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Improve mission success and safety with a dual thermal camera zoom drone payload

Pixel-by-pixel temperature measurement can aid law enforcement officers in making critical decisions faster

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By Kelly Brodbeck

Law enforcement uses small drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to safely gather key information and save time, personnel hours and money. Police drones are used to collect evidence, photograph traffic crash scenes, monitor crowds, track suspects and more. Whether tracking or surveilling via drone technology, there are challenges with battery capacity, flight time and payload performance.

Many agencies deploy UAS payloads equipped with visible-light cameras and a single thermal camera with digital zoom. While thermal-visible payloads offer greater flexibility for a variety of operations, at night or in other challenging lighting conditions, operators risk the potential of overlooking a person or item of interest due to poor-performing digital thermal zoom. This can lead to increased mission time, or worse, give away personnel locations while increasing room for error due to less visual awareness.

In response, UAS thermal camera payload technology has evolved to incorporate two (dual) radiometric cameras. Radiometric thermal cameras measure the temperature of every pixel in the scene to provide clarity and awareness. A high-resolution dual thermal camera payload that features pixel-by-pixel temperature measurement can aid law enforcement officers in making critical decisions faster.

Safely surveil and track in silence

A dual thermal camera payload provides improved overall awareness and zoom clarity. When equipped with a fixed narrow field of view (FOV) camera and a wide FOV camera, it provides the best of both lens types, offering wide-angle situational awareness and a larger concentration of pixels on target when paired with a narrow FOV camera. This combination keeps full-image resolution at 1x and 5x zoom, eliminating the blurriness that comes from the magnification of a single thermal camera with digital zoom. This can reduce false positives and increase safety.

By adding thermal imaging capabilities to a drone airframe, law enforcement can surveil an area safely and silently at nighttime or in other challenging lighting conditions such as through smoke or fog.

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The image on the left is from a single thermal camera digital zoom payload at 8x zoom. It is very blurry and leaves little to be identified by the human eye. On the right, a dual thermal camera payload with the same sensor resolution but at 10x zoom is pictured, which appears significantly clearer. In surveillance scenarios, the improvement in image quality could be the difference between seeing or not seeing the object of interest.

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On the left is a thermal image from a single camera payload at 8x digital zoom. On the right is a thermal image at 10x zoom from a dual thermal camera payload with the same starting resolution. A clear image makes the difference in this set, where the dual-thermal image allows the operator to determine the person of interest is potentially holding a gun.

Search more area in less time

The clarity offered by a dual thermal camera system allows the operator to zoom in to a target of interest quickly and effectively. The combination of thermal with radiometry provides ideal functions to quickly search more areas with better accuracy, especially for people or other objects that are warmer or cooler than the environment around them.

About the author

Kelly Brodbeck is Product Management Executive - Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Teledyne FLIR.