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Old 21st July 2009, 12:00   #1
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Default Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) Camera now available

I had noticed Prime Group India's advertisements in Autocar and WhatCar and wanted to bring it to the notice of TBHPians. Please note that I have no commercial interest in this matter except that I would have loved to buy one for night driving :-) .

The B&W cost in India for the camera (only) is Rs. 3.10 lakhs. Additional requirements include a display screen inside the vehicle and cabling etc.

PathfindIR™
Automotive Night Vision

The FLIR Systems PathFindIR is a compact thermal imaging camera that significantly reduces the hazards of night time driving. Automotive Night Vision Systems enable drivers to detect and monitor potential hazards on or near the road, allowing more time to react to any potential danger. PathFindIR Thermal imager helps the user recognize pedestrians, animals, or objects in total darkness, smoke, rain and snow. The PathFindIR module can be integrated into military vehicle designs, or adapted for aftermarket commercial vehicle applications.

Excellent image quality The PathFindIR incorporates an uncooled 320 x 240 pixels microbolometer. This maintenance free system delivers crisp video images which can be displayed on virtually any display that accepts composite video.

Wide-angle lens The PathFindIR is equipped with an 19 mm wide angle lens. It give you an extremely wide field of view (36°), resulting in excellent situational awareness.

Designed for use in harsh environments
The PathFindIR is extremely rugged. Its vital core is well protected against humidity and water. The PathFindIR can be cleaned with a hose just like any other equipment. The PathFindIR operates between -40°C and +80°C.

Compact, easy to install The PathFindIR is extremely compact (5.8 x 5.7 x 7.2 cm) and weighs only 360 grams. This allows for easy integration in any vehicle. The PathFindIR can easily be installed behind a vehicle grill or in any other compact location.

Optional cable A 6 meter long cable is available for routing the PathFindIR’s power and video interface into a passenger compartment. On one side the cable connects to the PathFindIR. On the other end it has 2 wires that can be terminated, as required by the user, for hooking into the vehicle power bus and a video cable that is terminated with a BNC connector. It can be adapted to the video input connections on most standard monitors.

URL: http://www.flir.com/cvs/eurasia/en/content/?id=4950

Reviewed by Car Audio magazine:
URL: http://www.caraudiomag.com/reviews/caep_0809_flir_pathfindir_night_vision_system/index.html

Flir Pathfindir - Review Night Vision
Illuminating The Night (Road)
By Vahik Voskanian

Residents of brightly lit cities forget how unnerving and dangerous driving at night can be without the comforting presence of streetlights. Headlights only penetrate the darkness so far, leaving much of the road and surrounding areas mysterious voids. An errant antelope (or anything else for that matter) might leap into your path or, more commonly, a connecting road might go unnoticed. One solution is FLIR's PathFindIR night vision system, which consists of a camera, installation cable and brackets, and monitor. Using the same core thermal imager that you'll find in a night vision-equipped BMW, the PathFindIR transmits a thermal image to your own in-car video monitor or one included in the kit.
The global leader in infrared cameras, night vision, and thermal imaging systems, FLIR Systems has created pivotal products for a wide range of industrial, commercial, and government activities in more than 60 countries. A pioneer in the commercial infrared camera industry, FLIR has kept many industries, including the military, fully stocked with thermography and night vision equipment for over 30 years. Their automotive aftermarket product brings a range of safety benefits like we've never seen before.

One of the most interesting aftermarket products I've tested, the FLIR PathFindIR is a high-tech thermal sensor that converts thermal energy (i.e., heat) into a 2-D image viewable on a video monitor inside your car. PathFindIR addresses one of the most important problems we all face when driving at night: not having enough time to react to potential road hazards. Since so many serious traffic accidents occur due to the driver not being able to see as far in low light conditions, the system allows the driver to see further without any additional lighting and also provides imaging at any speed.
One very cool feature the unit has is a built-in heating element to stabilize the window and prevent ice buildup in cold weather conditions. The heating system is completely automatic with a range of preprogrammed on/off temperatures. Unlike active IR systems, it uses passive technology that works day or night, and is unaffected by ambient light sources like oncoming headlamps. A standard video output is provided for use with many common monitors on the market.

