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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

Digital Ally

Digital Ally offers the Thermal Ally imaging system. It's a small handheld unit that has five different color palettes, focus-free lens video recording and output capabilities, and operates on rechargeable batteries.


What do you say about the big dog on the thermal imaging porch? FLIR (from the acronym Forward Looking Infrared) has been around since 1978 and makes all sorts of thermal systems for the military, law enforcement, and commercial markets. So if you need a thermal camera for your helicopter, command vehicle, or that M1 tank SWAT has hidden in the back of the armory, these guys are your solution. Fortunately for us patrol guys, they also make smaller stuff. FLIR's H-Series HandHeld Law Enforcement Thermal Imager includes several great features for cops such as onboard video storage with real-time clock, wireless streaming video transmission, over six hours of operation on a single charge, and more than 120 hours of standby battery life. An optional lens extender allows you to see a man from more than 2,800 feet.

ITT Exelis

If you have Gen 3 night vision equipment, chances are its light amplification elements were produced by ITT, regardless of who sold it to you or what name is on the side. The company makes the overwhelming majority of all Gen 3 tubes. Last year ITT split into three separate companies and ITT Exelis is the company that makes its night vision products. This year the company is debuting two potentially groundbreaking products: the iAware night vision system, which lets an operator see video from other sources while maintaining night vision surveillance; and the DGNVG, which combines a Gen 3 tube and thermal imaging micro-bolometer into the same monocular.

L-3 Warrior Systems

L-3 now manufactures just about every system you can put on a gun, in a soldier's hand, or on the transmission hump of your cruiser. Its CNVD-T is a lightweight, multi-platform thermal imager, providing moving man-sized target detection performance over 500 meters. The CNVD-T can be weapon mounted as a standalone sight or in combination with existing day optics. Its small size also increases its versatility and makes it great as a handheld imager.

Night Optics USA

Night Optics USA has been an innovator in the night vision industry for more than 18 years. The company’s NO/TS-640 is a rugged, lightweight, and powerful thermal weapon sight with a quick-release M1913 Picatinny mount. Made for military, law enforcement, and commercial use, the NO/TS-640 is a good mid-to-long-range sight as well as a surveillance tool. The NO/TS-640 has a 640x480 high-resolution display for crisp white hot or black hot images regardless of ambient conditions.


The motto at NIVISYS is "Don't Fear The Dark." The company produces and distributes a full array of night vision and thermal devices, aiming lasers, and accessories for all of its products. The NIVISYS NSV-80 is a Gen 3 night vision device that clips on in front of an existing daylight optic. The great thing about it is the shooter doesn't need to make any adjustment to the sight. Point of aim and point of impact remain the same.

N-Vision Optics

N-Vision Optics has a customer base that includes the U.S. military as well as state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. The company specializes in night vision equipment, thermal imaging devices, targeting/illumination systems, and custom optical solutions.

N-Vision Optics' Tactical Night Sight (TaNS) is a high-resolution clip-on night vision device that mounts on any Picatinny rail forward of an existing scope. It adds night vision capabilities to your existing daytime sight. The TaNS features a Gen 3 image intensifier tube, a fast f/0.9 catadioptric lens, and patented permanent boresight alignment technology.

US Night Vision

US Night Vision manufactures and assembles an exclusive line of products at its facility in Roseville, Calif. The company also distributes U.S.-manufactured products from ITT Exelis, FLIR, and L-3.

Dave Douglas retired from the San Diego Police Department as a sergeant and the department’s rangemaster. He has held positions in various law enforcement assignments, including patrol, investigations, bombs and arson, and training. He’s a long-time contributor to POLICE Magazine.


Night Vision vs. Thermal Imaging (video)

Thermal Imaging (photos)

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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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