Periscope Digitisation Programme


Submarines are a key part of a nation’s defence strategy and are expected to be in service for over 30 years. A technology refresh brings technology up-to-date but must be delivered on time and on budget. Our client, a major UK Defence Prime, secured a contract to digitise the periscopes of three nations’ submarines.

Our client needed to upgrade analogue video systems to digital whilst maintaining compatibility with other submarine systems which may not be upgraded. The project required demonstrator products rapidly as part of a risk reduction strategy and an end product with assured longevity of supply and reliability.

The Project:

Our client utilised our experience of leading edge technologies to help architect the new system: writing requirements specifications for custom products and aiding the selection of COTS products. Requirements included general processing but also specialist video processing and I/O.

Design challenges included component selection, including suitable processors, that would offer the ability to run without a fan and meet strict system latency requirements – the periscopes were used for navigation and targeting and therefore having the correct information displayed is pivotal. Longevity of supply, MTBF values and environmental constraints were also key factors in our component selection. These requirements were a key reason for our selection of North Atlantic Industries as the COTS supplier. Their custom-on-standard-architecture philosophy and experience with military programmes made them a suitable partner.

Varisys met regularly with the client to overcome technological challenges and continually push the project towards completion whilst ensuring expectations of the end-user were satisfied.

Solution Overview

  • Custom video conversion card capable of converting two analogue video streams into a total of six video streams including composite, DVI and VGA.
  • Custom display assembly capable of processing commands through an FPGA and ARM microcontroller set-up to display graphics and text within a 40ms latency. The assembly consisted of a baseboard, display transition board and machined bracket all designed by Varisys with an off-the-shelf display. Significant VHDL and software optimisations were completed to meet latency requirements.
  •  Multifunction I/O cards from our strategic partner North Atlantic Industries providing synchro resolver and A/D conversion channels, reference supplies and discrete I/O to provide a feature rich system in a 3U cPCI form factor.



  • Using Varisys allowed our client to rapidly produce demonstrable prototypes to help leverage production orders.
  • Project risk was reduced by utilising our board level hardware and software design expertise.
  • Hardware delivered on time at minimal cost
  • Our client now has completed hardware designs and prototypes, enabling them to move to production and receive a significant ROI.




NAI’s 75C3