Frantic and wondering whether she would make it out of a heavily wooded wilderness park in Florida, a woman called 911 to tell dispatch that she couldn’t seem to find her way out after about two hours of hiking in the dark. The local sheriff’s office deployed their Aviation Unit – including a helicopter equipped with night vision technology. Despite the darkness, the technology on board the unit was able to successfully find the woman’s lighted cell phone from its position in the sky. Night vision, infrared, and thermal imaging might seem like technology straight out of the latest spy novel — but it’s not.

Emergency response teams, military, governments, and local businesses alike are finding an ally in the latest and most advanced tech from Oregon company, FLIR systems Inc. Headquartered in Wilsonville, with a presence at the Aurora State Airport, FLIR specializes in the design, manufacturing and marketing of thermal imaging infrared cameras like the one used in the rescue above. FLIR was established to pioneer thermal imaging infrared cameras in 1978. Over the years, they have continued innovating to make this technology more accessible as well as building awareness globally.

How it Works

Thermal imaging cameras detect the heat emitted by all people, materials and certain objects. This technology is ideal for use in a number of dangerous situations, as it allows operators see in adverse weather conditions, through air pollutants like smoke and haze, as well as total darkness.

Oregon summer fire season burns over a hundred thousand acres of forest every year on average, but is no match for FLIR’s technology. In 2017, the Oregon Department of Forestry tested FLIR’s thermal imaging technology on their aircraft, allowing responders to fly over the area and identify hot spots and the location of fire lines. Fire commanders were able to safely watch footage live from the aircraft from their command center. With the ability to see through the smoke, the location of firefighters on the ground could be identified so that airplanes could be safely guided to drop retardant on the fire. Lives and natural resources were saved because of this new technology and it is only the first step.

Making our Communities Safer

Firefighters aren’t the only ones benefitting from this life-saving thermal imaging technology.

FLIR’s cameras have been used on rescue missions for lost hikers by the US Army National Guard. The US Coast Guard was able to recue three men on the Necanicum River after their kayaks capsized, thanks to a helicopter equipped with FLIR airborne thermal imaging technology. In Texas, FLIR imaging technology on a police drone were able to help police capture suspects that were reported to be carrying firearms near an elementary school.

In recent months, there has been an increase in interest in using these types of cameras as a first line of defense for temperature checks during the COVID-19 health crisis. These thermal cameras can be used for non-contact screenings to detect elevated skin temperatures. FLIR is even registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide a variety of its thermal products to screen for elevated skin temperatures in connection with additional screening tools.

Aurora State Airport’s “Helping heroes”

In a world that is rapidly changing, the safety of our communities is a priority and it is important that businesses remain on the cutting edge of technology in order to be ready for action when the next call comes in. FLIR is in the ranks of businesses, including; Life Flight Network, Erickson Air Crane, Columbia Helicopters, Wilson Construction, and Helicopter Transport Services – who are also working on a state, national, and international scale for the benefit of our families and communities.

To learn more about FLIR Systems Inc, visit their website here.

Photo courtesy of FLIR

FLIR rescue image


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