Solving Thermal Limitations for Emergency and First-Response UAVs

Daniel Litwin of The Voice of B2B hosted Randall Warnas, Global sUAS Segment Leader with FLIR, to discuss drone thermal payload technology.  The pair looked at the use of thermal imaging technology today, its limitations, and the future of the technology across a variety of applications.  

Warnas explained that thermal imaging technology has become a vital tool for firefighting, search and rescue, and law enforcement.  The ability to gather thermal information from an unmanned aerial perspective is critical when terrain obstacles prevent vehicles and personnel from entering an area.  The thermal technology itself enables the expedited gathering of information, day or night, that could prove instrumental in the saving of lives.

Thermal drone technology has an ever growing list of success stories, but there are limitations and areas of improvement.  “I think the limitations behind drones right now is going to be regulatory, but it’s also flight time,” Warnas said. He continued by stating the challenge was to “shrink down size, weight, and power consumption of payloads.”

Another limitation is the thermal imaging resolution.  Many handheld temperature reading devices have an accuracy within 2 degrees.  Measuring temperature from a distance in an aerial setting presents a sizable challenge.  Even so, drone thermal readings can be accurate to +/- 5 degrees, which is still suitable for the majority of applications.

Litwin and Warnas also discussed FLIR’s Hadron module, a thermal imaging technology meant for OEM integration.  The idea is to enable a broader number of aerial platforms to use high resolution thermal technology to greatly expand the applications for this powerful innovation.

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