See Without Being Seen: Thermal Imaging for Military Drivers

See Without Being Seen: Thermal Imaging for Military Drivers
See without being seen
Thermal imaging for military driver vision enhancement
and increased situational awareness.
See without being seen. This is often a major requirement for drivers of all types of military vehicles during a mission.
Driving with head and/or taillights turned on in hostile territory poses a serious threat for the vehicle, its driver, passengers
and load since the enemy can easily monitor its activities. Still, when advancing in hostile territory, drivers need to be able to
see what is ahead of them. They need to see the condition of the terrain on which they are advancing, but they also need a
broad situational awareness about what is happening around them. Often it is the driver’s responsibility to monitor the direct
area around the vehicle for opposing forces or other threatening activity.
Also accidents with vehicles of friendly forces need to be avoided at all times. Not an easy task when all vehicles are driving
without lights.
But military vehicles are not only driving in hostile
territory. They are sometimes operating far away from
enemy lines and also when there are no conflicts,
military vehicles need to go from one place to another.
Although head and taillights can be used in these
situations, nighttime driving still presents serious risks.
Many serious accidents occur at night, in fog, light rain,
because the driver could not see the accident cause in
time to prevent the collision.
Each year, thousands of nighttime accidents occur
with military vehicles, many due to adverse weather
conditions. Drivers lack the ability to quickly reduce
speed, fatigue and stress can negatively affect reaction
time, and vision gets severely impaired in the dark.
Seeing in total darkness and through smoke in the
most adverse weather conditions
A new tool that can make driving during night time and
in bad weather conditions safer, both in friendly and
hostile territory, is thermal imaging. By allowing drivers
to see thermal images of the road ahead – even in total
darkness, through smoke, dust, light fog and rain- drivers
are able to detect obstacles and potential hazards on or
alongside the road, much sooner and have more time
to react.
Thermal imaging
Thermal imaging cameras were initially developed for the
military in the 1950’s. Since it is able to produce a clear
image in total darkness, thermal imaging technology
Installed in military vehicles, the PathFindIR gives the driver the
possibility to advance without lights and still clearly see what is
happening without being detected. It also significantly increases
situational awareness. The PathFindIR produces a crisp image in
total darkness, throug light fog, dust and smoke.
provides the ability to see and target opposing forces
through the darkest of nights, at extreme long distances.
Thermal imaging can also see through smoke which
makes it even more interesting for military use since it
can see across a smoke-covered battleground.
Due to recent technological developments and volume
production, also for civilian applications, thermal imaging
cameras have become a lot more compact and far less
Thermal imaging is the use of an infrared camera to “see”
thermal energy emitted from an object. Infrared energy
can not be detected by the eye because the energy of
the photons is too low to stimulate the photoreceptors
in the eye. Also, thermal IR light does not get to the
retina, because it is highly absorbed by the eye’s lens
and fluids. Infrared allows us to see what our eyes cannot
- invisible heat radiation emitted by all objects regardless
of lighting conditions. Thermal imaging cameras produce
images of invisible infrared or “heat” radiation. Based
on temperature differences between objects, thermal
imaging produces a clear image.
Although there are other technologies available for night
vision, thermal imaging outperforms them and has some
advantages over them.
and in rougher circumstances than passenger cars can
therefore certainly benefit from this technology.
Thermal imaging versus light amplification
Light amplification, also referred to as I2 technology,
amplifies small amounts of visible light thousands
of times so that objects can be seen at night. Light
amplification does require a certain level of ambient light,
but even starlight can produce an image on a cloudless
night. A high-end image intensified camera can produce
outstanding images on a clear moonlit night.
Thermal image
I2 image
Increased situational awareness even in broad
A thermal imaging camera can also be installed at
other locations than at the front of the vehicle. When
using armored personnel carriers, soldiers often need
to disembark from the back of the vehicle. A thermal
imaging camera installed at the back will allow the
driver so see if troops can get out of the vehicle safely
before opening the door. The driver will clearly see if
enemy forces are behind his vehicle or not on a thermal
Visual image
Because the system requires at least a minimum level
of ambient light, conditions such as heavy overcast
can limit its effectiveness. Similarly, too much light
may overwhelm the system and reduce effectiveness.
A driver confronted with someone shining a flashlight
to him will be totally blinded. Furthermore, the driver
needs to be wearing goggles when using I2 technology.
They can hinder the driver in his activities, especially
when going over rough terrain.
