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May 07, 2021 . 4min read
In today's world, hi-tech solutions represent a weapon of choice when military forces start gearing up for conflict. Military leaders are constantly looking for ways to modernize their equipment. Frontline soldiers are given access to the latest combat and surveillance technologies. Such ultra-modern gear is designed to meet soldiers' needs in the field, such as protection, mobility, independence, DRI (detection, recognition and identification), communication and command.
Thermal imaging systems allow ground troops to detect differences in temperature between inanimate objects and enemy forces.
These devices collect the infrared radiation in the camera's field of vision and use that information to create an image.
Read on for more details about how thermal imaging can help the defense sector raise its game.
Armies have a long list of quality requirements when procuring thermal equipment for their combat-ready frontline troops. The terrain should always be the first consideration, as well as the specific needs that troops will face in the mission environment. Military leaders should also take a closer look at a number of important technical requirements:
- Size and weight
There is a growing demand for lightweight, rugged and energy-efficient systems that are capable of delivering silent operation, superlative performance and easy use. This is commonly known as the SWaP system (Size, Weight and Power).
- Image quality
Image quality and precision are mission-critical on the battlefield. Digital imaging offering very high resolution capability is a game-changer for picking out the tiniest details and telling friend from foe, and target from decoy.
That explains the military's rationale for harnessing electro-optic solutions combined with thermal imaging to produce a clear and immediate picture of the environment during the day and at night.
- Situational awareness
Troops expect their night-vision devices to let them do a lot more than just see in the dark. They want greater situational awareness over increased ranges. IR imaging can help them choose the appropriate course of action by identifying potential targets. MWIR and LWIR devices are engineered to deliver long-range detection, recognition and identification.
The ability to pinpoint target locations gives the troops greater protection.
- Vehicle-mounted sights
The multi-sensor thermal imaging technology was pioneered for combat vehicles in response to the military's need for long-range thermal imagers and rugged, vehicle-mounted solutions. These thermal sights enable our armed forces to quickly identify and hone in on any dangers and threats.
Vehicles are fitted with a combination of Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) and Local Situational Awareness systems (LSA) to guarantee infantry safety and security.
- Military base protection
Military bases and static installations represent a potential (or strategic) target for terrorists and enemy forces. Effective perimeter security systems are a must, since installations house an array of administrative and operations equipment, without forgetting personnel. Military forces can leverage the power of thermal imaging systems to weigh up potential threats and take quick and effective action.
- Motion detection
Motion detection plays an important role in LSA and automatic target recognition systems (ATR). They need to be capable of detecting, recognizing and identifying targets.
Thermal imaging technology featuring passive infrared sensors now forms the backbone of these systems due to its ability to offer long-range performance in all weather conditions.
- Infantry equipment
Equipment for frontline troops has become one of the hottest topics, and efforts are consistently being spearheaded to keep infantry gear ahead of the innovation curve, especially applications incorporating thermal imaging.
For example, with some ranges of compact and lightweight binoculars, a single model may pack an array of features, including night vision, a rangefinder, a laser pointer, a GPS module and a magnetic compass. Their latest-generation human-machine interface can stream a wealth of information, such as images, designated targets and intel.
Light-intensified night-vision binoculars are another example. These compact, high-performance devices give soldiers access to a selection of new features. They can engage targets from a concealed position using a video display connected to a camera mounted on the weapon. This innovation protects shooters and streams a fused "light-intensified + infrared" image from the ClipIR, a miniature thermal imager connected to the night-vision device. The real-time thermal image is injected into the binoculars' lens to deliver a fused or separate display of both sensors. The fused combination of thermal and night vision provides superior tactical advantages compared to standard night vision or thermal imaging alone, with the added ability to detect human targets up to distances of 340 m. The ClipIR is positioned close to the face and can be worn for extended periods due to its lightweight design.
Frontline troops can also mount a sight directly on their weapon's rail interface. This sight offers two different operating modes and two magnification levels (infrared and video). The image can be sent to an individual screen, night-vision goggles or a helmet-mounted eyepiece.
Similarly, ultra-high performance IR detectors integrated into handheld cameras and embedded in binocular and monocular vision systems (HHTI: Hand-Held Thermal Imaging) can help bolster their equipment. These vision solutions boast excellent detection capabilities and provide frontline troops with enhanced on-the-ground safety by offering a clear view of their environment.
- Drones and mini-drones
Soldiers can now count on a new innovative addition to their arsenal in the form of drones and mini-drones.
For example, they can use a combat-ready nano-drone that fits into a pocket on their fatigues.
These devices contain an infrared micro-camera that can transmit live video streams and images (over an encrypted link) to a screen carried against the soldier's chest. They can also fly without a GPS link.
Similarly, the mini-drones manufactured by French company Parrot will soon join the ranks of the French army. This model tips the scales at barely more than 500 g and features three cameras, including a thermal camera to detect heat sources, meaning that it can spot someone in the middle of the night. Even vehicles cannot slip under its radar due to the heat emanating from their engine.
Note that these lightweight mini-drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can operate within a range of approximately 1,500 m.
When scouting an area, infiltrating a stronghold or preparing to launch an offensive, ground forces need the ability to detect, recognize and identify targets in the mission environment.
Thermal vision products are game-changers for the armed forces. In the future, these solutions will be increasingly needed during surveillance ops and military action. By investing in these technologies, military forces around the world are continuing to focus their efforts on protecting their personnel and shielding civilians from harm.