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Night Vision and Thermal Imaging

Night vision and thermal imaging systems can give you a distinct advantage in the darkness. But what equipment does your agency really need and what can it afford?

March 27, 2012  |  by Dave Douglas

A micro thin layer of aluminum oxide and a gated power supply were added to achieve Gen 3 technology. Gen 4 systems are currently the mostly highly refined Gen 3 tubes. There’s been only one type of a true Gen 4 tube manufactured. It didn't measure up to the failure standards of military specs and was rejected.

Which Do You Need?

Whether you need night vision or thermal imaging or even both is a matter of what mission you wish to accomplish, your training, and your agency's financial resources, including grants.

If your mission requires you to see fine detail at night, then you probably want to use light amplification night vision. The lens and sensor components in these systems have been highly refined and can offer you the ability to recognize faces or even read nametags from a distance.

In contrast, thermal systems are excellent for picking out and locating people who are hiding or lost in woods or other large search areas. They're also great for finding discarded evidence such as a gun that is still warm from handling or telling you which car in a parking lot was just driven. But like night vision it has its weaknesses. Since thermal relies on the differences in radiated infrared energy, facial recognition and super-fine detail suffer.

There are cases where night vision can be defeated where thermal cannot. One such instance involves a technique used by some sophisticated drug dealers. They pull their cars into a circle with the headlights facing the center and during darkness make their deals and exchanges in the center bathed with intense light. Officers using night vision for surveillance are "blinded" by this tactic. But it's ineffective if the officers have thermal imaging on their side. Since thermal relies on reflected IR radiation, it cuts right through the white light.

Patrol Operations

In far too many agencies, night vision equipment and thermal imaging are only available to special units. But if I were king, I would decree that all patrol cars and officers be equipped with light amplification night vision devices.

We need to see at night and a flashlight isn't always the answer. The bad guys can see us coming and see where we’re looking. For the price, there's no beating it when it comes to surveillance, and it puts us "one up" on most crooks.

In my kingdom, Thermal would go to tactical teams, search teams, and supervisor cars. You can’t beat it when searching wooded areas for a suspect, lost child, or tossed evidence.


American Technologies Network

American Technologies Network (ATN) is a leading manufacturer of precision optics, including night vision, daytime scopes, thermal imaging, and binoculars. ATN recently moved to a new, larger, and more technologically advanced distribution and manufacturing facility in South San Francisco allowing faster delivery, better quality assurance, and a larger staff. The company also expanded its research and development department. ATN’s 6015WP is a National Tactical Officer’s Association (NTOA)-approved night vision device that renders the display in black, white, and grey. These hues are much easier on the eye than standard night vision green.

Centurion Systems

Centurion Systems makes Yukon and Sellmark night vision and optics products. Its Multitask handheld monocular is a great solution for patrol officers at a price point that won’t make your admin folks blow their lattes through their noses when they get the invoice. The Multitask unit can also be mounted on head gear. It features automatic brightness control with user-friendly controls, an integrated (25mW) IR illuminator, and a weather-resistant housing.

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Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Capt. John Sharp @ 3/29/2012 7:06 AM

Is anyone aware of a good grant for this technology, or has anyone had success in obtaining grant funds for this technology? I would appreciate any information anyone is willing to share.

Captain John Sharp
Walker Police Department

Dave Douglas @ 4/2/2012 8:05 AM

John, ITT through Morovision has a grant program. Practically all the others have information on available grants. I believe ATN will even help you with writing the grants. If you go to ATNs web site and look at the left side of the page, about half way down is a link to their grant information. Sorry, I should have added a few lines in the article regarding the availability. Glad you took the time to read the article and I hope you found it informative. Dave Douglas

Major Chris Craddock reti @ 6/7/2012 8:06 AM

Thermal Imaging Systems are covered in any Homeland Security Grant offered and another way to obtain funding for one of these great tools is to use, "Eds Public Safety". They will liquidate items in your property room and provide cash for such items. A great handheld thermal system for Law Enforcement is the "T5 thermal". T5 Good luck and be safe.

Jacob Potts @ 9/8/2016 10:35 PM

Hi! This March 27, 2012 article is a little behind the times. ITT Exelis has already been bought by Harris.

I know, it is tough to keep up with rapid technological progress and the whirlwind of suppliers changing identities! :-)

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