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If seeing is believing, then trying is buying a FLIR (part 2)

by John Curnow on 15 Jun 2012
People on a raft - Powerful new M-Series night vision camera from FLIR FLIR http://www.flir.com/cvs/apac/en/maritime/
In Part One of ‘If seeing is believing, then trying is buying a FLIR’, we got to see just how many devices FLIR can offer all types of mariners for a multitude of tasks. Safety is certainly a primary component of that, but in Part Two, we’ll also get to see that as the world of technology marches ever on, there are some things you may have thought infra-red thermal imaging could not take on, let alone blitz at.

Specifically, we’d been looking at and more importantly through the entry level First Mate from FLIR. As the images are taken with an iPhone from the back of the viewfinder, it is important to remember that they are but a representation of what you’ll actually see, which is scarily good and useful.

Now additionally, the ergonomics of the smaller First Mate means you can use it with one hand and deploy your other hand for holding on if it is feral, picking up a mooring at night, gathering intel as you enter a port at night and still steer or fending away debris with the boat hook. If you were close to rocks, a FLIR product would add more than a little comfort to the equation.

As a round the world cruiser, you could consider a FLIR product as essential as AIS. With most cruisers also going short-handed, it adds a safety element that is nearly unsurpassed and its use to firstly find a port at night and then for provide a clear path to shore as you row the dinghy in, is literally self-explanatory.

This is obviously so for all the reasons as stated above, but also because it would have to be some of the most prudent and cost effective insurance you could obtain. You may even get to see intruders well before it became an issue, if you happened to be in one of those parts of the world.



Screen brightness, change of colour and 2x Zoom are all one-touch buttons on the top of the First Mate, as is the power button. To be honest, it is so easy, that the biggest issue I had was remembering to take the lens cap off. By the way, it swings off its own rubber lanyard, so you don’t have to remember where you put it and the FLIR thermal camera charges of a USB cable to a weather protected slot, also located on the top of the unit. Fully charged, you should have around five hours of use at your fingertips.

The hobbyist fisherman, returning to port a bit later than expected and needing help locating the launch ramp in the dark can benefit too. Larger craft like Superyachts and commercial vessels can utilise FLIR products to not only assist with entering ports and docking, but also locating tiny craft like rowing shells and kayaks.

So a FLIR product it is not just for yachties. Ask any boat driver and they'll all say that kayakers are the hardest to spot as they bob under wave height. I could not agree more and they remind me of the horizontal bicycles with the orange flags atop the whip poles, because they know they’re hard to see. Kayakers do not have those or navigation lights when it is dark. Last Christmas time at the King of the Derwent in Hobart, there was not a lot of breeze or seaway for that matter, but there was enough to render these little craft effectively invisible and here they were mixing it up with everything from 30 to 100 feet and an absolute armada of pleasure craft out to witness it all, as well as media vessels positioning for that special shot.

That all got me to thinking, for last year in Melbourne, two kayakers lost their lives when they were out overnight. A FLIR thermal camera would not have saved them in itself, for they had not notified authorities of their activity nor carried any suitable communication equipment, let alone thermal wear. Had they have been able to raise the alarm, then a FLIR device would have definitely been the choice of weapon for the R part of SAR, for it was desperately cold and quite unsavoury out there.

Any vessel going to assist would have run the risk of going over the top of them, just like the Carrier, HMAS Melbourne did to her ResDes, HMAS Voyager, so sadly all those years ago. No doubt, this is exactly why both Sydney’s harbour and Brisbane’s river ferries have readily adopted the use of the technology.

As we know, high-end cars like BMW and Rolls Royce are already deploying FLIR products into their vehicles. Headlights can see somewhere in the range of 100 to 200 metres, yet a FLIR thermal camera can indeed out see them, as it will go out to 800m. Yet this is not the only industry to be seeking the benefits of FLIR. There are multiple uses in the electrical, mechanical, building, medical, robotics/automation, and security arenas.

Now it is not all about night time either, for you can use FLIR to see things in daylight, as well. As Manuel from Fawlty Towers used to say, ‘Che?’ The simple answer is wiring hotspots and pipes, and it is these sorts of applications that are really set to expand as electricians, builders and plumbers use this affordable technology to help them locate various items in structures. Indeed, the verification of what or is not behind walls in modern buildings, with so much riding on techniques and eco-statuses, is also going to be somewhat of a boon for this technology.

You can almost see FLIR being an obligatory tool for all manner of these trades. This major use will drive prices down, for remember Tradies were some of the very first users of mobile phones, the ones we lovingly referred to at the time as ‘bricks’ and today will fetch a good price as a memento on eBay.

Perhaps in five years or so, your mobile phone will indeed have a FLIR thermal imaging camera incorporated in to it. If that all seems a bit far fetched, then remember that it was not all that long ago that the thought of having any sort of camera in your phone was a reasonably wild dream, as Short Message Service had only just landed, let alone something called Internet Connectivity.

Finally then, remember that there are mounted FLIR units for large craft, too. So go and see, then believe for yourself at your nearest FLIR stockist. Try and you will buy – details at http://www.flir.com.au/.




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