In order to address increasing demands, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturers are constantly seeking for smaller, lighter and superior performance components. Baykar is one such UAV manufacturer based in Turkey. The company’s UAV technology features FLIR camera cores (Figure 1) for clear vision and improved situational awareness all through the day. Several international clients, including the Turkish and Qatar armed forces and the Turkish police, have been using Baykar’s UAV solutions for a myriad of applications, including surveillance & reconnaissance, base protection, railway protection, convoy protection, and border protection.
Figure 1. The FLIR Tau thermal imaging core produces crisp thermal images of 640 x 512 pixels on which the smallest of details can be seen.
The FLIR Tau Thermal Imaging Core
According to Haluk Bayraktar, Baykar’s engineering manager, the company has started using FLIR cores since 2006 in order to provide its customers with a thermal imaging option. The FLIR Photon core helped the company to fulfill the requirement of a compact and ruggedized thermal camera core by its customers, Bayraktar added (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Haluk Bayraktar, engineering manager at Baykar: “We have been working with FLIR cores since 2006, to offer our customers a thermal imaging option.”
Bayraktar went on to say that, an end-user requested Baykar for a more flexible two-axis camera, which required more space. This forced the company to search for an even more compact and lighter thermal camera core and came across the FLIR Tau (Figure 3), he added.
Figure 3. The two-axis gimbal required Baykar to look for a more compact core. The FLIR Tau® fully met these requirements.
The FLIR Tau thermal imaging core allows visualizing even the very small details by producing thermal images of 640 x 512 pixels. With a cooling-free, nearly maintenance-free vanadium oxide (VOx) focal plane array (FPA), the core can detect very low temperature changes of 50mK. The core has smaller footprint (44.5 x 44.5 x 30.0mm) and lighter weight (72g). In addition, it consumes less power of 900mW, making it suitable for any UAV solution.
Role of FLIR Tau in Bayraktar Mini UAV
The Bayraktar Mini UAV (Figure 4) is a smart robotic solution featuring the FLIR Tau with 25mm lens. It is suitable for short range reconnaissance and surveillance applications. The FLIR Tau produces thermal video images that can be observed by the operators from the UAV ground station in real time.
Figure 4. The Bayraktar Mini UAV
Baykar has developed mosaic and stabilization software to improve the thermal video footage quality. Factors such as the fast UAV movement, sudden impacts from air currents, and vibrations affect the quality of aerial surveillance video footage during operation, making it difficult for operators to understand their environment. To address these issues, the stabilization software filters out image vibrations whereas the mosaic software stitches consecutive images when the UAV moves or the camera turns (Figure 5).
Figure 5. The mosaic software is stitching consecutive images as the camera turns or as the UAV moves, providing a broader situational awareness.
Every incoming video frame is processed and matched with the previous one by the mosaic software, which allows work on CPU in real time and near real time speed. The thermal image can also be used to monitor a region or detect its viewing location corresponding to other objects.
Full Image Control
Haluk Bayraktar commented that the company initially integrated an automatic image adjustment option into the Bayraktar Mini UAV, but it is not adequate to determine temperature variations and visualize persons on the ground. Hence, the company integrated an interface between the ground station and camera in order to adjust manually and play with the camera sensitivity to obtain the optimum image results, he added.
Over the past ten years, thermal imaging technology has improved in terms of capabilities. Previous thermal imaging was very expensive and used only by military applications. Nowadays, the technology is becoming popular among more people, who have been started realizing the benefits offered by it.
Bayraktar said that besides reduction in size and cost, the performance of thermal imaging camera cores has been improving every day, thus providing more options to the company to equip its UAV solutions with the camera. Higher image resolutions, even up to full HD, are expected in the coming years. These advances will help produce cheaper UAV solutions with superior performance, he concluded.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by FLIR Cores and Components Group.
For more information on this source, please visit FLIR Cores and Components Group.