Thermal imaging technology has long been employed by the Defense Department in various capacities, and now it is being leveraged to combat the spread of COVID-19. By harnessing the power of heat signatures to generate images and videos based on temperature differences, thermal imaging is proving to be a valuable tool in the fight against the virus.
With the coronavirus raising concerns about safety in public areas, one New Hampshire company is seeing an increased demand for its product: thermal imaging cameras.
In response to the pandemic, three Army programs—the Army Rapid Equipping Force, Program Executive Office Soldier, and the C5ISR Center of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command—have spearheaded the initiative to deploy thermal imaging devices for screening personnel entering military facilities. This approach offers several advantages over handheld thermometers, as it allows for a safe distance between operators and subjects and requires less manpower. Moreover, the technology operates without physical contact and delivers rapid results, enabling a smoother flow of traffic into buildings and facilities. Screening procedures can be completed in a matter of seconds, with temperatures measured from a distance of 6 to 8 feet using an infrared sensor mounted on a tripod.
Thermal imaging has proven effective in various other applications as well. For instance, DOD firefighters rely on thermal imaging cameras capable of penetrating smoke to detect fire hot spots, enabling targeted firefighting efforts. These cameras also assist firefighters in navigating smoke-filled environments by identifying areas to avoid and locating individuals trapped in fires.
In addition, thermal imaging is employed by DOD aircraft and vehicle mechanics to identify faulty mechanical or electrical parts without the need for extensive disassembly. By comparing thermal images to normal operating temperatures, potential issues can be quickly identified and addressed, streamlining maintenance procedures.
For military and allied forces operating in darkness, the AN/PVS-14 monocular night vision device equipped with thermal imaging capabilities is a crucial tool. This device detects heat signatures emitted by people and objects, aiding in surveillance and target acquisition during nocturnal operations. Furthermore, the recently tested squad binocular night vision goggle, deemed superior to the AN/PVS-14, enhances depth perception and target clarity, enabling Marines to maneuver in extreme darkness and engage targets effectively. These advanced goggles are now undergoing limited manufacturing for further evaluation and testing.
Beyond defense applications, thermal imaging finds utility in identifying heat loss, structural defects, moisture, and other faults in buildings, assisting in energy efficiency and maintenance efforts. The Coast Guard also relies on thermal imagery to locate smugglers or terrorists in ports and waterways, benefiting from high-quality imaging capabilities that operate in all weather conditions and even complete darkness.
By harnessing the potential of thermal imaging technology, the Defense Department and other organizations are bolstering their health and safety measures, improving screening processes, enhancing firefighting capabilities, facilitating maintenance operations, and enabling effective surveillance in challenging environments. As this technology continues to evolve, its impact on various sectors, including healthcare, will undoubtedly grow, offering promising solutions to combat future health crises.