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 three 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 products in the USA, and as a manufacturer—not a distributor—the company is able to pass the savings on to its customers. The ODIN-series and OTS-X Series are the company’s latest thermal imaging systems that are compact and lightweight, yet rugged enough to withstand the harshest conditions.
Designed with advanced construction and characteristics, the ODIN-Series is one of the smallest and lightest Thermal Imaging Monocular Systems on the market today. Using the latest technologies in high-grade polymers, the system is built to MIL SPEC that is identical in size, weight, and shape to the AN/PVS-14 Night Vision Monocular System. Compact and rugged, the ODIN Series features state-of-the-art miniature thermal sensor technology and an advanced OLED Display and can be used for handheld, head-mounted, and weapon-mounted operations.
The ODIN-W Series is a Thermal-Imaging Multi-Purpose system that can be rail mounted to a light caliber weapon, such as a M16 or M4, using the accessory weapon-rail interface adapter. User-friendly, reliable and functional, the ODIN-W is a perfect complement to any of the night-vision monocular systems. Other features include ergonomic design, PVS-14 construction, MIL SPEC optics, and E-Zoom. Prices for the ODIN Series range from $6,199 to $10,199.
Compact and lightweight enough to carry in a cargo pocket, the OTS-X Thermal Imaging Viewer is the latest addition to the OTS thermal imager system line. The system is available in either 320x240 or 640x480 resolution, with four different interchangeable lens types for multiple magnifications adaptable to all scenarios.
Other features include an Icon-Based Menu System, Black/White Polarity, a Variable Geometry Display, and Digital Brightness Control. The OTS-X system is available in 12 different models, all offering varying degrees of magnification, resolution and frame rate. The price range for the OTS-X is from $4,495 to $8,199.
According to James Munn, COO 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 hand-held device, head mounted for SWAT operations, or weapons mounted.
Since all ATN thermal devices are made in the USA, the company has complete control over costs and quality. In addition, they have built long-term relationships with the leading providers of a variety of proprietary technologies and night-vision core technologies. “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.”
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 line of handheld thermal imaging cameras, the LS-Series and the H-Series Bi-Ocular, were specifically designed for law enforcement use. With these powerful tools, officers can see suspects in total darkness and through smoke, moderate fog, and light foliage, resulting in enhanced mission effectiveness and improved officer safety.
Measuring 7 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 FLIR LS-Series starts at $4,999.
FLIR’s new H-Series Bi-Ocular offers enhanced night vision capability at further distances, making it an invaluable tool for covert surveillance, extended patrols, and high-threat security missions. The BHS-Series features advanced image-processing algorithms that provide clear, crisp thermal video both day and night and at more than a mile away. Quick-Disconnect Modularity allows users to customize thermal capability for specific tasks with the selection of three available lens options: 35mm, 65mm, or 100mm extended range.
With a full coverage eyepiece, inter-ocular adjustment, and one-touch recording, the Bi-Ocular is user-friendly and ergonomically designed for greater comfort. Standard 320x240 with 2x digital e-zoom is powerful enough to detect a human approximately 2 kilometers away, and optional 640x480 resolution with up to 4x digital e-zoom detects a human at almost 2.5 kilometers. A latched battery door allows easy access to exchange or recondition batteries, and the device can quickly be connected to AC power via a quick-release hot-shoe. Pricing for the H-Series line starts at $5,249.
Jim McGowan, FLIR’s Vice President, Personal Vision Systems, pointed out that the law enforcement market has been an integral and steady part of the company’s thermal imaging business for well over 30 years. “FLIR remains committed to the ultimate goal of developing thermal imaging systems for use by every officer, agent, deputy or constable who has sworn to protect and serve,” McGowan stated.
“FLIR’s vertically integrated Commercial Systems operation affords the unique opportunity to design, manufacture and deliver the most comprehensive handheld thermal night-vision cameras available to law enforcement today at a fraction of the price compared to handhelds developed by companies predominantly driven by legacy defense contractor business.”
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. The company offers a full line of quality, competitively priced thermal imaging devices that include cameras, monoculars, binoculars, scopes and accessories.
Night Optics’ newest thermal imaging device is the TM-X, a small, lightweight and ergonomically designed 160x120 resolution camera. The TM-X works day and night and is perfect for law enforcement and security professionals. This inexpensive thermal imaging device 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. A removable protective rubber cover improves shock resistance, and the adjustable hand strap provides a secure grip. This ultra-compact device weighs only 16.6 ounces, is weather resistant, and can continually operate for up to two hours. Other features of the TM-X include a 12v DC car power adaptor, an external power adaptor, 4GB SD Card, and an OLED display. It comes with a 2-Year Warranty and is priced at $2,899.99; however, 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,” Petit said. 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 $5,499.99 and $5,849.99 for the Gated model.
According to Petit, nearly all of Night Optic USA’s products are hand-built to order and tested thoroughly before leaving the facility. “This attention to detail and quality always makes for a satisfied customer. It is understood that the optimal performance of our products enhance the capabilities of the professionals who use them,” Petit said.
Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at email@example.com.