Modern Drone Threats and Detection Solutions

The drone market is booming

According to a 2016 report, revenues from drone sales are expected to top $12 billion by 2021. Shipments of consumer drones are expected to more than quadruple over the next five years, while the military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending. Drones or UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) have become a part of everything, and are now in the news on a daily basis, from terrorist activities, to issues over restricted airspace. The list of applications is virtually endless, and includes hunting poachers, perimeter security, aiding firefighters, building diagnostics, surveillance, counter-terrorism, and more.

New technology means new threats

The models on the market now are small and getting smaller, and they can go anywhere. They are also more available, and more affordable than ever before. While the continual development of new technologies provides more versatile capabilities for defense and civilian applications, it also creates new possibilities for terrorist organizations. Some terrorist groups are taking advantage of these capabilities, using drones to achieve their objectives. As the technology advances, so too will the range of commercially available drones, facilitating greater standoff distances and decreasing the likelihood of detection of the drone operator.

With great distribution comes great risk

Drones with the ability to deliver a payload can now be purchased by anyone for a few hundred US dollars. ISIS, for example, is using plastic commercial drones to drop grenades on military and civilian targets, and to monitor enemy troop movements, while their propaganda videos encourage drone attacks worldwide. Event organizers and security teams need to be prepared for a variety of different scenarios, with new threats evolving all the time. The greatest fear is what would happen if a terrorist organization used drone technology to attack a major public event or other place where people gather. These risks are unacceptable and require a comprehensive solution. We need to be able to protect our military bases, nuclear facilities, prisons, transportation hubs, and public events from weaponized drones.

How do we protect valuable assets against these threats?

Because they have become so small and so cheap, UAV’s are now a fact of life, and must be taken into consideration when building your event or perimeter security plan. The list of “anti-drone” solutions is almost as long as the list of uses for drones, and includes net firing “drone-catcher” drones, guns, lasers, missiles, jamming viruses to drop them out of the air, software to take control, operator location… and many more. If there is one problem that most of these solutions share, it is that they all rely on accurate threat detection in order to have a chance at success. But how do you detect something as small as a plastic consumer drone? Small and fast, some are even virtually undetectable in daylight. Without detection, all these other solutions will be ineffective. From this we see that detection solutions are at the core of any drone threat response system. Without detection, the effectiveness of any solution will be limited.

A range of detection solutions

Current detection options for drones include radar, acoustic detection, and thermal imaging. These solutions range in effectiveness based on a number of conditions. When we consider the fact that drones are not limited by daylight and can also operate at night, we begin to understand that any solution to successfully protect against drone attacks will require the ability to detect drones at night, even in complete darkness. Counter measures need to include a comprehensive security plan that includes technology capable of answering this threat. Nighttime vision solutions are limited, and include traditional night vision, infrared (IR or “thermal imaging”) cameras, and near infrared cameras.

Thermal imaging is not night vision

Like near IR cameras, night vision goggles and scopes see visible light, like your eyes, and make images from enhancing or adding visible light to the region of interest. Thermal cameras on the other hand, “see” heat, not light. The more heat an object gives off, the more thermal contrast it generates, and the easier it is to see. Because of this, thermal imaging even functions in zero-light conditions. It also has extreme long-range capabilities, making it ideal for drone detection. Thermal security and surveillance cameras and systems are therefore an excellent solution for drone detection, and can even be paired with other sensors to increase effectiveness.

Bears, Borders and Integrated Security Solutions

Did you hear the one about the bear that nearly caused a nuclear catastrophe?

It was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. A guard at Volk US Air Force Base – home to a number of armed nuclear bombers – spotted a shadowy figure apparently attempting to scale the fence. The supposed Soviet saboteur tripped the alarm, which was fatefully miswired, triggering a maneuver to scramble US interceptor jets to shoot down incoming enemy nuclear bombers. There were more American armed nuclear bombers already in the air nearby – the scene was set for a friendly fire incident of nuclear proportions.

Just before the jets took off, the command center realized what happened and sent orders to stand down. Crisis averted – just. Oh – and the Soviet saboteur that tried to sneak in? It turned out to be a curious bear.

With security technology having considerably advanced since 1962, we shouldn’t see a repeat episode like that anytime soon. Today we face different threats. Our fears of international state on state conflict have been eclipsed by the threat of international terrorism, and – though military security is always crucial – protecting borders has become one of the most pressing security needs of our time.

However, there are still lessons to be learned – safety and security are impossible without smart, integrated security solutions that can work in any weather, day or night. Two notable trends are helping organisations and security integrators shore up their defenses: advances in uncooled thermal imaging technology, and the move towards a security-solutions based approach.

