Thermal Cameras may be used for many applications. Most areas of use can determine the safety of personnel and machinery in a building, on a factory floor, near electrical power transformers, motors, HVAC systems and other areas where over-temperature is a concern. However none is more directly capable of saving lives than those used in Law Enforcement. Thermal Cameras used by Police, Security and First Responders are used to locate criminals, casualties and hazards in total darkness, smoke, fog and fire. They are now considered to be an essential tool utilized in the following Departments: First Responder, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighting, Marine Safety and Home Land Security. They are now used and accepted worldwide for Safety and Enforcement Searches. They are considered to be extremely powerful weapons that can be used by officers and emergency personnel in the fight against crime.
Below are some important tactical advantages for all Law Enforcement when using thermal cameras. There are many key benefits and uses for Officer and Security Personnel safety.
- Increased Officer Safety
- Life Saving during Search and Rescue
- Suspect and Criminal Capture in Darkness
- Video or Image Recording for Reporting
- Improved Safety and Mobility
- See suspects in total darkness
- See farther in zero visibility
- See through camouflage and foliage in any lighting conditions
- See through smoke, dust, and light fog
- Locate vehicles that have been in motion
- Searching for a person in deep water
- Finding hidden or injured in Fires
- Fire Prevention surveys
- Examining containers storing hazardous or flammable materials
- Examine any unknown details at road traffic accidents
- Locating the source and analyzing the spread of a fire
- Analyzing the effectiveness of attack
- Moving swiftly in “Search and Rescue”
- Enhance Mission Effectiveness
- Maximize Operational Capability
Argus Thermal Camera for Law Enforcement
Thermal Cameras for Police and Security Applications
Why should you consider Thermal Cameras for Police and Security applications? There are many major reasons. The natural human eye uses reflected light to visualize and produce an image. Daylight cameras, night-vision devices, and the human eye all work on this principle. When light energy reflects off of an object, our eyes receive that signal and produce the appropriate image. In darkness, or in fog, or in smoke, we are limited to the external light provided. If there isn’t enough light or the artificial light is not sufficient, we no longer see clearly or see at all. When using night vision devices, the available light is magnified to produce an image. These devices have range limitations especially in extremely low-light conditions. It becomes difficult to view or recognize an object or produce any contrast in the image, making it difficult to see what we want to see. The thermal contrast between an object and its surroundings is what safety first responders are seeking.
Thermal cameras measure reflected thermal energy and are not susceptible or responsive to daylight or artificial light. Law Enforcement Cameras indicate temperature variations usually by a display of sharp black and white contrast screen (although today’s Cameras allow color alarm to be added to the viewer). By sensing this thermal energy and displaying it as black and white video, thermal cameras allow you to see things from farther away and with greater contrast than conventional visible-light cameras and night-vision technologies. If you add a telephoto lens, or purchase a camera with one, you’ll be able to identify movement and suspect position at a much longer distance. As long as there is a temperature variation, within the resolution and sensitivity of the camera, the image will be displayed. The use of flashlights and high-beam patrol lights, when officers might want to maintain their hidden location, is never necessary with a thermal camera. The example below shows two identical images, one taken with “night vision” and the other with a Thermal Camera.
Figure 1 - Nightvision
Figure 2 - Thermal.
Figure 1 above represents a typical “night vision” view of a park surrounded by trees and foliage. It is not obvious that there are any suspects in sight. Using a Thermal Camera, Figure 2 demonstrates that someone is attempting to hide behind the foliage. If the “law enforcement team” in this scenario had a thermal camera, the suspect could be apprehended quickly. The use of Thermal Cameras offers an undeniable tactical advantage.
Below are more images typical of thermal cameras that demonstrate how valuable these devices are during Police or Security actions. The use of the Thermal Camera and these images allow the officers to maintain control and knowledge with an increased tactical advantage. They can collect information regarding their suspects without compromising their own safety and position.
Figure 3 - Trespassers caught through thermal imaging
Figure 4 - Officer safety at risk, spotted through thermal camera
In Figure 3, note the use of cutters by suspects who are attempting to leave the scene of a crime. Unknown to the suspects, Police with a Thermal Camera have found them and are viewing their actions; this is all done in total darkness. In Figure 4, note the hidden criminal with his weapon drawn in total darkness. The use of a Thermal Camera allows quite an advantage for Law Enforcement personnel to view, prepare and capture rather than be caught off guard in an increasingly dangerous position.
Note the clarity and range to target seen in the below image. A Thermal Camera with a longer lens Field of View (FOV) and with a larger pixel array was used to capture this image of these suspects. This allows officers to visualize suspects' actions while being safely positioned at distance from the action until they determine appropriate procedure.
Features to consider when choosing a camera:
- IR Resolution or Pixel Array
- Eyepiece - Shuttered/Non-Shuttered
- Single or Multiple Lenses / Interchangeable Lenses
- Monocular / Bi-Ocular
- Focus Capability / Focal Length
- Field of View ( FOV )
- Thermal Sensitivity NETD
- Memory Capability
- Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Capability
- Lens Capability and Interchangeability
- Alarm Capability
- Visual Alarm Capability
- Voice Annotation
- Battery Life and Replacement
- Flashlight or Laser Capability
- Enclosure IP and CAT Location Ratings
- Drop Test Capability
IR Resolution-Detector Size (Pixel Array)
Detector resolution is based on the pixel array (detector size) that each camera contains. When using a Thermal Camera for Law Enforcement, this resolution is one factor in determining the sharpness and clarity of the object or person you are viewing. Cameras with larger pixel arrays, such as 640X480, can measure smaller targets at longer distances that will be sharper and in greater detail. As the pixel array increases in size and the focal length is increased, changes in thermal visibility will be extended over a longer distance. Please see the “Field of View” (FOV) paragraph below. Given a fixed pixel array, the FOV will determine the object's distance, visibility, and detail that will be displayed.
