Flir Tau and other IR cameras

Hey everyone, new to the forum. I am a ME/AE at the University of Florida doing a project on building a UAV for wildfire surveillance.We need an infrared camera and the only options that I have found so far is the Flir Tau series. The max resolution for the Flir Tau is 320x240. We are looking for a camera with a resolution of 640x480. The only camera from Flir is the Photon 640, which is about 2.5 times the weight, and 8x the volume.I was wondering if anyone knows of any other IR cameras with similar weight and volume similar to the Flir Tau? (~100 grams, 1.2"x1.2"x1.4")Thanks all. Great forum BTW, very helpful for my project.

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  • Beau,

    I strongly recommend ICI Cameras. Their new 9 series cameras are amazing. What is unique is that unlike FLIR TAU and DRS cores, they put out a digital signal, which means multiple advantages for processing afterwards. Contact Gary there and get proper education. Also, they have radiometric capabilities that mean you get actual temperature data, and most important they calibrate their units to be very accurate (I believe .25 a degree). Lastly, unlike FLIR and DRS they pick up the phone and actually talk to you. Unless you are buying hundreds of cameras from the other guys, you don't seem to get the preferred attention and response. 

    • Phil -

      All FLIR OEM thermal cameras output both analog and digital data simultaneously. DRS may offer digital output as a pay-for option, but it comes standard on Tau, Quark, Photon, Lepton, and Muon. In fact, the user can select between 14-bit raw data, 8-bit digital, 14-bit filtered, 8-bit bayer encoded, 16-bit YCbCr color, or 8-bit YCbCr color options. The vast majority of UAS customers use analog video due to bandwidth issues associated with downlinking the data.

      Anyone using thermal cameras for temperature measurement should be suspicious of accuracy claims of less than one degree -- the industry standard for many years has been 2 degrees or 2 percent of the temperature range, whichever is greater. There are many factors influencing temperature accuracy, and it is naive to believe that any one company in the thermal camera business is dramatically superior to another.

      ICI probably sells re-branded cameras from China. Like many other products from China, they can be made cheaply but often have reliability issues -- caveat emptor.

      As a former FLIR employee who sold many FLIR OEM cameras, I was glad to talk with anyone about Tau and similar products. Maybe your comment is geared toward FLIR's call vectoring process, which is arguably imperfect. As a consultant to FLIR, I still talk to potential customers nearly every workday. My telephone number is 805-637-8830 should you wish to contact me. You can email me at

      • A clarification, and some additional information:

        -  Lepton and Muon are digital-only cameras.

        Many temperature measurement capabilities are available in Tau cameras as standard features. A good summary of the current feature set (Tau 2.7) can be seen at

        • Stan,

          All of our UAV Cameras are completely made in the USA. I know that a number of Flir products are manufactured in China so please stop throwing stones. Yes we do business there as well and we sell many of our American made cameras there as well as all over the world. Just as you do. "Fact" The ICI 7640 camera core was on STS 133 Space Shuttle mission. I was told by a reliable source that Flir had a system on that same mission and it failed in flight, ICI's camera worked flawlessly. So please stop throwing out quality and potentially Liable written statements about our company. Our system working on that flight led to further sales to NASA and NEPTEC a Canadian Space Group. I have many friends at Flir. I was also a Manager for Flir and prior to that for Agema. "Fact" Agema is where Flir actually got their 1st uncooled microbolometer camera. Stan came from Indigo which was a great company. indigo was purchased by Flir and the owners later sued by Flir. The owners then counter sued Flir. Flir lost both cases and this is public knowledge. In the latter suit Flir paid Bill Parrish and Tim Fitzgibbons more than $39 MM USD. Google it if you don't believe me. The Tau as Stan stated "analog version" is the likely the best seller. Price, "I believe", in most cases the deciding factor, ease of use being second. The digital Tau back end is camera link. To my knowledge there is no easy, light weight, digital solution to download and transmit data with this product. To my knowledge the Tau is also not fully radiometric. Producing such a camera could erode margins and profitably with other products.