The advance of uncooled thermal imagery

With conflict and other crises causing mass migration of refugees around the world, the importance of border security has leapt up several places on national leaders’ agendas.
When borders stretch across hundreds or thousands of kilometers of land and sea, it can be a very difficult and expensive task to secure them.

To answer the limitations of CCD day cameras, each is mounted in tandem with a thermal camera. The decision to use thermal then begs the question: cooled or uncooled cameras? Cooled cameras undisputedly give the best performance, offer unmatched distance visibility, and are more user-friendly than ever before. Whereas once a cooled camera would require a tank of cooling liquid nitrogen or similar substance, now electric systems – much like a fridge – keep the camera cool.

Uncooled thermal cameras, coupled with cutting edge analytics applied to the image data, are capable of covering huge distances like never before – up to fifteen kilometers away. This allows for fewer, cheaper, lower-maintenance cameras, hugely reducing the total cost of ownership when extrapolated across hundreds or thousands of kilometers.

When then taken by a system integrator and combined with other security equipment such as ground sensors, motion sensors and patrol cars, modern uncooled camera systems create a compelling holistic border security solution. And these systems would have revealed the Volk bear’s furry identity pretty quickly – avoiding a near disaster in the process.

Smart systems are integrated systems

But land and sea borders aren’t the only places countries need protection. Think about airports for a moment: some of the most security-conscious civilian transit sites in the world. They too, need efficient and cost-effective border security, and stand to benefit hugely from advanced uncooled thermal imagery solutions. They’re also a good illustration of why integrated security systems are vital. Following the tragic events of 9/11, the focus shifted to individual security – stopping the passage of dangerous individuals and items onto planes. However, in recent years we’ve seen terrorists resort to cruder, less easily managed methods of destruction, such as vehicular and lone gunman attacks.

The challenge for system integrators is to deliver systems that handle a range of threats. To that end, it’s imperative that thermal cameras, CCTV cameras, radar, motion sensors – everything – are linked to a control terminal, informing and updating security personnel and creating a comprehensive picture of the security network in real time.

System integrators have more choice than ever before when it comes to building these integrated solutions. In fact, rather than sourcing individual components from individual manufacturers and agonizing over esoteric operating systems and protocols when trying to link them, they can now choose from complete, integrated, interoperable security solutions, making life infinitely easier.

Today, these two trends of advanced uncooled cameras and the easy integration of multiple systems, allow system integrators to build powerful connected systems to keep us all safe. After all, there are much more dangerous things out there than curious bears.

Reducing Fire Risk at Waste Management and Recycling Sites

Humans produce massive amounts of garbage each year. In the US alone, 700,000 tons of trash are produced per day.  All that garbage must go somewhere, and much of it ends up in waste management and recycling sites. These sites are at constant risk of fire. As the waste pile decomposes, chemical reactions that happen deep under the surface produce hot gases that are extremely volatile. In recycling facilities, highly combustible “fluff” materials can burn down a facility in minutes. Self-combustion is a constant threat in these facilities, and usually, by the time a fire is identified, the conditions are already such that the damage is widespread.

In addition to the financial damage these fires cause, there are serious environmental issues to consider. Due to the large amount of runoff from firefighter’s efforts to put out these fires, waste fires are a danger to the environment and public health. Stringent regulations of emissions from these facilities make early detection necessary, as unchecked fires could lead to large fines or even plant closures.

The most dangerous times are when the facilities are unmanned, as an unobserved fire could completely ruin an operation. In order to protect these facilities, several needs must be met. First, any detection system has to work equally as well at night as it does during the day. Next, the systems should be able to integrate seamlessly with the existing framework, and they should have IP capabilities, so that they can connect back to the main control center or be accessed remotely. They also need to have a very low occurrence of false alarms.

The best hotspot, smoke, flame, and fire detection solutions are thermal cameras with fire detection analytics. Thermal cameras that have all of these qualities are an effective technology for fire and loss prevention. They can detect a tiny rise in temperature, and when something in the region of interest passes a pre-set temperature threshold, an alarm is sent to the control center. Alerts can also be sent to anyone with remote access, and can be programmed to alert the local fire department as well, bringing the response time down significantly and saving millions in lost property damage. They can also lower insurance costs for facility owners and managers, as they significantly reduce the risk of massive fires, currently the biggest threat to these operations.

8 Thermal Imaging Innovations That are Making Our Lives Better

Thermal Imagers for Early Cancer Detection

Yes, you heard me right. Breast cancer, one of the most common cancers, affects millions each year worldwide, with late detection being one of the biggest problems. Breast thermography, now being practiced in a number of locations, is being used to scan for angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation), one of the very first measurable signs that something might be wrong. While not recommended as a replacement for traditional diagnostic methods, this new technology has important implications that warrant further study.


