Tiny Thermal Cameras for drones...


My first post here, and I'm going to hype my company and its products. I hope you will go easy on me - I'm assured that what we make is of interest to the DIY Drones community!


My company, DRS Technologies, manufactures a small Infrared Thermal camera called the Tamarisk 320.


The camera has a resolution of 320x240, is smaller than a golfball, weighs less than 35g and consumes <1W of power. 

For the past couple of years we have run the DRS Student Infrared Imaging Competition. The SIIC is an open-format, incentive prize competition for students who use thermal infrared imaging in a creative way.  The top project wins $10,000.  For this, the competition’s second year, there is an additional prize category for “Most Viral Video.”   This year DRS received 25 entries, of which 17 include a video for the viral competition. 

Videos range from art projects to drone projects, and all kinds of odd and novel topics in between... 

The viral video playlist is available at:




...and competition details are available at:




Let me know what you think.





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  • Ok, if you have a link to these countries, that'd be appreciated.

    Hobbyists I don't think stand any chance for getting such a license. Besides the ability to "import", there are also specific requirements on how the equipment is safe-guarded and kept (theft, loss). If you move to another country with the equipment, the export license needs to be reacquired. All in all, for hobbyists it's definitely not worth the pain and trouble to acquire ITAR restricted stuff.

    Can you confirm the 640 version is also license free at 9Hz?

  • You are all well informed on the ITAR restrictions, from the sounds of things. The Tamarisk 320 is exportable without license in its 9Hz version to most countries in the world (with a short list of exceptions). In addition, there is a list of 36 countries that we can export 60Hz Tamarisk 320 cameras to without license. Outside of those provisions, our other products (640x480, for example) are ITAR controlled, meaning that an export license is required. That complicates matters, but does not make it impossible in many cases.

  • +1 on more info regarding export restrictions. Note that the Tau camera ITAR restrictions applies only to the full framerate version @ 30Hz. The 9Hz version is not restricted. Would be good if Daniel could shed some light on how this applies to his camera.

  • John AB - yes as you say, the lenses are pricey. The Tau-2 works well - we are not interested in species recognition in the animal kingdom, and human detection, esp poachers, has some patterns to it which animals do not normally follow, so the thermal 'grouping' if you like, is recognizable. But to take a closer look means flying closer, in lieu of optical zoom capability. Also, the Fstop performance of the telephoto IR lenses degrades rapidly if the lenses are not germanium, and if they are, they are exorbitant in cost and weight. I do hoewer believe the TAU-2 640 pixel style camera are quite adequate - it takes some training for the operator to get the eye brain filter tuned in..but good results are certainly being achieved. We are due to deliver two UAV systems to our Ministry here in the next months for use in the reserves. They are fitted with electronic tag detectors and TAU-2 IR cameras, as well a a few other goodies, so we will see what happens in the real world!


    The Nampilot

  • I can't exactly say it was used for "consevation" work, but I have experience with both the Recon III and M18.  I would love to say I could test them in high frequency vibrations like quad/RC plane, but they were either hand held or used in a vehicle, where their stabilization worked great.  I'm not sure where my experience will help anyone though since I doubt anyone will need a 20KM laser range finder with geo-locating in a quad anyways, especially at $50,000.   A small lens (Like 7mm) is going to need a higher resolution body like the 640 version for something like imaging a field from a plane or a quad.  Looking at leaf temperature isn't much different than looking for the temperature difference in roads that we do, and the higher resolution  vs the weapon mounted thermal optics we have is huge.  Close range (for electronics) should be OK with a lower resolution body.  Any higher magnification, and not only are your vibrations going to become more severe, but aiming the camera is also going to be more difficult.


    Another thing to note is they don't work through glass, so durability of the camera is going to be a completely different issue.


    I'm curious what you guys come up with in the 640 resolution, especially if you include onboard storage like an SD card.

  • Developer

    Joe, I've used the FLIR P600-series of cameras for some work. They are about as high end as you can realistically get without having a serious R&D budget. The main problem for aerial wildlife conservation as I see it, is the low resolution. For a 320x240 or 640x480 IR camera sensor to work and give solid positives that can be easily separated from wildlife you either have to fly very low (impractical) or use a telephoto lens. And needless to say, telephoto optics for thermal cameras are very, very expensive.

  • Looking at the datasheets it seems almost a one-on-one with the FLIR QUARK/TAU series. Even some of the terms used for pallets and image enhancement modes are the same as used by FLIR... The FLIR cams are very good, and the tech support from them excellent. All this comes at a price, and if these cams are at least as good as the FLIR product ( these stem from FinMeccanica - have used other products of their's - Radar items - VERY GOOD, very pricey) then I am not sure the price could sensibly be much below the FLIR product. Also, all bound by the same overbearing ITAR export regulations - even to us poor bona fide users in Namibia - for use in conservation. Almost impossible to get a license from the US government for the high scan rate cameras - for anywhere in Africa. Puts a real damper on their use in other third world countries where the fight against poachers is being rapidly lost. Ah, well, suppose the third world  does not really exist in the minds of the Political Gods...

    Is there anyone who has actually used an IR camera, such as the FLIR TAU-2 640 series, and done quantitative evaluations in it use in conservation? Would love to discuss with you if so. 

    We have now done many flights with the TAU-2 - it works very well, but without a WELL stabilised gimbal it is useless - optical zoom is also almost a requirement which places more stringent requirements on the stabilisation. Tracking vultures has also been interesting - between the hours just after sunset to around mid morning, you really only see the vulture heads - the feathers mask the body heat very well. Fishermen on the beachfront here on the cold Atlantic coast are almost invisible at 200meters with the TAU-2 and a 19mm lense ( 32deg X 26deg FOV) - their outer clothing is the same temp as the environment and you do not see them, you only see their faces - hands are gloved and heads covered...Just as difficult to see people in the bush when they are fully clothed and immobile. This is of course all with Thermal IR  (7 to 13um). A complex field to navigate..


    The Nampilot.

  • What's the export classification? Commercial or ITAR?

    About the $5k...You are aware that the - also very small - FLIR automotive module is about €1500?
    That's less than $2k.

    To be really competitive, you'd have to beat that price and make sure your cams are classified as commercial, so you can export them.

  • Interesting, Did you used for agriculture purposes?

  • Looking forward to see your pricing on this cam,if it`s priced right I bet you will have a lot of people jump on board early. Good way to get the market share.

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