"Solutions for seeing in the dark have become more affordable."
New in Thermal Imaging and Night Vision
By: Susan Geoghegan
Once considered cost-prohibitive for the public sector, an increase in production and demand has made these thermal imaging and night vision devices affordable for many agencies and municipalities. The following companies all provide a broad spectrum of sensor systems that provide law enforcement professionals with enhanced capabilities under challenging conditions.
American Technologies Network
For over 20 years, American Technologies Network Corp. has been a leading provider of precision night vision optics and thermal imaging for the law enforcement, military, and security markets. ATN’s quality production team builds and develops all its thermal products in the USA, and as a manufacturer—not a distributor—the company is able to pass on the savings to its customers. The ATN TICO-Series thermal clip-on scope represents the latest advancement in thermal imaging technology.
Lightweight yet rugged, the ATN TICO-Series mounts in front of a daytime scope to enable thermal vision in both day and nighttime operation. There is no shift of impact and no need to re-zero or change of eye relief, and every ATN TICO-Series is individually tested and aligned to the highest tolerances to provide perfect alignment. With its lightweight design—only 1.45 pounds—the scope does not affect the balance of the firearm. The housing is made from aircraft-grade aluminum 6061 T6 with a hard-anodized coating to prevent corrosion and abrasion, and is built to withstand a broad range of harsh operating conditions.
The ATN TICO-Series features a color OLED matrix display with video output capability, and the 50mm objective lens is built to full MIL-SPEC with a DLC coating that resists scratches and dust. Polarity control modes include white hot, black hot, and multiple color. The ATN TICO-Series is available in two models: the TICO-336 with a 336 x 256 microbolometer sensor and a frame rate of 30 or 60 Hz, and the TICO-640 with a 640 x 480 sensor and 30 Hz frame rate. MSRP is $6,195.
According to James Munn, President of American Technologies Network Corp, thermal imaging has risen in popularity within the law enforcement, firefighting and first responder communities, primarily due to its affordability and its wide range of applications. Many of ATN’s thermal imaging devices are multi-purpose, thus allowing adaptation to suit the mission whether as a handheld device, head-mounted for SWAT operations, or weapons-mounted. “Our technologies have allowed the law enforcement community to have some of the best equipment available at an affordable cost,” Munn said. “This allows agencies to put quality equipment in more officers’ hands.”
Exelis is a leading developer, producer, and supplier of Generation 3 image intensifier technology for both the public and private sectors. They provide C4ISR-related solutions, as well as information and technical services to U.S. military forces, homeland security, and commercial customers globally. One of Exelis’ newest night vision products is the Night Enforcer® Fusion, which replaces its predecessor, the Dual Sensor Night Vision Goggle.
The Exelis Night Enforcer Fusion is an improved, optically fused monocular, which combines both an image intensified tube and infrared micro-bolometer into one compact unit designed specifically for the domestic non-military market. Weighing less than two pounds, the device can be helmet-mounted and provides flip-up, tilt, fore/aft adjustment, left/right eye use, and quick disconnect from the helmet. A separate battery pack provides power for helmet-mounted or hand-held use. Users experience improved wearing comfort due to better weight balance, resulting in less fatigue.
Night Enforcer Fusion’s expanded viewing capability (from high light to no light and through obscurants) provides greater situational awareness in any environment. A non-exit pupil forming eyepiece allows the user to maintain full field-of-view, even as the helmet shifts during vigorous physical movements. Compatible with traditional weapon system ranges, Night Enforcer Fusion features easy-to-use controls and uses four AA batteries. It comes with a one-year warranty and is currently available for purchase from Night Vision Depot, a licensed distributor of Exelis.
Founded in 1978, FLIR Systems, Inc. is a global leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of thermal imaging infrared cameras for both the private and public sectors. FLIR’s newest compact thermal night vision camera is the LS-Series, which was specifically designed for law enforcement use. With this powerful device, officers can see suspects in total darkness and through smoke, moderate fog, and light foliage, resulting in enhanced mission effectiveness and improved officer safety.
