I've been involved with airsoft for about two years being affiliated with a large local group of people in our community who meet regularly and have scheduled games, ops, and events. Airsoft is a great sport and hobby that encourages teamwork, honor, respect, communication, and discipline (as well as how to wisely make purchases). I recently played a game at night and realized how cool it would be if I could utilize some form of night vision. The more I researched it, the more I wanted to see in the dark somehow.

Unfortunately, true night vision in even the lowest quality can cost hundreds of dollars just for the optic alone, excluding hardware necessary to mount the optic to a helmet or airsoft rifle. It's expensive technology. However, there are alternative methods for seeing in the dark. There are several versions of educational night vision viewers and toy spy binoculars available on the market for kids and...um...well, geeks like me. They utilize low-lux cameras, infrared illumination, and a display for a more affordable $50-$80 system that can still see in the dark. This is the system I chose to utilize.

Being inspired by DIY'ers like Kipkay, and reading books like 50 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius, I chose to invest the money to build my own infrared night vision viewer. Besides, both of those night vision builds use parts that can only be scavenged, not purchased individually. I wanted to show how to build a unit from stuff you can buy online easily or at the store.

For more information on how to build this type of system, here's some helpful links:

KipKay's Night Vision instructable:

Longwinter's Steampunk Night Vision Periscope build:

Lucidscience (50 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius) Night Vision build:

Alex1M6's IR Night Vision illuminator:

So let's get started. Remember, don't get into any trouble with this, and don't expect this to compete with real night vision devices. This is intended to be aproof of concept. Let's begin!

Step 1: What You'll Need

To quickly summarize how our device will work, it is simply a camera that can see infrared light that is invisible to the naked eye, and can utilize the infrared light like a flashlight. Usually a form of display is required. Often times, the use of a viewfinder from an old camcorder is used for this purpose, however these are hard parts to find without buying an entire camera, and I didn't have any cameras lying around, and I certainly wasn't going to waste money on an entire camera that I was only going to use for a viewfinder. So I used an LCD screen for this purpose instead. Here are the parts you'll be needing for this project:

I spent about $60-$70 on electronic components for this project (excluding replacing a part that I ruined), and around $25-$30 for the boxes for the enclosure. If you build your own enclosure, you can probably save a lot of money. If you build this exactly like I did, you'll probably expect to spend around $100 give or take.

Electronics (Prices as of 5/16/13):
-3.5" TFT LCD screen....... $20.00

Takes 12V, has two video inputs- yellow and white. The white input will override the yellow making the white input suitable for other external axillary usage for other AV equipment.

-Low lux video camera module...... $31.40

Other cameras will work so long as they can connect to the RCA video input on the screen. This camera is .008 lux rated. The lower the lux rating, the better it will see in the dark and the easier it will be able to detect IR light. I wouldn't go any higher than .008 for this, as the camera won't be sensitive enough to pick up the IR light effectively to create an image.

-30 LED Infrared illuminator..... $13.95

IR illumination is usually available in 840nm and 940nm wavelengths and the intensity is measured in watts, not lumens. 840nm IR light will also produce a visible red glow when viewed with the naked eye, however 940nm IR is completely invisible and undetectable. I chose a near infrared illuminator because it was easier to find, and it was more affordable than other IR illuminators.

I also picked up a Cree Ultrafire WF-501b Infrared Torch (850nm, so there is a red glow)..... $19.96

I ended up getting one of these for my rifle to use in addition to the infrared illuminator for longer distance viewing. Remember, more IR = more viewing distance.

-12V Battery

I was able to get an 8 AA battery holder that adds up to 12V for a few bucks at Radioshack. So long as you use 12V DC, you'll be fine.

-5V voltage regulator.....$1.99 from Radioshack

This is very important because the camera will only accept 5V DC power. Any more voltage than that will fry it and cost you another $30 camera. Trust me, it's not a good feeling to realize that you accidentally ruined your camera and have to buy another one. That's why this instructable is here for you, so you can learn from my mistakes and save money...and probably some profanity as well.  :)

-Male to male RCA video adapter:

You'll need this because both the screen and the camera have female plugs for video and need to be connected. You can find one of these at Radioshack for around $5.

-Switches: You'll need a  switch for turning on the camera and screen and for turning on the infrared illuminator. Switches are cheap and usually only a buck or two a pop.


-Soldering iron
-Wire strippers/cutters
-Heat shrink tubing
-Lighter or heat gun
-Electrical tape
-JB weld
-Hot glue/Hot glue gun
-Drill and bits or access to a drill press
-Dremel tool and cutting attachment
-Black spray paint

Enclosure: This step is completely up to you. I used several ABS project boxes in various sizes from my local Radioshack electronics store and mounted them together to create my enclosure. The sizes I used were 5x2.5x2", 6x3x2", and 8x4x2". You could probably use PVC pipe, wood, plastic containers, etc and it would work just fine.

