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What’s New in Night Vision Devices

Law enforcement officers working at night face the tough challenge of not being able to see like they would during daylight hours.

What we can’t see can often hurt us. Thanks to night vision goggles and thermal imaging products, officers are now able to see in the dark. Following is an overview of the latest technology in night vision/thermal imaging for public safety.

American Technology Network (ATN) 

The ATN ThOR-320 is a compact, lightweight and rugged thermal weapon sight. The ThOR-320 is built around the same advanced technology used by US military and law enforcement forces: forward looking infrared (FLIR) that detects heat to create its image. The Thor 320 provides amazing image quality through total darkness, fog or smoke. Darkness, camouflage or bright lights will not affect the sensitivity of these units.

The Thor 320 is available in three different optical powers: 1x, 2x or 3x. Each unit has a 2x digital zoom option, doubling magnification power. Easy-to-use control and menu buttons allow the end user to select a variety of aiming reticles, change polarity, and adjust image brightness for optimal image view. The ThOR-320 can be converted into a compact handheld viewer by easily removing the mount and adding the included hand strap.

Other features include: uncooled VOx microbolometer technology; 320 x 240 resolution; 30 Hz full frame rate; high-resolution OLED microdisplay; ease-of-use digital controls; interchangeable reticle patterns with push of a button; digital brightness control; digital 2x/4x/6x zoom; video output; precision digital windage and elevation adjustments; rapid start-up in three seconds; up to six hours operation with two 3v lithium batteries; MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny Rail) quick release mount; and a one-year warranty.


The new Bushnell Equinox series of night vision monoculars brings unrivaled performance, even in zero ambient light. The Equinox series includes one Generation 1 and two digital models, all featuring rugged, water-resistant housings that meet IXP-4 waterproof specifications.

The compact 2x 28mm Generation 1 model features true 2x times power magnification and bright clear optics. It has a bright infrared (IR) illuminator and excellent battery life (up to six hours of use). At just under nine ounces, this compact and lightweight unit packs more intensity than many other Generation 1 devices.

The digital models are available in 4x 40mm and 6x 50mm configurations. They also feature outstanding optical clarity and offer users Dual Image Output, which allows users to switch from a black and white image to green with the press of a button. The black and white is optimal when some ambient light is available, either at dusk or dawn or under bright moonlight while the green screen is ideal for almost-dark to completely dark conditions. The human eye sees more shades of green than any other color, making the green image 30 percent more effective in dark conditions.

FLIR Systems Inc. 

FLIR Systems announced a new addition to its popular handheld H-Series line for law enforcement, the BHS-Series Bi-Ocular Thermal Imaging Camera. With it, officers can see in total darkness, through smoke, dust, light fog, as well as through light camouflage and foliage in any lighting conditions and at even greater ranges than before.

Featuring a full coverage eyepiece, inter-ocular adjustment, ergonomic comfort, the H-Series Bi-ocular is a must-have for any mission requiring longer standoff distances, such as extended area patrols, covert surveillance, critical infrastructure protection, and protective service or high-threat security situations.

Featuring customizable core performance and powerful E-zoom functionality, the BHS-Series Bi-Ocular provides crisp, clear video that can be further customized for mission-specific tasks with a choice of up to three lightweight, easily focused, quick-disconnect lenses for extended range viewing. Capturing critical video is accomplished with one-touch recording, freeing hands for zoom and focus adjustments during any recorded event.

The H-Series is available with several industry-defining features including onboard video storage with real-time clock, wireless streaming video transmission, over six hours of operation on a single charge, and more than 120 hours of standby battery life. In addition, an optional lens extender allows you to see a man from more than 2,800 feet away.

Integrated Technology Systems

Integrated Technology Systems (I.T.S.) has issued the final approval for the tool used to form the Thug FindIR’s enclosure. After more than a year in a BETA testing phase, I.T.S. has finalized the design, functionality and capabilities of the Thug FindIR. There were 25 police agencies scattered throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas who participated in the BETA testing phase.

The Thug FindIR was designed specifically for law enforcement, fire investigators, licensed security agencies, and border patrol. It incorporates state-of-the-art thermal imaging, super bright LEDs, a CCD night optimized camera with macro-zoom, video recording, and snap-shot capability and other technology essential on patrol.

