Thermal cameras may be fitted to a wide range of military vehicles and platforms, including aircraft and helicopters, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, and vessels. They may also be provided to infantry soldiers, special forces and other personnel, and may be mounted to helmets or weapons.
Thermal cameras are based around a sensor that can detect the infrared (IR) radiation given off by all objects in accordance with their temperature. The level of this radiation picked up by the detector is mapped by the system to a range of colors and used to create an image that highlights the difference in temperature between objects and their surroundings.
Night Vision Cameras
Military thermal cameras may be used for a range of applications including surveillance, patrolling, security, and weapons targeting. They can be used to detect human targets, vehicles, equipment, weapons systems and any other objects of interest that give off sufficient levels of heat. They may also be used as a form of night vision, and have an advantage over image intensifier-based night vision technologies in that they require no external source of illumination such as the stars or moon, and can be used to see through obscured visual conditions such as dust, haze, fog and smoke.
There are a number of different types of thermal imaging systems, including:
- FLIR (forward looking infrared) systems
- Sideways tracking or pushbroom systems
- Gimballed systems
The cameras may be optimized to detect one or more of long-wave (LWIR), medium-wave (MWIR) and short-wave (SWIR) infrared, depending on the targeting and range requirements. Thermal cameras may also be combined with visible cameras to create EO/IR systems that can be used both during the day and at night.
Rugged Thermal Cameras
Thermal imaging cameras and sensors designed for demanding military and battlefield environments may need to be ruggedized to survive in harsh conditions such as extremes of temperature, shock and vibration, rain, dust and sand.