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New applications for thermal imaging devices around the world – Sep 2018


3 mins


Opgal staff writers

published published

September 05, 2018



Thermal imaging technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Since its first use for military applications, thermal imaging cameras have gained popularity across multiple civilian and academic environments. The ability to visualize infrared radiation from various objects has created new ways to use thermal imaging and benefit from its unique capabilities.

In this article we will review new applications for thermal imaging devices around the world.

Road Safety and Thermal Imaging Cameras

It is estimated that the global death rate in traffic accidents is 1.25 million people every year, or one death every 25 seconds. This alarming rate has shifted focus to finding technological solutions to monitor and reduce the death rate in urban environments. In a recent pilot program conducted in the states of Utah and Arizona, thermal cameras were placed on major highways to detect drivers traveling the wrong way. Even though these events do not occur regularly, the results can be harsh. The use of thermal cameras with clear images (regardless of visibility conditions) coupled with analytics software, can easily recognize pattern movements. In a period of just six months, these thermal imaging cameras provided more than 15 alerts of wrong way traffic to the authorities. By supplying immediate alerts to command and control centers, traffic officers could react and alert other drivers regarding the dangers ahead.

Applications on the Railways

With more passengers choosing public transportation such as trains for their daily commutes, rail safety can pose a real challenge to authorities. The potential damage caused by a faulty railway can be extensive, both in terms of delays and the potential cost in human lives. In an attempt to become more proactive in terms of rail-maintenance, UK rail authorities have employed the use of helicopter-mounted thermal cameras for regular rail inspections in the London area. The use of high sensitivity thermal detectors can spot even the slightest faults on the railways and provide authorities with an opportunity to take preventive action before it can affect train services.

Home Applications of Thermal Cameras

But road safety is just one of the growing fields for infrared thermal imaging cameras these days. With thermal cameras becoming smaller and cheaper, more individuals can afford to have a thermal imaging device for various domestic applications. One such application is using an infrared camera to detect heat loss at home. By using a device that can supply temperature measurement, it is now easier than ever to spot the points where cold/warm air is entering the house due to poor insulation. To make it even easier to obtain these cameras, the Mary Riley Styles Public Library in the US is now offering thermal imagers on loan. These devices are available to library members who are looking for a thermal imager for a short period of time. They are offered with a variety of professional books and guidelines to assist people wanting to increase their chance of finding heat loss points at home. Since inception of the program last year, more than 70 loans were recorded at the library.

Outer Space Applications for Thermal Imagers

Despite its “Earthly” applications, thermal imaging is still being used for higher end applications which require extreme long-range detection in various applications. Earlier this year NASA announced a new thermal imager based on new core technology that was developed at its labs. The new detector is cheaper than the previous generation of thermal imagers used in space missions, but still provides 10 times more sensitivity and lower power consumption rates. The new sensor will be used in the upcoming Robotic Refueling mission and will measure various parameters on earth such as fires, glaciers and ice sheets.