The Thug FindIR features: thermal imaging camera; high-res color CCD camera; infrared lighting for night camera; super bright flashlight; strobe feature for criminal confusion; 10+ hours operation, rechargeable; color monitor; Video In/Out ports; video and snapshot recording; several accessories like UV lighting for fluid evidence. Pole Cameras for attics and crawl spaces are also being developed.

ITT Exelis 

The ITT Exelis Night Enforcer PVS-14 is a versatile Generation 3 night vision unit that can be operated hand-held as well as mounted directly to a helmet, head strap or weapon. The Night Enforcer PVS-14 gives the tactical LE officer a clear operational advantage at night where he can see the adversary before the adversary sees him. In addition to the Night Enforcer PVS-14, ITT Exelis offers the Dual Sensor Night Vision Goggle (DSNVG) to its lineup of products for law enforcement and first responders.

The DSNVG is an advanced, sensor fused NVG that combines image intensification with a thermal sensor in one compact monocular unit. The DSNVG offers multiple operational display modes to include image intensification only, thermal only, fully fused thermal and image intensification, as well as fused thermal outline and image intensification. The new i-Aware night vision goggles from ITT Exelis connect operational users to tactical networks enabling new and innovative capabilities to be employed in night operations. The i-Aware family of products is equipped with the capability to transmit and receive imagery from the soldier’s perspective, and also display live video feeds, geospatial intelligence information and text messages.

In addition to the latest goggles, i-Aware products also offer an upgrade capability to the standard AN/PVS-14 goggle. This upgrade permits the goggle to be retrofitted with a clip-on display that can import colored imagery and real-time video feeds from the battlefield or tactical environment.

L-3 Communications (InfraRed Products)

The Thermal-Eye X200xp from L-3 Communications is lightweight, waterproof and shockproof. It delivers advanced thermal imaging technology to first responders charged with reconnaissance, surveillance or first-response missions. The Thermal-Eye X200xp is used for target detection, force protection, routine patrols, search and rescue, disturbed surfaces, covert surveillance, fugitive pursuit, soldier and officer safety. Benefits include: greater scene detail with improved clarity, sharpness and overall image quality; improved vision in challenging field conditions like dust, smoke and complete darkness with no blooming from lights; fully dimmable display minimizes night blindness; stows easily into pocket for quick extraction and covert operation in the field and on the run.

Additional features include: 30Hz 30µm detector offers fast turn-on time and real-time video image; 50 percent greater stand-off range than X100 predecessor to detect human activity from up to 450 meters away; sophisticated image processing for best-in-class image quality; rugged design with integral rubber eye cup can survive accidental drops and submersion to 9 feet; pocket-sized, weighing only 13 ounces; operates on two AA lithium or alkaline batteries.

Newcon Optik

Newcon Optik’s NVS 14-3GCS is the first mass-produced generation III night vision device with an FOM greater than 1600 that is not subject to any US export restrictions. This night vision monocular surpasses the requirements of the most demanding military and law enforcement professionals and utilizes a generation III ANVIS-sized image intensifier tube (“IIT”). The device is waterproof to 20 meters and features a manual gain control, making it effective in a variety of light conditions.

Newcon Optik’s TVS 13M Tactical Thermal Riflescope offers performance and features in a rugged MIL-SPEC design. The TVS 13M gives users the ability to see in absolute darkness as well as brightly lit environments and cuts through dust, smoke, fog, haze and other battlefield obscurants.

Through the utilization of cutting-edge passive thermal technology, the TVS 13M provides excellent image quality by detecting extremely small variations in the temperature of matter within the field of view. The TVS 13M is compatible with the MIL-STD 1913 rail and can also be used as a hand-held monocular. Since the TVS 13M does not use IR lights or illuminators, its use cannot be detected by image-intensifying night vision devices.

The NVS 33 night vision attachment from Newcon Optik was designed to give the user a tactical advantage when using medium-range sniper weapons or assault rifles during night operations. The NVS 33 can be used with reflex sights, spotting scopes and virtually any daytime weapon scope with magnifications ranging from 1X to 20X.

The variety of mounting options includes a quick-release MIL STD 1913 mount, light suppressor and scope ring adaptor. Various sizes of insert for the multiple scope objectives are available. With an optional optical doubler, the unit can also be used as a 2X stand-alone handheld device for night time observation.

