Editorial Feature

Thermal Imaging for Military Applications

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Originally made possible by the discovery of infrared energy in the early 19th century, thermal imaging technologies continue to advance, with its applications found in a wide variety of industries.

Before 1992, conventional night vision products typically consisted of infrared (IR) illuminators or intensified imagers, which have now been almost completely eradicated by the innovative technology of thermal imaging. As a technology originally developed for military purposes, thermal imaging allows soldiers to effectively see in areas where little to no light is present, such as in the evening, or during incidents where smoke, fog, dust or any other airborne obscurant is present.

While infrared energy is not visible to the human eye, it can be detected with thermal imaging technologies that translate this energy into visible colors. These technologies can display images through electronics that process the information gathered by the thermal imaging camera, which is then translated into a normal video signal that can be viewed on a standard monitor.

With images produced in black, white, or color, the clarity and ability to make vivid identifications are limited with this technology. Several factors can impact the image quality produced by thermal imaging devices, including focus, optics, spatial resolution, and field of view (FOV).

The focus of an infrared camera has a direct effect on the accuracy of the data captured following temperature measurement, while the optics of a thermal imager determines how successful infrared energy is able to be transmitted to the detector. Another important factor that determines the image quality of a thermal imaging system is the width of the FOV, where a larger area can be seen with a wider FOV.  

PixonImaging

In military environments, diffraction and atmospheric turbulence are two of the main reasons image blurring occurs. As technologies continue to improve, technology companies such as PixonImaging offer solutions to some of the problems that military leaders face when using thermal imaging devices in combat.

Rick Puetter, chief executive officer of PixonImaging in San Diego, claims that their technologies provide warfighters with a clear field of view, enabling greater resolution, increased contrast, and reduced image noise to enhance image quality.

The ability to see more details…allows the warfighter to identify targets, separate friend from foe, assess damage, and improve intelligence-all at greatly increased decision speed. These are winning advantages to translate directly into saved lives.

Rick Puetter, Chief Executive Officer, PixonImaging

Image Credits: NEstudio/shutterstock.com

FLIR Systems

Developed and marketed by FLIR Systems, the Star SAFIRE LV combines long-range thermal imaging with visible-light imaging technologies to provide soldiers with the highest level of detail and clear imagery.

With the ability to provide users with target geo-pointing and geo-location, the Star SAFIRE LV provides improved tactical coordination, as well as enhanced quality, reliability, and performance for treacherous military conditions.  FLIR Systems is one of the leading suppliers for military and defense purposes, providing merchants with some of the highest quality thermal sensors available.

While mounted technologies provide precise images for militant purposes, warfighters in the field require accurate technologies that are lightweight, compact, durable, silent, responsive, and battery powered. Technology companies such as FLIR, DRS Technologies, Teledyne and others, have conducted extensive research in the development of some of the latest and best technologies available to warfighters.

For example, FLIR Systems has invested heavily in improving their high-definition infared sensors, while integrating strengthened durability features that can survive the rigors of desert use such as temperature extremes, sand and dust exposures and extreme conditions.

Sources and Further Reading

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.

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