Installation is pretty straightforward, as the camera can be installed anywhere outside of the vehicle's cabin. In our test car, an '08 Chevy Tahoe, we mounted it next to the driver's side factory foglight facing straight out. We wired the unit into the factory navigation system for the visual feedback. Installation took about two and a half hours from start to finish, including time to read the manual first (yes, we read manuals). It's a good thing we did as it clearly states that when the automatic shutter activates, the image will be "frozen" for about half of a second and a small white box will appear in the left, middle portion of the image during calibration. Without reading the manual, you might think something were wrong. The system comes with a very useful multimount bracket design that allows you change the angle of the sensor with ease.

The PathFindIR system is overall really easy to use. Once installed you simply turn on your headlights (this is the trigger we used to activate the system) and it's ready to go. The system works so well that I found in many situations it helped me see things I would've never imagined are on the side of the road when it's dark. It's pretty amazing to think how much technology is in its small 58mm x 57mm x 72mm package. I tested the unit side-by-side with our other test car, an '08 S63 with night assist, and the PathFindIR system blows the doors off the one offered by Mercedes-Benz. The factory Mercedes-Benz unit definitely has the cool factor with a big widescreen in the cluster of the car, but if safety and performance (not to mention a budget) are on the top of your list, I'd recommend a Civic with a PathFindIR system. The unit has unlimited potential for custom installations. Its small footprint makes it possible to mount almost anywhere. The other main advantage is the system is not vehicle specific, so you can take it with you to your next car.

Currently the PathFindIR system is available through a list of authorized dealers that you'll find on FLIR's website, FLIR Thermal Imaging, Night Vision and Infrared Camera Systems. The camera and installation cable alone retail for $3,495. A kit like the one I tested, which includes a monitor, runs for $3,950-a small price to pay for what you get. Since the system can potentially save your life, I feel it's well worth the investment. It also has a cool factor that shiny high-end rims-for twice the price-lack. Until your local optometrist offers a thermal imaging software update I'd highly recommend you go out and get a PathFindIR system for your ride. Seeing is believing.

FLIR PathFindIR $3,495
-Thermal imaging camera
-Mounting bracket
-Installation cable
PathFindIR Kit with monitor $3,950

Last edited by itwasntme : 21st July 2009 at 12:10. Reason: Font tags etc
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Old 21st July 2009, 12:11   #2
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The cost seems to be a bit too high.
CMOS/CCD cams are inherently sensitive to IR light. for example you can get a sony nighshot camera for 200$ approx, and it will show the night in green in 640x480 resolution.
The while system with camera, wiring and screen should not cost more than 50-60K.
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Old 21st July 2009, 13:08   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
The cost seems to be a bit too high.
CMOS/CCD cams are inherently sensitive to IR light. for example you can get a sony nighshot camera for 200$ approx, and it will show the night in green in 640x480 resolution.
The while system with camera, wiring and screen should not cost more than 50-60K.
but these work on for few meters of distance .......
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Old 21st July 2009, 13:16   #4
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Distance has nothing to do here. They will work as long as the subject is illuminated by IR light.
For example look at this video which mukul took while I was driving. The actual visiblity was much less than what the camera saw!
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Old 26th August 2009, 17:03   #5
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All CCD cameras can detect IR radiation. They just have a filter that filters it out.

If you take a normal web cam, open it up and replace the IR filter with some film negative [blocks visible light, but not IR], you have an infra red camera.

The trick is finding a camera that has a good enough resolution & frame rate.

no point having an IR camera that gives you 640 x 480 at 12.5 FPS init?
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Old 26th August 2009, 22:31   #6
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Wont a good webcam connected to a laptop do the trick? Use a film negative to make it IR sensitive.
All you need would then be a source of IR light.
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Old 26th August 2009, 22:45   #7
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^^ isnt any thing thats warm or hot a source of IR ?( such as body heat )
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Old 26th August 2009, 23:01   #8
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There is something like illuminating using IR light sources also which will then be picked up by cameras.

Last edited by srishiva : 26th August 2009 at 23:04.
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Old 27th August 2009, 17:44   #9
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Was just browsing this thread and then realise :

The nintendo Wii remote had a fairly high res (SVGA+) and amazingly quick IR camera in there! (one of the ways it tracks the remote's position using the two IR lights in that "bar" you put near your TV).