Completely optional, I also used some cheap 3M full-seal chemical protection safety goggles (lab goggles) to make the faceplate of the viewer and to help prevent light from the LCD screen from leaking and giving my position away (as if the glowing red IR LED's weren't enough). Plus....it does improve the look of the finished unit a bit.  :)

<p>Looks great! I actually recently bought ATN NVG7-2 here: http://www.atncorp.com/nightvision, and I really like my new purchase, but I will still try this tutorial as 2 night visions are always better than one)))</p>
<p>Hi, this is a really cool project thanks for sharing it with us. I just wanted to say if you used a switching voltage regulator instead of a linear voltage regulator used in the project your battery would last longer. This is because the linear voltage regulator is literally transforming the dropped 7 volts into heat. Looking forward to your future awesome projects!</p>
<p>There are probably much more efficient ways of regulating the voltage rather than using a linear regulator, but I went that way because it was simple, cost effective, and it was what I had on hand. :)</p>
<p>hii, i did a monocular version with a viewfinder from an old HI8... :)</p><p>one thing i don't understand, you are talking about &quot;</p><p>pinkish/orange tinted piece of glass&quot;... are you colour blind ? i mean, the filters are pure emerald colour, not orange ! :(</p>
There are different types of lenses.
<p>i have recycled many cameras, camcorders, cctvs, phones and i never saw an orange filter, they are always emerald ones (i agree they are coated with a thin reddish colour, but the glass is always emerald colour as colour correction for the red colour ! ) i also have transformed many simple cams in night vision ones to work in discotheques so i know what i am talking about !</p>
Google cardboard + ir flashlight. Cheaper &amp; easier.
<p>I would imagine that using a smartphone camera wouldn't work as well, being a higher quality camera (IE removing more IR light, to make the image more realistic to what the human eye would perceive), and also having an IR filter, the removal of which would void the phones warranty. If you don't mind your warranty being void (Maybe you have an old android phone), then yeah, that would work great.</p>
<p>cant you pair phone with external camera (with custom programming probably)? this way you wouldnt void any warranty and still have NVG :D . </p>
<p>Nice thought though!</p>
<p>Hmm, true. But then, you'd have to buy an external camera anyways...</p>
<p>Yo can probably hack the lcd so it runs on 5V, google for it, would be a great save in battery and space ;)</p>
<p>Hi, this is a really cool project thanks for sharing it with us. I just wanted to say if you used a switching voltage regulator instead of a linear voltage regulator used in the project your battery would last longer. This is because the linear voltage regulator is literally transforming the dropped 7 volts into heat. Looking forward to your future awesome projects!</p>
<p>Nicelly done. but dont you lose the perception of 3d?? What if you made a double screen LCD and double camera. well regulated you could have a perfect sensantion. ;)</p>
I have seen a neat trick for 3D. You use 1 screen and switch between 2 cameras. Gives quite a good impression of 3D.
<p>better to split a screen on two zones and to use a simple stereo 3D box-glasses, made from a carton, which costs less than 1$</p>
It is reasonably, using LM1881s to exteact the sync signals to do the switching rather than try to add two cameras, adjust their aspects, etc. Not impossible but a little hardware can do it easily. It's a rather convincing 3D illusion, just can't find an online demo, yet.
<p>It is tough to see flashing picture longer than several minutes, I think. I'm getting a headache in a cinema theatre, when i'm looking a stereo movie. It is more natural to see the stereo images, generated for each eye separately. Splitting images on the one screen is possible to reach using a simple computer, such as Raspberry Pi.</p>
The reason i say two screens is because we have two independet eyes. Isolating each screen from another and one camera for one lcd and another for the other will recreate the two eyes perception of distance.
<p>It honestly depends on your preference. I personally like to use a monocular. I can still see with both eyes in dimly lit environments since the night vision (from my non-dominant eye) and the natural vision from my other eye overlap in my brain. If magnified correctly to match your natural vision, using the monocular feels natural. Plus if you want stereo vision, just build two monoculars. This project was somewhat more of a viewer than actual goggles or a helmet mounted rig. </p>
The closest effect that the 2 cameras - 1 screen that I can find is lenticular with your brain separating the two fields.
In that case its perfect.
<p>I am sooo going to do this with a Rasberry Pi &amp; Pi NoIR camera module, thanks for the inspiration!</p>
<p>Why would you use a raspberry pi? If all you're going for is the night vision, then you wouldn't need a pi for it. Although, with a pi, you could make it generate a cool heads up display over the camera feed, maybe make some object/movement detection, distance overlay, and many other things. You could even add some sensors (Microphones and a PIR sensor?) and get it to detect other people/animals in the brush (If this was for paintball/airsoft). I can imagine <em>that</em> being fun to use.</p>
