Thermal imaging cameras aren't just great for industrial applications like checking over the status of electrical circuitry or analysing the heat loss of a building - they're also great aids for the detection and monitoring of wildlife.

When out in the great outdoors, chances are you'll probably be out at night. This, of course, means you've got to deal with the problem of darkness, which is more than likely going to affect what you see when you're trying to find wildlife.

To counter darkness, it's possible to use nightvision technology to gain an enhanced view of your surroundings, but this technology is grossly inferior to thermal imaging cameras. See, nightvision must use some visible light in order to function properly - this means if there's no light around, the the technology will be less effective. So if you're out in the middle of nowhere where there isn't enough visible light to reflect off a surface back into your NV equipment, you're not going to see a lot at all.

In comparison a thermal imaging camera requires absolutely no light whatsoever in order to function. Why is this? Well, thermal imaging cameras are designed to detect IR (infrared) light, a part of the visible light spectrum that is completely invisible to the human eye but is all around us on a daily basis. IR light is basically the emissivity of an object's heat, so something like a human, or animal, will emit more IR emissivity because we generate heat as our bodies function. A thermal camera is able to pick up on this heat, and the heat signature is displayed as a thermal image.

This is incredibly useful for thermal imaging applications outdoors in the dark because, despite there being hardly any visible light to see by, a thermal camera can still be used to see through the darkness. Not only does this aid with making your way through the woods and keeping track of your party members, but this also allows you to easily detect the presence of animals by tracking their thermal signature. Not only that, but thermal cameras can also be used to see through weather conditions and can even see a heat signature through foliage, allowing what was once hidden to be seen.

Imagine you were out and about with some night vision binoculars. You might peer into a piece of dense foliage and see absolutely nothing, but what would you see should you use a thermal imaging camera? Take a look at this comparison image from leading thermal imaging camera manufacturer FLIR:

The man viewed in this picture is dressed in camouflage clothing. Now the first image on the left doesn't show NV equipment, but the effect would be much the same if this was at nighttime as the image would just be the same but with a weird green sheen. The image on the right is taken with a thermal imaging camera, and as can be seen, a man who was seemingly completely invisible on the first image seems to have suddenly appeared. This showcases exactly how, despite wearing camouflage, the man can be clearly visible using a thermal imaging camera, even through foliage.

The same principle applies to the detection of wildlife. If an animal uses natural camouflage to hide this means little to a thermal camera - the camouflage relies on visible light to work, and with the use of a thermal camera you can see hidden animals with the greatest of ease.

Intrigued by using a thermal camera in the great outdoors? FLIR's SCOUT range of cameras are ideal for this situation.