Seven inches long and weighing only 12 ounces, the LS-Series Thermal Night Vision Monocular is a rugged yet portable device designed for everyday use. The FLIR LS allows officers to elude detection when they arrive on the scene, rather than rushing in with a flashlight that reveals their position and illuminates the surrounding area. On a stakeout or in pursuit, it detects suspects at 1,000 yards or more and users can easily switch between zoom, palette, and laser functionality with the touch of a finger.
In addition to white hot and black hot detection palettes, the LS-Series features FLIR’s InstAlert™ palette, which highlights only the strongest heat signatures in yellow and red, helping to detect the suspect faster and assess the situation more effectively. The LS32 contains a 336x256 thermal imaging sensor, a 19mm lens, and 2x zoom for detecting man-sized targets more than 600 yards away. The LS64 contains a 640x512 thermal imaging sensor, a 35mm lens, and 4x zoom for detection up to 1200 yards. Pricing for the LS32 is $4,999 and $5,999 for the LS64.
According to Michael Chaffee, Director of Business Development for FLIR, the compact and portable LS-Series fits into a number of tactical operations, such as K9, search and rescue, and SWAT. “Recently, commercial products like the LS and BHS Biocular have been making inroads into traditional government markets,” Chaffee said. “Operations, such as border operations and embassy security, that previously used MIL-SPEC-type handheld thermal imagers, are now migrating to robust ruggedized commercial imagers due to their value position, performance, and low cost.”
L-3 EOTech is a division of L-3 Communications, a prime defense contractor in C³ISR systems and a leading provider of a broad range of electronic systems used on military and commercial platforms. L-3 EOTech designs, manufactures, and markets electro-optics products, and is the exclusive manufacturer of the Holographic Weapon Sight (HWS), the world’s first holographic sighting system for small and medium-sized weapon platforms. The company’s newest thermal products include the LWTS (Light Weapon Thermal Sight) and the EOTech X320, a ruggedized, ultra-compact thermal imager.
The LWTS is a handheld and weapon-mounted thermal weapon sight with thermal imaging capability that allows for long-wave infrared observation and target identification under adverse conditions. Leading-edge 17 micron technology in a 640 x 480 uncooled microbolometer, as well as state-of-the-art image processing and electronics, provides enhanced imagery and long mission run times on a single battery load. Other features include clip-on and stand-alone thermal capability, RS-170 Real Time Video In/Out for remote viewing, and a focus range of 3m to infinity.
Used in a broad range of applications, the EOTech X320 provides enhanced scene detail with QVGA 3250 x 240 resolution. The pocket-sized X320 weighs only 13 ounces and features a fully dimmable micro display and built-in shroud, making it ideal for covert operations. The 30Hz detector offers fast turn-on time and real-time video imaging, and can be customized with GUI interface software. It provides 50 percent greater range, detecting human activity from up to 735 meters away, and can survive accidental drops and submersion to 1 meter.
Luna Optics, Inc.
Built on years of experience in the night vision market, Luna Optics offers quality, cost-effective products that include monoculars, binoculars, goggles and rifle scopes. Recognizing that the night vision market has evolved significantly in the last 20 years, the company strives to incorporate the latest technology into all their products. Introduced in 2013, the LN-DM50-HRSD is a high-resolution digital night vision viewer/recorder that provides full color imaging during daytime with automatic transition to black and white at night.
Utilizing super high-resolution CCD with 1,280 x 960 active pixels, the LN-DM50-HRSD delivers clear, crisp images that compare to Gen-III night vision. Photos and HD video are recorded onto an external micro SD card, and the USB 2.0 output allows quick transmission to computers and portable devices. A state-of-the-art electronic zoom system brings viewing objects closer with up to 20x image magnification without compromising image clarity.