Contrary to light amplification systems, thermal imaging
works by detecting the heat energy being radiated. It
needs no light at all and produces a clear image in the
darkest environments. The image produced by thermal
imaging cameras can be easily displayed on a small
screen without obstructing the driver.
Thermal imaging for driver vision enhancement
Thermal imaging is a powerful driver vision enhancement
system, which significantly reduces the risks of night
time driving and allows the driver to see up to 5x further
than with headlights. It needs no light whatsoever to
Installed in an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) the PathFindIR
can significantly increase the situational awareness of the driver.
Also in broad daylight a thermal imaging camera will
help to increase situational awareness. Enemy troops
can not hide in the shadows. Even when they are hiding
in the bush, totally camouflaged, a thermal imaging
camera will detect hostile activity immediately.
Installed at the back of a vehicle, a thermal imaging
camera can also help the driver to back away from
dangerous situations at high speed. Without need for
guidance by one of his passengers.
For even more situational awareness, thermal imaging
cameras can also be installed at the sides of the vehicle.
This way, the driver or commander of the vehicle, can
monitor all activity around it.
PathFindIR™: thermal imaging camera
The FLIR Systems PathFindIR is a compact thermal
imaging camera which is ideal for integration in military
is less than +4°C and powered down when window
temperature is more than +6°C. This ensures a clear lens
and perfect infrared images displayed on your monitor
even in very cold environments.
The PathFindIR can be used both in arctic and desert
Easy to install and easy to use
The FLIR Systems PathFindIR is a compact camera (5.8 x
5.7 x 7.2 cm) and weighs only 360 grams. It can easily be
installed behind a vehicle grill or in any other compact
location. A 6 meter long cable is available for routing the
PathFindIR’s power and video interface into the driver’s
compartment. On one side the cable connects to the
PathFindIR. On the other end it has 2 wires that can be
terminated, as required by the user, for hooking into the
vehicle power bus and a video cable that is terminated
with a BNC connector.
The images produced by the PathFindIR can be displayed
on most standard monitors. There is no need whatsoever
for the driver to look at the display continuously. The
monitor becomes a natural checkpoint for the driver,
similar to side view or rearview mirrors.
The PathFindIR can be installed in all types of military
vehicles. Armored personnel carriers, support vehicles,
trucks, command and reconnaissance vehicles,
engineering and logistical support vehicles but also
ambulances and fire trucks, they can all benefit from the
power of a thermal imaging camera like the PathFindIR.
Affordable solution to save lives and money
Not only huge accidents involving injuries or death cost
a tremendous amount of money. Driving over unseen
obstacles can cause damages to a military vehicle. Repair
cost can make even a small accident an expensive thing.
Furthermore, an accident in hostile territory can bring
the lives of many soldiers, and even an entire operation,
in danger. Installing a FLIR Systems PathFindIR is a small
investment that can avoid many hazards.
The PathFindIR incorporates an uncooled 320 x 240
pixels microbolometer. This maintenance free system
delivers crisp video images which can be displayed on
virtually any display that accepts composite video. It is
equipped with an 19 mm wide angle lens which gives
the driver a wide field of view (36°), resulting in excellent
situational awareness.
Installed at the front of a vehicle, often behind a
vehicle grill, thermal imaging helps drivers to see road
edges better, see approaching curves earlier, detect
obstructions in rough terrain but also to overcome
momentary blindness from oncoming headlight glare,
and to see through smoke, dust, light fog and light rain.
BMW started using this technology on its 7-, 6- and
5-series passenger cars to facilitate night time driving.
Military vehicles that are used much more intensely
Designed for use in harsh weather conditions, the
PathFindIR is Mil-Std810 rated and extremely rugged. Its
vital core is well protected against humidity and water.
It is sealed, and will endure road salts and extreme
temperatures. The PathFindIR can be cleaned with a
hose just like any other equipment. It operates between
-40°C and +80°C and has a built-in heater to defrost its
protective window. This heater is capable of defrosting
a 2mm layer of ice frozen to the window within 15
minutes when ambient temperature is -30°C and wind
speed against the window is 100 km/hr. The heater
is automatically powered when window temperature
For more information about thermal imaging
cameras or about this application,
please contact:
FLIR Commercial Vision Systems B.V.
Charles Petitweg 21
4847 NW Teteringen - Breda - Netherlands
Phone : +31 (0) 765 79 41 94
Fax : +31 (0) 765 79 41 99
e-mail : [email protected]
Even in total darkness, th PathFindIR allows seeing up to 5x
further than with headlights.
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