Thermal Binoculars for Tactical Missions

No matter your mission, eventually you are going to run out of daylight. This makes handheld thermal devices especially important lifesaving gear for coast guard, law enforcement, and SWAT teams. Police and search and rescue teams across the globe are now regularly using handheld thermal cameras to find missing people and fugitives, saving lives and getting criminals off the streets faster than ever before.


Thermal Gas Detection Cameras

While these are still priced for professional use, their very existence is improving your life by making it possible for companies and government regulatory bodies to instantly render fugitive emissions visible. This has major environmental implications, allowing for fast identification and response to gas leaks. Less harmful gas leaks mean cleaner air, and that’s good for everybody.


Thermal Monocular (Scope) for Wildlife Observation

For those of us that love the outdoors, observing wildlife in its natural habitat, whether at sea or on land, presents one of the biggest challenges (and is something we spend millions on vacations for each year). Animals are careful by nature, and hiding from humans comes with the territory. Often, you could be within several feet from a multitude of creatures and never know it. The thermal monocular solves this problem, by allowing you to reveal and enjoy animals in the wild, long before you get close enough to scare them away.


Thermal Cameras for Your Mobile Device

Handheld thermal cameras are one of the most popular consumer gadgets of the year, with good reason. Once only for the wealthy, you can now own a seriously powerful professional grade thermal imager for less than the cost of a new TV. Useful for everything from taking gorgeous pictures, to majorly reducing your energy bills, to scanning dark parking lots before walking to your car, the personal thermal camera is one little tool that is improving lives everywhere in a big way.


Nighttime Driving Assistance

Driving at night, or in bad weather can be pretty scary, especially in unlit rural areas. To combat this problem, some new vehicle models are being developed with integrated thermal night driving systems.  Much like the color rear-view cameras that have become standard in newer model cars, thermal night driving assistance cameras can “see” in the dark, rain, fog, and snow, and have a screen that shows you a clear thermal video feed of the road conditions around you, making night driving easier, and safer.


Thermal Cameras Make Cities Safer

Traffic cameras with thermal cores can improve traffic patterns by reading the environment and responding accordingly. If a biker or a pedestrian is approaching, the camera will respond by changing the light so that they can safely pass. The cameras also reduce waiting time and wasted gas for automobiles at stoplights by turning (and keeping) the light green if no one is coming from the other direction.


Wearable thermal imagers

Wearable cameras, like helmet mounted thermal imagers, might seem like futuristic gear, but they are already being utilized by teams of firefighters. These devices are important, lifesaving gear that every firefighter should have, as they see through smoke, and can identify people who are trapped or unconscious. Helmet thermal cameras are especially important, as firefighters need their hands free when they are navigating dangerous burning buildings.


From saving lives and the environment, to keeping you safe, these incredible innovations all use thermal imaging technology to improve our lives.

11 Amazing Thermal Images You Have to See Right Now

In the last 10 years, thermal imaging technology has been developed for a seemingly endless host of applications, for everything from diagnostic thermography, to controlling fugitive VOC’s and harmful hydrocarbon emissions, to making cool music videos. Like the image of Abu Simel temple in Egypt above, the ten thermal images below tell a story that is usually hidden to the world outside, using advanced thermal imaging technology.  These incredible images were taken by some of our Therm-App enthusiasts, and we were so blown away with the results, that we thought it was only fair to share them with you.

Pembroke College, Cambridge

Pembroke College in thermal vision

Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Tower Bridge, UK

Tower Bridge in Thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Istanbul Skyline

Istanbul Skyline in thermal vision

Image Courtesy: Suan Yong


Wake on the River

Wake on the River in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain

Aqueduct of Segovia in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Suan Yong


Weymouth Beach, UK

Weymouth Beach in thermal vision

Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Man’s Best Friend

Man’s Best Friend in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Kom Ombo Temple, Egypt

Kom Ombo Temple in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Auberge de Castille, Malta

Auberge de Castille in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Giles Read


Brooklyn Bridge, NY

Brooklyn Bridge in thermal vision

 Image Courtesy: Suan Yong

There you have it, 11 of the most beautiful thermal images we have ever seen. Do you have Therm-app pictures you want to share? Post them to our Therm-app flickr page, and for more interesting and amazing uses for thermal cameras, click here and watch the video.

 Cover photo: Abu Simel Temple, Egypt. Image Courtesy: Giles Read.

Thermal cameras for search and rescue saving lives at sea

Coast guard and search and rescue teams face extreme conditions daily, as a regular element of their jobs. At night, and especially in stormy weather, efforts to save people in the water can quickly become a nightmare scenario simply because they can’t be seen. Handheld thermal cameras can save rescue teams precious minutes that make the difference between life and death, by revealing the location of people that have been swept overboard and are in imminent danger of drowning. These cameras display images that are based on differences in heat, not on light, and this is what makes them invaluable to crews working against the clock to save lives.

