A look at Thermal Imaging in Aviation

A look at Thermal Imaging in Aviation

Landing safely with thermal imaging in Aviation

Thermal Imaging in Aviation has multiple practical uses in real time situations that help guard against accidents and aid in life preserving situations. In this article we take a quick look in to the practical uses of thermal vision and the use in aviation.

As anyone who has been a passenger or pilot on a flight knows, taking off and landing are the most involved parts of flying. Understanding the purpose and use of the instruments in the cockpit are an essential part of learning to fly, in daylight the pilot will be able to use the horizon and outside view in their flight planning, however in darkness or poor visibility the reliance on instruments is much greater.

Not only does a pilot need to use the instruments in the cockpit to fly safely but a comprehension of the way each works will allow the Captain to adapt their situational awareness where standard use of instruments may not be enough.

It is a known statistic from the Aviation Safety Authority that landing accidents account for more than a third of all general aviation accidents. They are unlikely to cause fatalities in the same way other accidents may do –only 3 to 4 percent of fatal accidents are caused by poor landings –they are instead responsible for nearly 500 bent air planes per year.

Accidents that occur during landing tend to be caused more often by pilot error than by mechanical problems, and those pilot errors can be separated into two categories: judgement errors and skill shortcomings.

Thermal Imaging in Aviation
Thermal Imaging can be used in low light

In situations where there are problems with judgement and poor conditions, Thermal Imaging can make the difference between a safe and missed landing and reinforce the skill and experience of the pilot.

During flight and landing, a pilot is likely to come across variable conditions, this can range from a completely clear day through to thick fog, storms and levels of darkness. Landing conditions can also be affected by the situation on the ground at the airport the plane is due to land at, in the case of a power outage or a delay which requires diversion to another runway which is not normally used or sufficiently lit, the pilot may be in a position where landing requires additional help from on board instruments.

When installed in the cockpit of air planes, thermal imaging be used as a landing aid. It can help the pilot judge the landing and accurately touch down in the right place by enhancing the ability to see terrain and other aircraft at long ranges, even in total darkness, light fog, dust and smoke.

Thermal imaging cameras will never replace the existing tools and instruments on which a captain is relying when landing his plane but it can act as a complementary aid to give the captain a clear image of the situation.

On board thermal imaging cameras are not limited to use in landing situations, when aircraft are taxiing at low speeds around the perimeter of the airport or runways, a thermal image can help to avoid accidents. Thermal imaging cameras can see through light fog and rain so can therefore easily detect other air planes or objects that can not be detected by the naked eye in harsh weather conditions.

FLIR have developed one such camera called the Photon. This extract is from the FLIR website.

The Photon is the core of the FLIR Systems EVS3. It is a low-cost thermal imager for use as a pilot’s night vision enhancement. It helps pilots by enhancing the ability to see terrain and other aircraft at long ranges, even in total darkness, light fog, dust and smoke.

The EVS3 is designed for integration with existing multi-function displays, with a simple “power in and standard video out” interface. The FLIR’s patented Digital Detail Enhancement (DDE); which is included in the Photon, assures excellent image quality regardless of scene dynamics, revealing scene detail missed by more expensive competitive systems. A choice of lens options is available to accommodate various flight profiles with wide, medium and narrow fields of view.

Another use for thermal imaging is in the unmanned drones (UAV’s) that are coming in to increasing use in the avionics industry, military and emergency services. The benefits of using Infra Red are similar as for air borne pilots, with the practical applications used for things like reconnaissance of forest fires through dense smoke, enemy heat signatures in a theatre of war and locating survivors in emergency situations and “search & rescue” operations.

This is an emerging technology that is being embraced by UAV manufacturers and serves as a useful addition to the functionality of their vehicles allowing operators to see in both night and day situations and in extreme visual conditions.

To find out more on Thermal Imaging and the huge range of uses talk to us at Thermal Vision Research today.