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Thermal imaging cameras for border security

Supplier: FLIR Systems Australia
07 November, 2013

Protecting a country's borders is vital to its national security.

It is however very challenging to detect potential intruders or smugglers in total darkness, in the most diverse weather conditions. Thermal imaging cameras can help border control professionals to meet the demands they face at night and in other low-light situations.

FLIR Systems: Thermal imaging cameras for Border Security Applications

FLIR Systems is a global company producing thermal imaging camera for a wide variety of applications. Thermal imaging cameras produce a clear image in the darkest of nights. They do not need any light whatsoever to produce a clear image in total darkness.

But thermal imaging is also useful in broad daylight. A thermal imaging camera cannot be blinded by the sun like a normal CCTV camera. Furthermore, thermal contrast is extremely difficult to mask so people trying to camouflage themselves or trying to hide in bushes or shadows will seamlessly be detected.

Thermal imaging technology detects changes in temperature. Based on subtle differences in temperature, called heat signatures, thermal imaging cameras create a crisp image. Thermal imaging needs no light whatsoever to produce a clear image, in practically all weather conditions, on which the smallest of objects can be seen. Due to their ability to detect man sized targets at extremely long distances, thermal imaging cameras are extremely suited for border surveillance.

Thermal imaging cameras with cooled detectors for border security

There exist two different types of thermal imaging cameras: those with uncooled detectors and those with cooled detectors. Generally, cooled cameras are used in border security applications as they provide a longer range performance than versions with an uncooled detector. Some models with a cooled detector are able to detect a man-sized target at a distance of 18-20km.

Thermal imaging systems are often used in conjunction with daylight/lowlight cameras that can be used when conditions permit. Installed on a pan/tilt, these so-called Multi-Sensor Systems can easily be integrated with radar systems in a so-called "slew-to-cue" configuration. If an object is spotted by radar the thermal imaging camera will automatically turn in the right direction so that it can be seen what the blip on the radar screen really means. Many Multi-Sensor Systems are mounted in this "slew-to-cue" configuration.

Multi-Sensor configurations can also be equipped with GPS and a digital magnetic compass to ensure the operator knows where the thermal imager is (this is important for border security applications where the camera is installed on a vehicle) and what direction it is pointing in. Some systems also have a laser range finder to provide a measure of how far away an object is. A tracker can optionally be installed as well.

FLIR Systems: A full product range of thermal imaging cameras for border security applications

FLIR Systems markets a full product range for border security applications. Depending on the user's needs he can choose for a thermal imaging camera with a cooled Indium Antimonide (InSb) or Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT) detector. Models with a Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector are also available.

FLIR Systems does not only market thermal imaging cameras but also Multi-Sensor Systems. These combine a thermal imaging camera and a day-light low light camera, mounted on a robust Pan/Tilt. A Digital Magnetic Compass, GPS, laser rangefinder and a tracker are optionally available.

Some cameras like the FLIR HRC-Series contain an optical zoom on the thermal image. They offer excellent situational awareness but also the possibility to zoom-in, and see more detail, once a target has been detected. This way operators can see farther recognise more detail and react more quickly to security threats. The advantage of zooming compared to other systems that are using a rotating lens system is that there is no switch or swapping between the different images. You can gradually zoom in while keeping your focus all the time.

Another technical feature that can be found in FLIR Thermal imaging cameras for border security applications is Digital Detail Enhancement or DDE. This powerful FLIR Systems patented algorithm that helps to overcome the problem of finding low contrast targets in high dynamic range scenes.

DDE assures clear, properly contrasted thermal images. DDE delivers a high contrast image even in extremely dynamic thermal scenes. It provides high quality thermal imaging in any night- or daytime environmental conditions. DDE is so powerful that a thermal imaging camera equipped with DDE often outperforms systems which have a longer lens, or narrower field of view, than the camera with DDE implemented.

FLIR Systems: Involved in many border programmes, world-wide

FLIR has provided thermal imaging systems for various border control programmes worldwide. Both in Eurasia and in the Americas. Major border programmes are running in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, in countries that border the Schengen area and other European countries that want to protect their border against e.g. illegal immigration. Both land- and coastal surveillance programmes exist.

Thermal imaging cameras with uncooled detector: also in border security programmes

Although border security is often about detecting targets at a long distance and thermal imaging cameras with a cooled detector are used to do this, also thermal imaging cameras with an uncooled detector are used in Border Security programmes. Sometimes the terrain does not even allow to see 20 kilometers.

If the terrain is e.g. mountainous and does not permit seeing a distance of 20 kilometres, thermal imaging cameras like the PTZ-35x140 MS can be used for border security as well. The PTZ-35x140 MS contains two thermal imaging cameras and one daylight/lowlight camera.

All three cameras are integrated on a robust Pan/Tilt. Although it does not offer the range performance of thermal imaging cameras with a cooled the detector, the PTZ-35x140 MS can still detect man-sized targets at a distance of more than 2 kilometres. Objects the size-of a small car can be detected more than 6 kilometres away. In total darkness and in almost all weather conditions.

Handheld and vehicle mounted thermal imaging cameras

Border security patrols can be equipped with handheld thermal imaging cameras. If an intruder is detected, a patrol is sent out to intercept him. In order to "see without being seen", these patrols are more and more equipped with a handheld thermal imaging camera. For these types of applications FLIR offers the H-Series.

Thermal imaging cameras with uncooled Vanadium Oxide (Vox) can also be installed in patrol vehicles. A thermal imaging camera sees up to 5x further than standard headlights. A camera like the FLIR PathFindIR can be used for driver vision enhancement.

Connecting thermal imaging cameras

For installing and connecting thermal imaging cameras FLIR offers solutions as well. FLIR Sensors Manager offers powerful and efficient management capabilities for any border security installation with FLIR Systems thermal imaging cameras. It allows to manage and control thermal imaging cameras, connect them to a radar in a "slew-to-cue" configuration and much more.

For integrators that want to develop their own application, a Software Developers Kit is available as well.

Protect your borders with thermal imaging

Thermal imaging is an important element in many border security programmes and, when integrated into a system with other sensors, such as radar, it provides an effective approach to border control.

FLIR Systems offers a wide variety of thermal imaging cameras. Whatever your needs, FLIR has the correct thermal imaging camera.