When Were Night Vision Scopes Invented

The Evolution of Night Vision Technology: From Invention to Modern Applications

When Were Night Vision Scopes Invented? A lot of people have asked this question.

Night vision technology has come a long way since its inception, and it is now widely used in a variety of applications, from military and law enforcement to hunting and outdoor activities. With its ability to enhance visibility in low-light conditions and even complete darkness, night vision technology has revolutionized the way we see and interact with the world around us.

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global night vision devices market size was valued at USD 7.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 10.1 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.6%. The increasing demand for night vision devices in military and defense applications, along with their growing adoption in various industries such as surveillance, security, and wildlife observation, are some of the key factors driving the growth of the night vision technology market.

Furthermore, a study by Grand View Research projected that the market for night vision devices would witness significant growth in the coming years, driven by the increasing use of these devices in applications such as search and rescue operations, surveillance, and hunting. The study also highlighted that the market for night vision devices is expected to benefit from the rising demand for these devices in emerging economies such as China and India.

However, it was not always this way. The earliest night vision scopes were invented by scientists working with the U.S. military in the 1930s. The invention of these scopes led to a revolution in military combat and a huge leap forward in the safety of law enforcement officers and hunters.

We cover the history of night vision scopes, why they became so popular in the Vietnam war, as well as how their use has evolved since.

The Early Years of Night Vision Technology

The night vision scope was invented in early 1939 by a  Hungarian physicist called Kálmán Tihanyi, who worked in the UK. However, night vision was used in World War II in 1939. And day by day time to time, it has been increasing the popularity amongst the people. 

When Were Night Vision Scopes Invented

History of Night Vision Scope

  • The origins of night vision technology can be traced back to the early 1900s, with the first practical night vision devices being developed during World War II. The first true night vision device was the Sniperscope, which was used by the British Army during the war. It used an active infrared system to project a beam of infrared light, which was then reflected back by the target and detected by the device. The Sniperscope was a significant advancement in night vision technology and paved the way for future developments.
  • After World War II, night vision technology continued to evolve, with the United States taking the lead in research and development. The first passive night vision devices were developed in the 1950s, which did not require an external source of light to operate. Instead, they amplified the existing light and provided an image in shades of green.
  • In the 1970s, the United States military developed the AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles, which became the standard for night vision devices in the military. These goggles used image intensification technology to amplify light and provide clear images in low light conditions.

Since then, night vision technology has continued to advance, with digital night vision and thermal imaging technology being developed. Digital night vision devices use digital sensors to provide clear images in low light conditions, while thermal imaging devices detect the heat emitted by objects and provide images in varying shades of color.

Throughout the history of night vision technology, various organizations and key figures have played a significant role in its development. These include military organizations such as the United States Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, as well as private companies such as ATN Corp and FLIR Systems, which continue to push the boundaries of night vision technology.

Usage in the United States

The U.S. military has been a major proponent and user of night vision technology since World War II, when it was first developed for use in combat. Today, night vision technology is widely used by U.S. military forces, including soldiers, pilots, and special operations forces.

Law enforcement agencies in the United States also make use of night vision technology, particularly for surveillance and tracking of suspects during nighttime operations. Police departments and SWAT teams use night vision goggles and other devices to help them navigate in low-light or no-light conditions, making it easier to track suspects and avoid obstacles.

In addition to military and law enforcement applications, night vision technology has also been adopted by civilians for a variety of purposes. Hunters, for example, use night vision scopes and binoculars to spot game in low-light conditions, while wildlife enthusiasts use night vision cameras to capture footage of nocturnal animals. Night vision technology has also found its way into the commercial market, with companies using it in security systems and surveillance cameras.

The development and advancement of night vision technology in the United States has been driven by a number of key players, including government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, as well as private companies and research institutions. Major players in the night vision industry include companies such as L3Harris, FLIR Systems, and BAE Systems.

