Getting a TIC out of it!

- Thermal imagers designed for firefighting

Published:  01 July, 2007

e2V’s Gordon Haddow, technical authority on thermal imaging cameras (TICs) and Robin Wareham, sales engineer, explain why the Argus4 is currently one of the best-adapted TICs for firefighters on the market.

The primary use of TICs is for search and rescue activities, says Gordon. Infrared passes directly through smoke, this means that the user can always view a perfectly clear image on screen under zero visibility, making victim location a much quicker process. The other uses of TICs is to locate the seat of a fire. Furthermore, after the extinguishment of the fire, the camera can be used to check if any hotspots are left which might cause re-ignition.
Gordon adds that they are also ‘incredibly useful in remotely monitoring the temperature of gas storage cylinders’. A TIC could make a pretty accurate prediction if something is likely to explode or not, such as an acetylene cylinder. “Because you can view from a distance how hot the object is, the user will be able to assess if it is safe to deploy firefighters into the area. Buncefield was an example where TICs were used to remotely assess temperature of the storage tanks,” comments Gordon.
Recently e2v launched the Argus4. Where Argus3 could store 26 images, Argus4 can store 100, which are downloadable after the event. “In addition the Argus4 is also smaller and lighter, approaching half the weight of its predecessor. Most of all it is less expensive,” says Robin.
Gordon explains that there was considerable research involved in the development of the new TIC. The company’s design team has been able to reduce the part count inside the camera as well using more of their own technology, instead of buying it in from other companies.
“The in-house design allows us to process the image in a way that is much better for firefighters. TICs are used in many applications and if you buy an off-the-shelf electronic TIC and put your own box around it - which is what some manufacturers do - you basically have to rely on how the camera is set up for general uses, such as security or military.”
“We have designed this camera specifically for fire situations, with a brief to be able to identify small temperature differences, that means that one part of the screen might show something at 100°C, however, you still want to be able to see a body in the corner, where there is only a few degrees temperature difference.”
User feedback
Gordon comments that there has been a great deal of work involved in getting the picture quality up to the standard it is now. A great part of the design was initiated by feedback from users of the Argus3.
Robin adds: “The three main points we had feedback on were the weight, size and the price. We sat down with the engineering department and explained to them what the industry required. They have certainly achieved that.”
Even though it is much smaller and designed to be held in different ways, the use of the camera is just as easy, the screen layout and the button functions are all the same as Argus3, which simplifies any training requirements
The users can choose how they want to hold the camera; this means although a handle is provided with the camera its use is optional. “A lot of work went into designing the ergonomics, the design is flexible and can be used in many different ways depending on the type of incident that the firefighter encounters,” comments Gordon.
“There are numerous brigades in the UK, which are already using the Argus4,” continues Robin.  “In addition, within Europe and Asia more and more departments are acquiring the Argus4. Especially now e2v has opened a sales office in Hong Kong.”
So what does the future hold for thermal imaging? e2v has already launched new accessories for the Argus4, a truck storage mount and battery charger, a transmitter and battery now the company is working on a video telemetry system that is nearing the end of its development phase.
“We are hoping to announce something soon,” concludes Gordon. So, watch this space....

  • Operation Florian

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