Using Handheld Thermal Cameras for Marine Safety

Modern thermal binoculars can be used at sea as well as on land. They make it possible to detect a human target as far away from a vessel as 2000 meters, greatly increasing the survivability of people fighting for their lives in the water.

In fact, with thermal imaging technology, you have access to clear and sharp pictures regardless of time of day or weather conditions. The light weight of the thermal monocular device is also important since it makes it easier to handle and operate the camera, when seconds can make the difference between being lost at sea and being pulled from the water.

The thermal cameras are also excellent for detecting hazards like rocks, ice, floating debris, and other, smaller vessels. This makes it possible to avoid accidents that might lead to costly damages and losses.

Easy to use even for the beginner

Another great advantage of modern thermal imaging technology is that it is easy to operate, even for a person that has never worked with this type of equipment before. With intuitive layout and functions that are clear and easy to understand, people working for the coast guard or marines can be quickly trained on the equipment and start benefiting from the advantages of being able to see in the dark. Energy efficiency also comes in handy during rescue missions that take more time than initially expected.

Using handheld thermal cameras at sea can spell out the difference between life and death. T hey are especially helpful in dark, freezing, and stormy conditions where every second counts. This makes thermal technology invaluable for this application, and it should really be standard equipment for any vessel or rescue team going out to sea.

See what Vumii Has to Offer This Spring at ISC West

ISC West is the largest security industry trade show in the U.S. This year we will be showcasing a number of our field-proven security solutions. Vumii’s broad line of rugged camera systems for observation and assessment will be on display, including models serving long, medium and short range needs: Accuracii™ XRU, Accuracii™ AT Mini and Sii™ OP.

The Accuracii™ XRU uncooled multi-sensor camera system offers the range of a cooled camera at a competitive price. With its powerful continuous zoom lens, it provides effective protection of borders and critical infrastructure.
Accuracii™ AT Mini is a compact dual channel thermaland CCD camera system which provides effective covert security, detecting people up to 1km away and vehicles beyond 2km.
The compact Sii OP 24/7 dual channel camera for outdoor security is our most state-of-the-art detection system to date. It is the first open source security thermal camera that meets global ONVIF standards, with incredibly easy installation and a dedicated Software Development Kit (SDK) for seamless third party integration.

Visit Vumii at ISC West, Booth #35066 from April 5-7, to learn more about our portfolio of thermal-imaging solutions.

Thermal Cameras for Dummies

Thermal Security Cameras for Dummies

4 Reasons to Choose Uncooled Thermal Systems

  • They cost a lot less

While thermal security cameras with cooled systems undeniably perform better at extreme long ranges in clear weather (think over 20km), most surveillance needs are more localized. For human recognition surveillance of ranges up to 10km, systems using uncooled thermal sensors can be much cheaper than systems using cooled sensors, since uncooled thermal sensors don’t need to use a more expensive cryocooler.

For security and surveillance systems that need to monitor an immediate area, like the land and perimeters surrounding sensitive infrastructure, corporate properties, and private compounds, using systems with uncooled sensors can save you major cash.

  • They need a lot less power to operate

Uncooled thermal sensors use microbolometers to detect infrared radiation, which have relatively low energy consumption requirements compared to cryocoolers, the detectors in cooled thermal systems. Put simply, uncooled thermal sensors do not require cooling, which considerably lowers the amount of energy needed to power it.

  • They need a lot less maintenance over time

While cooled cameras are the system of choice for extreme long-range surveillance needs, they do require more attention (i.e. routine cryocooler rebuilds every 8,000-15,000 hours of operation). On the other hand, uncooled systems, while quite advanced, have far fewer delicate mechanical components and moving parts to break down. This advantage gives them much longer service lives, and an experience where users can basically set up the camera and walk away.

  • At closer ranges, they see better in bad weather

Specifically, in conditions of Category II fog (visibility < 610 meters), systems with uncooled thermal sensors will outperform systems with cooled sensors because of the IR detection range of each type of sensor. Uncooled thermal sensors image in the Long wave Infra-Red (LWIR) band, while cooled sensors operate in the Mid-wave Infra-Red band (MWIR). Basically, Category II fog reduces the imaging capabilities of sensors operating in the MWIR band to that of the naked eye, making uncooled thermal sensors the only way to see clearly in such conditions.

So, to recap… for security demands that require human recognition at closer ranges (up to 10km), uncooled thermal cameras compared to cooled thermal cameras cost less to buy, cost less to maintain, need significantly less power to run, and they have serious imaging advantages in cases of bad weather. Maybe it’s time you upgrade to a thermal security solution?