Nivisys Industries LLC 

The TAWS-64 Series, Nivisys’ dedicated thermal weapons imagers, provides an extremely rugged, compact, lightweight thermal sight, giving the operator detection and targeting capability during night and adverse weather conditions. The TAWS units are easy to operate with simple and intuitive controls. The 640 x 480 (17µm) VOx thermal detectors draw very low power. User selectable reticles and azimuth and elevation adjustments make targeting simple and fast.

A remote control switch provides increased flexibility for the user, integrating the sight and the weapon. With the use of the remote pad, the user can now control the thermal sight with no change to normal weapons handling and positioning. The objective lens is offered in 35mm or 60mm, providing the user with maximum target identification at range. An included hot shoe allows for accessories including remote control, video-in/out with NTSC/PAL video signals, and external power supply.

The TAG series of products, such as the TAG-32, are reliable, high performance and intuitive handheld thermal binoculars designed to increase combat effectiveness of forward observers by enhancing the ability to detect, recognize, and identify hostile threats. Boasting a variety of optical configurations, the TAG incorporates the latest 320 x 240 (25µm) VOx detector technology to enhance range performance.

Sightmark (Yukon) 

The Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Gen 1 night vision riflescope is a universal night optic designed for nighttime observation. The Night Raider is a passive starlight device, meaning it does not require an artificial or IR light source to operate; however, the built-in IR illuminator substantially enhances viewing capabilities, especially in environments of absolute darkness.

The lightweight riflescope, made of durable titanium, is equipped with high magnification and resolution, as well as precision internal windage and elevation adjustments for crisp, clear nighttime viewing. Sightmark combined the two-color range finding reticle with incremental reticle brightness adjustment for dark surroundings. In the dead of night, the Night Raider can detect its target from more than 200 yards away.

The Night Raider is built for harsh conditions and has IPX4 waterproofing and a vertically positioned, long life battery for uninterrupted power supply. Equipped with a weaver rail, for ease in mounting, and a remote control with secure attachments, the Sightmark Night Raider Riflescope also has a photo and video adapter.

US Night Vision Corp. 

The NightMIR from US Night Vision is a low-cost, high-resolution thermal imaging system that is controlled by the touch of a button. The camera features a magnetic mount that easily attaches to any vehicle and is powered by any 12VDC accessory plug. This system offers many features such as digital zoom, multi-color palettes, manual/auto gain, manual/auto level, reverse polarity (white hot/black hot), and a quick acquisition reticle.

All features are easily accessible using the Hardcase Master Controller which runs an internal monitor and also has ports for two more displays and/or DVR recording options. The NightMIR System ships complete in one easy to handle hardcase.

Other features include 320x240 or 640x480 resolution; rapid deploy on any vehicle; pan/tilt/zoom to 4X; magnetic mount; four color palettes; reverse polarity; portable DVR ready; plug & play accessories; turnkey high-resolution thermal imaging system; magnetically mounts to any vehicle; settings selector: auto/manual gain & level controls; green & yellow hue reduces eye fatigue; ColorBow & RedHOT; reverse polarity function (White Hot/Black Hot); digital zoom 2X, 3X, 4X; reticle in center screen to help stay on target; RCA Video Output for additional monitors or DVR; and custom output for mirror monitor accessory.

Xenonics Holdings 

Xenonics’ SuperVision Patrol Package allows officers to mount SuperVision inside their vehicles and view, control and record the video from the onboard KDT/MDT. Users can approach situations at night with lights out and quickly assess what’s occurring at a safe distance from inside their vehicles. Unlike image-intensified night vision devices that have been adopted for law enforcement, SuperVision is designed for law enforcement and special requirements in an increasing dangerous urban environment.

Xenonics has taken solid-state, wide dynamic range imaging to the next level of sophistication with the application of digital signal processing (DSP) and image enhancement software that brings otherwise indistinguishable forms into sharp identifiable objects, and the ability to get closer with its zoom capability.

Jennifer Gavigan has been contributing to LAW and ORDER for more than eight years, writing on cutting-edge topics in law enforcement. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Jan 2012

Rating : Not Yet Rated



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