To be honest, I'm still not completely sure how all of this happened... A couple of months ago, someone over at FLIR – the world leader in thermal imaging – approached us to see if we would like to try flying some of their hardware.
Our initial response was stunned silence, brought on by shock. Fortunately, that initial contact came as an online message, so I don't think they noticed. After we managed to get our heads together enough to respond, we sent back a message that said basically, “Uh... Sure!”
We've been experimenting with this technology ever since, and we put together this video to explain the basics about how it works:
We had actually attempted night flying once before, using a combination of conventional low-light cameras and powerful flashlights. It was pretty pathetic, so we never bothered to put together a video about that particular misadventure.
Using the FLIR, however, that fanciful notion is utterly achievable – and as you can see for yourself, it is amazing. Total darkness is no obstacle at all to safely flying FPV.
I won't waste the bytes explaining the potential applications in search and rescue and other public safety missions, except to say that those are uses that we are interested in exploring further. Also, even during normal daylight operations, it can give you an enhanced perspective on the world.
We've already shot some additional videos using the FLIR, so stay tuned for those on our YouTube channel.
Before you ask – unfortunately, I don't get the feeling that FLIR is going to be handing out any more of these things. They are NASA expensive and fall under the domain of U.S. export controls, as well – so not something you can pick up at your local hobby shop.
Im jelous, I have been in contact with FLIR since May and All I was able to accomplish was a sales contact and pricing on a core.
What core did you use? How much weight all up? power source? video transmitter?
A-10 is discontinued I picked it up on ebay......weight is 120g 12v running on 3s with fatshark compatible standard video transmitter.
Thanks Kevin, I was hoping Lucidity would reply. I know the a-10 was dropped in favor of the tau, But I wanted to know what core he used along with the lens. I am not able to buy one to test for my self, as they run $7-10k depending on lens. The FLIR rep i have been speaking with does not have any suggestions for lens use on a quad drone with the TAU core.
Still can't say how we ended up with the FLIR. Like I mentioned in my write-up, they came to us -- and I'm still not really sure why. Anyway, the core we used is a Tau 640 is a 640x512 VGA-format thermal camera with a pixel size of 17 microns. It came with a 9mm lens for a wide field of view, which is obviously important for FPV operations. Weight was about 100 grams.
We powered it with a separate battery -- an three cell lipo with a 5-volt BEC -- which was connected to the core with a mini USB connector. Techinstein had to sort of the wiring to make that work. For the video transmitter, we just used RQCX-3 Raven's existing hardware: a Foxtech 500 mW, 5.8 GHz transmitter with a BluBeam skew-planar antenna, both from HobbyWireless.com. Hope it helps!
Lucidity, Thank you for the build info. I am working with a small department that has aplying for a grant, and we are working on a USAR drone, The TIC is the primary component to a good aerial search drone, and the information you have provided will save some time and tinkering. I was afraid I was going to have to make a back plane to get the TIC core to interface with a video TX. This will bring the grant request more inline with actual costs as grant compliance is paramount.
If you've been following our project at all, then you know we're big supporters of public safety and the use of SUAS in public safety applications. If you need any help at all getting you system set up, please feel free to contact us. Our e-mail addresses are available over on our website:
I'd suggest that in addition to the TIC, you get a good visible light camera and get a camera switch from FoxTechFPV, so that you can change back and forth between thermal and visible while you're in the air. Although we didn't show it in this video, we've played with that some and it's a powerful combination.
Good luck on your project!