           ICI " Infrared Cameras Inc." designed and manufactured a back end board (Patent Pending) that not only makes the Tau products capable of being powered and having video output by one simple USB cable and also makes it capable of being fully radiometric with ICI Calibration and software. Our 7000 and 9000 "Made in America" products are powered and have video out by one simple USB cable powere by < 5 V and 150 Mw. Most people know that Flir is a marketing machine and they have sold lots of Tau products. ICI realized this some time ago so we designed and developed and electronic package that snaps on the back and makes the Flir Tau a simple, complete digital solution. We will likely be offering our boards and software for customers who have purchased a Flir Tau or who chose to do business with Flir. ICI is an Infrared Camera manufacturer and we are here to serve the UAV industry and all customers regardless of their camera purchase decision. Just as there are many UAV manufacturers there are choices when it comes to purchasing quality Infrared cameras. In regard to manufacturing cameras calibrated to better accuracy than 2C wor 2% of the range ICI is an FDA Cleared Medical Camera manufacturer and when measuring the human body + or - 2C is just not accurate enough. Stan is correct and there are many environmental and other issues that make accuracy very difficult to achieve. ICI has made sensitivity, measurement accuracy, and image quality a primary focus.

          • As the primary design engineer for ICI, it upsets me to have an individual blatantly put ICI down. When it comes to Aerial Radiometry, we have spent the past several years developing a reliable solution to provide this needed capability to the world.  Mr. Stan Laband is a consultant for FLIR. And, he is clearly showing his bias to their operation.

            I would challenge anyone with a FLIR Tau to submit a radiometric thermal mosaic collected with a UAS. I would be surprised if such data even existed. We can provide many examples of digital thermal mosaics, collected on small UAS platforms, with our system. Agriculture, Archeology, Roof Inspection, Solar Panel Inspection, and many other applications benefit from our solution on a daily basis.

            If you know anything about imaging, you know analog data is not quantitative. Gray scale truncates 24bit video to 8 bit. White Hot or Black Hot IR video is 8 bit. That means 256 divisions of temperature vs. 16,384 divisions of temperature when utilizing the raw 14bit digital response. Which one would you prefer?  

            We realized, a few years back, this application would require an embedded system to manage the digital response from the IR camera before the data is converted to an NTSC /PAL signal. We have worked hard to provide this solution with our 9000 series cameras. Our 9000 series cameras utilize DRS sensors made right here in the USA. DRS is a clear leader in IR systems for the military. And, they have been a valued partner, having collaborated for almost a decade, with ICI. The majority of our systems, just like Fluke, are based on their high quality line of Vanadium Oxide detectors. Our proprietary electronics, algorithms and software are combined with their detectors to provide the functionality needed to collect radiometric data.  

            Additionally, we also realized, there are many people who have purchased the FLIR Tau, L3 Noncore, or even the newly released BAE 12um cores. Our technology will provide the owners of these systems with the ability to convert the native response of these cameras to communicate via USB. This makes it much easier to interface any of these IR cameras with readily available, small embedded systems such as Raspberry Pi, GumStix, and most recently Via Embedded systems.

            Our FLIR Tau solution will be available by January 2015. Solutions for the L3 Noncore line and the latest BAE cores will be available later in the coming year. Customers who have purchased a Tau, only to learn that it will not provide radiometric thermal mapping capabilities, can now expand the functionality of that IR camera. We can outfit the FLIR Tau core with an expansion board and case that will give them the ability to collect the raw 14bit data from the camera via USB at full framerate. We can also provide a calibration (You must send the camera to us for this option) along with a CPU module and software to process and collect data remotely.

            It is a very exciting time at ICI and we invite anyone and everyone to join us in our endeavors.


  • Tau cameras are available in both 324x256 and 640x480 format. Refer to

    Tau 640 has the same footprint (form & fit) as the Tau 324.

    The Photon 640 was discontinued by FLIR (end of life) at the end of 2013 and is no longer available except for a few demo production cameras that were capitalized for marketing use.

    May I ask what is the source of your information?

    My new email address is

    Stan Laband

  • If your still looking.  

    Have you seen these yet? They look promissing,
    the group also says they have a private campaign that has these for $2000
    If you know anyone who has one let me know I want some personal experience from someone before I buy.

  • If your still looking.  Have you seen these yet? They look promissing,  It might be advantageous to see them at night.
    the group also says they have a private campaign that has these for $2000
    If you know anyone who has one let me know I want some personal experience from someone before I buy.

  • Admin


    The link in your comment had error as it was leading to  instead of

    Edited and saved. Hope that it is alright with you.

  • We not only manufacture a small core but we have a r\Radiometric small core. Anyone can put a Go Pro or and Infrared imager on a Drone or micro UAV but not a fuly Radiometric obe. We have a complete UAV Package wit Autopilot etc.. Gary Strahan or look at www.infraredcameras and call 713-859-3599

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