with over 2000 Figure of Merit is able to work in very low light conditions.

We are also investing heavily in Research and Development. And for this, we have partnered with Thales of France for co-development of electro-optical devices. We work with the latest sensors and have an extensive roadmap for answering the needs of our customers.

MKU has always been focused on exports. It is the same with our electro-optics division. This year we are executing big export orders for night vision devices.

Are you the first company to export this `Made in India’ NVD? Which are the countries you are exporting this to?

On this scale, I believe we would be the first company to export ‘Made in India’ NVDs based on Image Intensification Technology. So far we are exporting to South American and Asian countries. Very soon, we will be exporting to Europe as well.

Are these for military use or for paramilitary forces?

The devices we manufacture are used by both military and paramilitary forces.