Search and Rescue personnel use night vision scopes to safely enter dangerous locations at night, such as active bomb sites. The night vision device allows the person to see in the dark and detect potential dangers before they encounter them.

night vision goggles

Night vision scopes used by the U.S. military have to meet specific criteria to ensure their effectiveness and reliability in combat situations. Some of the key criteria include:

  • Image quality: Night vision scopes should provide high-quality images that allow users to accurately identify targets in low-light conditions.
  • Durability: Military-grade night vision scopes must be rugged and durable to withstand harsh combat environments, including extreme temperatures, moisture, and impacts.
  • Range and magnification: The scope should have a sufficient range and magnification to allow users to engage targets at long distances.
  • Battery life: Battery life is critical to ensure the scope remains operational during extended missions.
  • Weight and size: Night vision scopes should be lightweight and compact to minimize the burden on the user.
  • Compatibility: The scope should be compatible with a range of weapons and accessories commonly used by the military.
  • Maintenance: Night vision scopes should be easy to maintain and repair in the field, with interchangeable parts and simple mechanisms.
  • Cost: The cost of the scope should be reasonable, given the budget constraints of the military.

Meeting these criteria ensures that night vision scopes used by the U.S. military are reliable, effective, and well-suited to the demands of combat situations.

There are several different types of night vision scopes. The main distinction between the various types of night vision scopes is what range of light the device is capable of seeing. The three primary ranges of light used by night vision scopes are Infrared; Visible Light; and Ultraviolet.

Visible Light:

This is the range of visible light that is visible to the human eye. Light of this type is what allows you to see normally, but it is also what makes your eyes tired after spending time using them.


This is the range of light that humans cannot see, but the night vision scope is capable of seeing in this wavelength of light. The night vision scope may see the infrared glow from objects that emit body heat, such as humans, animals, or other creatures, or it may see reflected heat from other objects. This type of night vision device is used to scan for human movement and identify the presence of heat sources.

Infrared night vision devices are used in conjunction with thermal imaging systems. Thermal imaging devices create images in infrared wavelengths, which can then be viewed through the night vision device.

Visible/Infrared Sensors:

There are two types of sensors used in night vision devices, visible light, and infrared sensors. Both are capable of detecting the same type of light but the visible light sensor can do so much faster and with less battery power than the infrared sensor. The combination of both sensors is useful as the visible light sensor gives a broader view of the environment while the IR provides better detail for the night vision device.

When Were Night Vision Scopes Invented

Low Light Level Imaging:

Low light level imaging technology (LLTI) is the term used to describe a combination of technologies and methodologies to enable the viewing of a scene at extremely low light levels. Night vision scopes are capable of imaging scenes in dim light situations as well as in pitch darkness.

Narrow Band IR:

The Narrow Band IR (NB-IR) system is commonly known as a “thermal” or “night vision” system. The system is usually associated with thermal imaging, which is a way of sensing the infrared radiation emitted by objects at temperatures above absolute zero. An advantage to using this type of imaging is that it is unaffected by light and, hence, can work in total darkness.

Night vision systems use narrow band filters to select the spectral range of interest, typically from 700 to 1200 nm. It is allowing the viewer to perceive the thermal signatures of an object in its environment. 

The operational range of a night vision system using this type of filter is usually between 5 and 10 miles during the daytime, and 15 to 25 miles at night, depending on terrain, weather, and target characteristics.

Night Vision Devices:

Most of the night vision devices sold today are capable of scanning at least one direction. Scanning is the ability to move the device in a straight line, in the direction it is aimed. Some night vision devices can be operated as a gimbaled scope, which means that the device can rotate 360 degrees. This can be used to track or move around targets. Some scopes are equipped with lasers, which can be used to pinpoint the exact location of a target.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the usage of night vision technology has become an essential component of military operations, surveillance, hunting, and wildlife observation. The history of night vision technology dates back to the early 1900s, with significant advancements made during World War II and the Cold War. Today, night vision technology has evolved to include a range of devices, including binoculars, monoculars, scopes, and goggles, with varying levels of performance, features, and price points.

Overall, night vision technology has revolutionized how we view and interact with the world at night. Whether you’re a hunter, a wildlife enthusiast, or a member of the military, investing in a quality night vision scope can greatly enhance your performance and experience. With the right equipment, you can safely and effectively navigate in low-light conditions, track your target, and achieve your mission objectives with greater success.

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