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FEATURED PRODUCT
Thermal imagers also allow firefighting EVS cameras also give pilots clear
aircraft to maintain awareness of rising video of the landscapes they’re operating
terrain day and night. around, providing visual verification of
TAWS and radar warnings, and helping
Offshore Operations
pilots avoid CFIT, or controlled flight into
Pilots operating to and from offshore terrain. This, in turn, provides helicopter
platforms use these imaging advantages pilots with improved situational aware-
to identify rigs, platforms, and landing ness when operating in and out of con-
zones in open water from miles away fined landing zones and hovering work
through marine haze layers that drastically areas, not to mention dramatically in-
limit the range at which pilots can see creased ability to identify landmarks and
them visually, even from low altitude. see towers, wires, structures, and tree
lines, even during brownout conditions.
Enhanced Vision Systems
Enhanced Vision System (EVS) cam-
eras are general-use cameras not used for
detecting faint targets at long ranges, like
law enforcement and SAR imagers.
Rather, EVS cameras give pilots a broader
overview of their surroundings, allowing
them to maintain their situational aware-
ness whenever they encounter limited vis-
ibility – at night and during daylight hours
when they encounter sun glare, smoke,
haze, dust, and light fog. <Image 7>
How They Work
To understand how thermal imagers
work, the first thing you have to do is for-
get everything you thought you knew
about how cameras make pictures. Day-
light cameras, night vision goggles
(NVGs), and the human eye all work with
the same raw material: reflected visible
light. Visible light energy hits something,
bounces off it, and a detector collects it
and turns it into an image.
Whether an eyeball or a camera, these
detectors must gather in enough light or
they can’t make an image. Obviously,
there isn’t any sunlight to bounce off any-
thing at night, so they’re limited to the
light provided by starlight, moonlight, and
artificial lights. If there isn’t enough, it’s
hard to see.
Thermal imagers are altogether differ-
ent. FLIRs make pictures from heat, not
visible light. Heat (also called infrared, or
thermal, radiation) and light are both parts
of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a
camera that will detect visible light gen-
erally won’t see heat, and vice versa.
Thermal imagers detect more than just
heat though; they detect tiny differences
in heat – as small as 0.01°C – and display
them as shades of grey in black and white
26 ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL • September 2009
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