Because i have all the stuff lying around and i have not really played with the Pi NoIR modules yet. I have no pratical application, like airsoft at night - just would be a fun exercise. =)
<p>Yeah, I see. Besides, now once you have the experience, you've got a bunch of fun ideas folating around!</p>
With a RPi you can dou false color imaging. This helps bring out hidden features sometimes
<p>If you're going to use a Raspberry Pi and you're looking to see hidden things (like people), look into the Flir Lepton SDK on Sparkfun. It's basically a thermal camera breakout that costs around $200.</p>
<p>Ah, yes, so that would be another useful enhancement.</p>
<p>instead of using an IR light mounted to your goggles, do you think putting the IR at a fixed location then using camera only on the headset would work allowing a longer distance of view even though it would be a set location? hopefully that make sense.....</p>
<p>Hello this is awesome man. But I'm wondering how long did the battery or battery pack last?</p>
<p>To be honest, I'm not really sure. Long enough to play a night game, which is long enough for me! If I had to guess, I would say 3-4 hours realistically.</p>
<p>Hello thanks for the reply back. That is pretty cool for that long of time. I use to work for a Security camera company. We i found in my closet some 0 Lux cameras i still have around and a 4.3 inch LCD. I think this be a cool project. Thanks for sharing with us.</p>
<p>I love it! I was thinking about making NVG for airsoft, too. Another way to cut corners and cost is by making an infrared camera, and using the screen as the viewport. </p><p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/infrared-digital-camera---the-real-way/" rel="nofollow">http://www.instructables.com/id/infrared-digital-c...</a></p><p>Kudos to the creator of that 'ible for the idea.</p>
<p>Nice build! I've kinda toyed with the idea of building a night vision set for a while, it seemed like it'd be quite easy, and now I see it is! Hmm, you could put the camera on a robot, hook it up to a walkie talkie (Or short range FM transmitter) and on the other end, tune into the same channel with it hooked up to the LCD, then get wireless night-vision video feed from your robot! That would be pretty cool.</p>
The bandwith required for video is too much for a voice transmitter like walkie talkies. Try a 5Ghz drone transmitter, they are easy to find. The used to be a whole range of video transmitters but they have nearly all vanished now everyone uses mainly HDMI
<p>Ah, that's too bad. I was just thinking: &quot;Video signal basically = weird sounding Audio signal&quot;, so. Would it be that the timing and such would be too fast for the audio frequency? It would be interesting to try, and see if you get horrible video quality.</p>
The old analogue TV signals were 5.5MHz to 6.5MHz depending which system was used , you could use Slow Scan TV thru a walkie but that adds a whole other layer of complexity.
<p>Ok, that makes sense. </p>
<p>I built these with the Pi (http://www.instructables.com/id/Raspberry-PI-night-vision-goggles/). Its nice because I can record video and take still shots. The downside is you need a keyboard and mouse to do all this.</p>
<p>&quot;As if the glowing red IR LEDs weren't enough&quot;? Do the IR LEDs really glow red? Would it be possible to use a lower frequency?</p>
<p>They mentioned that using IR LEDs with a frequency of 940nm would be better at hiding the red glow. 940nm is further on the spectrum from visible light than 840nm, and as such is harder to see with the human eye. The image I attached will help visualize the problem with frequency. On top of that, a lower frequency would be easier to see with the naked eye, and would put us into the reds, oranges, and so on.</p>
<p>how did you mount it to your rifle?</p>
<p>I think he mounted just the IR flashlight to the rifle</p>
<p>Would be nice if you posted some images as displayed on the display of the proof of concept...:-)</p>
<p>Interesting, would love to see someone try directly from optical sensors, or say with a raspberry pi. .</p>
<p>I love it , I play paint ball, and this is good for walking in the yard at night, I will try a backup camera from eBay , they have IR LEDs and low Lux plus they're already 12 volt.</p>
<p>DIY for me is like holding up a coffee cup lid and being able to see in the dark. Good instructable, but I wish there was a very simple way to do this, considering my friends and I love to play 24 hour airsoft.</p>
<p>Nice! Maybe now you can spot big foot for us!:) Seeing into bush country is a bonus if you live out there. With bears around, setting something up to view your area at night from inside is also a great advantage....how heavy is this to wear? Keep that great imagination going!!:)</p>
<p>Exhalent. This is a project I will love to build. Thank you so much. I need this and will love doing it myself. So awesome. </p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a college student studying design and entrepreneurship in Southern Indiana, I've been an award-winning DJ on my campus radio station, I'm ... More »
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