Advanced features, such as automatic and manual brightness controls and a powerful projector-style IR illuminator, provide perfect object illumination based on distance and ambient light conditions. Other features include wall/battery power operation, video output, low-battery indicator, five hours of operating time, and a tripod mount. The water-resistant LN-DM50-HRSD weighs only 14 ounces and comes with a carry case, wall adaptor, 4GB micro-SD card, and USB and video cables. Manufacturer’s suggested retail is $499 with a one-year warranty.
Night Optics USA
Using state-of-the-art technology in both the construction and testing processes, Night Optics USA, Inc. is an OEM distributor of state-of-the-art night vision equipment and thermal imaging systems for the US Military, local and federal law enforcement agencies, homeland security, and the commercial industry. Night Optics’ newest thermal imaging device is the TM-X, a small, lightweight and ergonomically designed 160x120 resolution camera.
The TM-X provides image and video capture, real-time object tracking, image and video outputs of 320x240, and 2x digital zoom. It offers three selectable crosshair options and nine selectable color palette options that can be used in conjunction with the Black Hot/White Hot function. The TM-X features full-auto, semi-auto, or manual brightness and contrast control, as well as auto and manual calibration. This ultra-compact device weighs only 16.6 ounces, is weather resistant, and can continually operate for up to two hours. It comes with a 2-year warranty and is priced at $2,899.99 (military and law enforcement discounts are available).
While the use of thermal imaging devices has become more widespread in policing, Director of Marketing for Night Optics USA Rolando Petit said that both night vision and thermal technologies can be valuable tools for law enforcement professionals. “Thermal imaging is a great tool for detection, and surveillance while night vision is excellent for recognition. For the law enforcement professional, it is ideal to have both at his/her disposal,” said Petit. As an example, he points to one of Night Optic’s latest “non-thermal” products, the LRM-14 Gen 3 10x Long Range Monocular.
Based on the PVS-14 Night Vision Monocular, the LRM-14 features a powerful 250mm 10x objective lens that allows the user to see up to 2 miles. It is camera and/or iPhone adaptable, giving the user the ability to take high-resolution photos and HD video. Extremely lightweight and rugged, the LRM-14 can be tripod-mounted for added stability. Pricing for the Standard model is $5,499 and $5,849 for the Gated model.
Petit stated that Night Optics is currently revamping its entire thermal-imaging product lineup for 2014. “Expect to see new, innovative products as well as evolutions to select products within the existing thermal line. There are some truly exciting things coming in 2014 as Night Optics celebrates its 10th birthday.”
Xenonics Holdings, Inc.
Founded in 1996, Xenonics Holdings, Inc. designs, manufactures and markets portable illumination products and low-light viewing systems used by the military, law enforcement and security markets. Xenonic’s patented SuperVision® technology utilizes a sensitive and sophisticated multispectral sensor to capture infrared and low-level visible light and digitally process the information into a sharp, clear HDTV high-resolution display.
The SuperVision® High Definition Night Vision monocular is a compact yet rugged device that compares to military-grade (Gen III) night vision, delivering greater resolution, better clarity, and longer range and, unlike conventional image-intensified devices, zoom capability. SuperVision’s digital architecture offers a 2x to 8x zoom magnification and proprietary DSP technology, and allows law enforcement officers to more readily detect suspicious activity and persons in low-light situations. Enhanced situational awareness, as well an increased range of identification and engagement, provides increased protection for officers who would otherwise be vulnerable.
SuperVision features a light-sensitive CCD sensor that allows the user to see every detail in low-light conditions, high-light conditions, and with bright light in low-light scenes without blooming, even full daylight. The SuperVision monocular measures 3.2 inches x 2.0 inches x 6.8 inches, weighs 20 ounces, and is equipped with a lithium-ion battery that provides two hours of runtime. The MSRP ranges from $1,699 to $2,899, depending on options and enhancements, with a one-year warranty from date of purchase.
Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at email@example.com.