Eyepiece - Shuttered / Non-Shuttered
These are the two eyepiece choices you have, depending on the camera and your application. Most traditional Thermal Cameras have an open eyepiece non-shuttered or visual display (similar to a digital camera) to view the thermal image. However an open eyepiece, non-shuttered, will radiate some visible light at the eyepiece. In Law Enforcement this could be detrimental to officer safety, especially in total darkness because it can give away an officer's position. A shuttered eyepiece keeps light from coming out of the viewfinder and avoids alarming animals, suspects, criminals or other target subjects. The user is the only person who is able to see the image.
Single or Multiple Lenses/ Interchangeable Lenses
There may be lens choices for the Camera you choose that allow for either factory or field modifications. Lens choice allows you to select a Field of View that is best suited for your specific operation and security goals. All Thermal Cameras have an associated lens that is supplied with the camera. Some Cameras have an option to remove one lens and add another. The "field of view" varies based on the optical characteristics of the lens. A close-up look at a facility and its grounds may require one lens while another lens may be required for long distance viewing. Lens selection and viewed distance
Monocular / Bi-Ocular
The choice of having a Camera with one eyepiece or two should be based on the intended use of the Camera and the specific requirements of each Law Enforcement Department. Using a Monocular allows a second hand and eye to be utilized, while using a Bi-Ocular usually requires both hands and both eyes on the Camera, at least while focusing in on the selected object. Below are examples of each type of Camera.
Thermal Sensitivity (NETD)
When choosing a traditional Thermal Camera, the sensitivity of the camera will dictate the smallest actual temperatures viewed and recorded. Although a smaller sensitivity offers better temperature characteristic response, images used in Law Enforcement are based on viewing temperature differential. The primary goal is to visualize, in a low light condition, the comparison between heated objects and non-heated objects.
The standard for Thermal Cameras, when discussing sensitivity, is referred to as the “Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference” or NETD. NETD is accepted as the standard industry acronym. This measurement is basically the measure of the least temperature differential range (smallest temperature range) that the camera can detect and display. A lower sensitivity may offer the user increased visibility of temperature differentials which in turn may detail smaller temperature changes in products or systems under evaluation.
Sensitivity is commonly shown as deg C and mK (millikelvins). The sensitivity specification usually is accompanied with a calibrated temperature, i.e. the sensitivity may read: .10deg C @ 30 deg C target temperature (or ambient temperature). Please note that a lower sensitivity will increase the detail of displayed temperature and indicate more minute differentials in the evaluated components. This display may result in product color variations, product detail specifics and more exacting temperature results. Considering Cameras with a varied range of sensitivities will be based on specific applications and industry needs.
FOV - Field Of View
The FOV or “Field of View” is the area of the image that is measured and viewed on the imager screen. The lens has the greatest influence on the total view, but a larger pixel array (matrix) may provide greater detail of desired temperature gradient. By choosing the appropriate lens with a specific pixel array, you are also determining the length of visual capability for the Camera .Depending on Department regulations and areas of responsibility, lenses may be chosen to meet specific requirements. Selecting a lens.
Refresh (Frame) Rate (Hz)
The refresh rate is the amount of times the captured image on your screen updates per second and is specified as frequency, for example, 9Hz (hertz-cycles per second). There are a variety of refresh rates associated with many cameras. They may range from 9Hz to 30Hz to 60Hz or other speeds (frames per second). Higher frame rates are usually chosen to monitor and film moving objects. Higher frame rates are usually found on cameras with better resolution as well as cameras used for “First Responder” and Law Enforcement applications involving motion. If the application anticipates using video output, a higher refresh rate is preferred. The choice is always based on your application and requirements. If you want to record video, the frame rate will factor into the quality of video recorded. All Thermal Cameras with a frame rate above 9Hz are controlled for export by the US Department of Commerce and require appropriate paperwork.
Video Output Capability
A Camera with a Video Output feature allows the operator to save not only images but a video stream for further use and evaluation. Video outputs supplied in one of two formats. NTSC and PAL are the most common analog Video Output Formats.
NTSC, or National Television System Committee, is primarily used in North America and parts of South America. PAL, or Phase Alternating Line, is primarily used in parts of South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. PAL incorporates approximately a 20% increase in individual scan lines than NTSC. This explains why PAL has a slightly better resolution. The choice of recording capability and video formats is solely based on your requirements.
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / Radio Frequency Transmission
With the advent of “smart” devices as well as safety concerns for personnel, one option for many Cameras is to include a video signal transmission via Bluetooth/ Wi-Fi/ or Radio Frequency transmission. This feature enables the transmission of thermal images up to 30 feet through the use of the optional wireless video receiver This may allow you to send and receive information quickly and remotely which may provide safety quicker back-up response. Having this feature may also aid in more complete reporting data in order to substantiate activity. Please compare camera capabilities in the specification section when considering your need and use.
Law Enforcement Solutions
for safety and success for all first responders. This tool allows any professional to have the ability to increase life and death percentages to their benefit as well as added protection at their fingertips. Utilizing Thermal Cameras allows an officer to prevent or evaluate crisis situations before they might arise. For additional information on specifications and Camera operations, please contact us and speak with one of our certified Professionals.
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