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Thermal Imaging

An introduction to Thermal Imaging

All objects emit infrared energy as heat. By detecting very subtle temperature differences of everything in view, infrared (or thermal imaging) technology is able to reveal what would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. Even in challenging weather conditions or complete darkness, thermal imaging gives the user the ability to see the unseen.

Thermal imaging was firstly developed for military use and has since been adopted by law enforcement, fire and rescue teams, security professionals and is now being used further in hunting, game keeping and protecting land.

What to look for in a Thermal Imager When looking at purchasing a thermal imager there are a few essential factors that need to be taken into consideration to ensure you get a product which is best suited to your needs. We will now look at the key features that make up a thermal imaging device

Sensor resolution:

Of all the requirements sensor resolution is the most important factor to consider and when comparing products you should prioritise finding the highest resolution you can for your budget. Higher resolution imaging provides more accurate viewing and has a finer and sharper detail when used. Because of this it is one feature to not compromise on. Most specification sheets will state the detection (you can detect 'something' is present), recognition (you can recognise it is human) and identification (you can identify its a man/woman, model of car etc) ranges of a man sized target with a emphasis on the detection range.

Optical magnification:

When considering what thermal imager is best you need to determine the environment in which it will be used in order to find a model which caters to your needs. The magnification will partly determine the ranges but it also needs to be remembered that increasing the magnification reduces the field of view. This needs to be taken into consideration when determining whether the unit will be used more in a long range setting or if its primary use will be in a confined space.

Range of detection:

The range of detection and consequently the recognition and identification ranges vary from model to model and therefore when deciding which unit is best it is essential you determine exactly what you will be using it for to ensure it is able to perform under the required conditions. Range of detection is determined by a combination of optical magnification and sensor resolution.

Frame rate:

Also known as frames per second (FPS) or frame frequency, the frame rate determines the rate at which the imaging device produces consecutive images and therefore the refresh rate and smoothness of the moving image you can see. Most models specifications will display this rate in Hz ranging from 9 to 50 and higher frame rate means a smoother image when panning or tracking a moving target. To help get a idea of what to compare this to the standard TV broadcast rate is 25Hz.

Taking your thermal out the country:

All Thermal Imagers with a frame rate above 9Hz - or weapon mounted (regardless of frame rate) - are strictly controlled by ITAR regulations and are subject to UK Government Export Licencing Regulations. A licence will need to be obtained prior to the export, even temporarily (e.g. holiday), from the UK. Some countries may be embargoed and no thermal imagers or night vision devices can be taken or exported to them. It is the responsibility of the exporter, whether it be a company or individual, to ensure that such a licence is obtained. Failure to comply is a criminal offence. For further information visit:

Thomas Jacks has a range of thermal imagers on offer to cater to any needs you may have and this feature will be looking at what's on offer from the range.

Guide IR510:

This compact and light weight device by guide is available in two models, featuring a core of 160x120 and 384x288 respectively. This simple to use device has been designed with 5 operating modes, a 2x digital zoom, a 300/400m detection range and a 50Hz frame rate. With up to 8 hours battery life, drop tested to 1m and waterproof tested to 1m for 30minutes, this product is perfect for everyday use.

Pulsar Quantum 'S':

The Quantum has been designed for 24/7 detection and observation, with a detector size of 384x288 across all models, with long detection ranges. The models all feature an OLED frost proof display, 1.1x or 2.1x magnification with 2x digital zoom, as well as having 3 operating modes and 3 calibration modes. With a choice of either ‘white hot’ or ‘black hot’ mode, quick start up and capable of operating in a wide range of temperatures and with a battery life of 4.5-5.5 hours, the range of Quantum’s have a unit on offer to suit any of your needs.

Guide IR518:

The IR 518 series has several distinct advantages over other well known brands in their price bracket. With man sized detection ranges of 500m to 1100m depending on the model, a 50Hz image refresh rate giving you real time imaging, a 384x288 resolution (on the EB and EC model), 640x480 resolution LCD display and the facility to not only take pictures but also record video, these are some of the most adaptable units on the market.

Pulsar APEX Thermal Weapon Scopes:

With years of experience in developing and designing handheld thermal imaging units to draw from, Pulsar has applied their expertise to their first range of thermal imaging scopes. Each with a 384x288 resolution, OLED display, 640x480 display resolution, 10 selectable integrated reticles and 3 zero memory feature that allows you to effectively save zero for up to 3 different weapons or various distances. Featuring 1.5x or 2x magnification and a smooth 2x digital zoom, range of 950/1250m depending on the model, one shot zeroing with ‘freeze’ function and quick (automatic and semi-automatic) and noiseless calibration modes and available in either 9Hz or 50Hz models.

The Guide IR516:

These bioculars are designed for long range surveillance and are widely used in applications such as law enforcement, search and rescue, game keeping etc. With the models offering a range of 1450/1900m, a 50hz frame rate, 2x magnification and 384x288 resolution (30% more pixels than closest rival). Featuring 6 modes, able to take pictures and record video, this high performance unit is highly dependable in situations when you need it most.

Thermoteknix TiCAM:

At the top end of Thomas Jacks thermal imaging range is the TiCam from Thermoteknix. This medium range military specification hand help thermal imager can be used for anything from search and rescue, police, target acquisition, game rangers monitoring wildlife or any other application you can think of. With a 1x/2x/4x digital zoom this model can detect a man at over 2 kilometres. With two models on offer with resolutions of 384x288 and 640x480, this camera has been designed to perform in the harshest of environments. With optional GPS, a laser pointer, ability to record, the Ticam delivers the highest quality thermal imagery with an array of features in a high spec package.