However, when i did some more research, it turns out the Wii remote is actually 128x96 and just interpolated up. Though it does run at 100Hz!!

Great for tracking, but probably not great for this application of a "FLIR"

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Old 27th August 2009, 20:57   #10
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I happen to work with uncooled and cooled microbolometers. The one that is mentioned from FLIR works well but the claim to be the best is not correct. I think @itwasntme did not modify what seems to be a clear sales pitch by the author. There are other manufactures like Solar ES, Sciencetech, McPherson and not to be missed Raytheon the pioneer of automotive night vision with active and passive systems.

The maintenance of microbolometer is not that simple and these are good for static surveillance, A high speed CCD camera with IR filter is what serves the purpose the best. E.g. Merc/BMW/Toyota and other manufactures using this.

More over in Indian tropic weather these cameras will not work properly as the ambient temprature will be high, visulaize driving through some section where the road temprature is really high, you will have a white road in fron of you :( I personally have used the system and the refresh rate is a major concern along with a major hassel to drive the car with the display positioned in the centre console (BMW) and speedometer (Mercedes). I think once HUD (head up display) is mastered by some manufactures (M cars with HUD) and mass produced this will remain as a project work. These are far and few for defence and police department use in the West.

It will be interesting to see the innovation in Synthetic vision systems (SVS) as this segment will use similar processing power to night display.

Till then I will skip this expensive equipment for defense and industrial houses for detection and safety.
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Old 28th August 2009, 15:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sn1p3r View Post
I happen to work with uncooled and cooled microbolometers. The one that is mentioned from FLIR works well but the claim to be the best is not correct. I think @itwasntme did not modify what seems to be a clear sales pitch by the author. There are other manufactures like Solar ES, Sciencetech, McPherson and not to be missed Raytheon the pioneer of automotive night vision with active and passive systems.

The maintenance of microbolometer is not that simple and these are good for static surveillance, A high speed CCD camera with IR filter is what serves the purpose the best. E.g. Merc/BMW/Toyota and other manufactures using this.

More over in Indian tropic weather these cameras will not work properly as the ambient temprature will be high, visulaize driving through some section where the road temprature is really high, you will have a white road in fron of you :( I personally have used the system and the refresh rate is a major concern along with a major hassel to drive the car with the display positioned in the centre console (BMW) and speedometer (Mercedes). I think once HUD (head up display) is mastered by some manufactures (M cars with HUD) and mass produced this will remain as a project work. These are far and few for defence and police department use in the West.

It will be interesting to see the innovation in Synthetic vision systems (SVS) as this segment will use similar processing power to night display.

Till then I will skip this expensive equipment for defense and industrial houses for detection and safety.
1> Seeing a white road, isn't that one big plus point?
IMO if you can't see the road then there's no point.

2> if vehicles on the road are at the same temprature as the road then there is a problem, but it they are warmer / cooler, then they will show up. Either whiter [warmer] or blacker [cooler]
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Old 28th August 2009, 18:20   #12
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Sniper, since you work in this field, can you please tell me whether the Merc has got any IR emitting lamps? Or does the camera get all that info without using IR lamps to illuminate the road?
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Old 31st August 2009, 14:21   #13
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@Srijit: Yes Merc's system uses an IR lamp.

There are two ways to detect. Active and Passive. Source (Articles & Blogs - Is Night Vision the Right Choice for Your Vehicle?)

Passive system like BMW’s detects heat. Technically speaking, its camera detects and displays contrasts in heat, such as a warm body against cold night air, explains Stuart Klapper, business director of Autoliv Night Vision. (Sweden-based supplier Autoliv makes the BMW system.)

The passive system does not send out a beam of light. It passively collects infrared and displays as a “glow” anything warmer than the background, like pedestrians and animals.

The other major type of night vision is an active system, like the one Mercedes-Benz and Lexus offer. (Germany’s Siemens VDO Automotive makes the Mercedes system. Lexus typically doesn’t disclose its suppliers, according to a spokesperson.) A beam of infrared light illuminates the road ahead, while a camera that can “see” infrared picks up the reflected infrared light and shows the results on a display in the instrument panel.

An active system does not detect heat, but it does “see” anything illuminated by the infrared light, whether hot or cold.

Cheers!
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Old 31st August 2009, 15:14   #14
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Pardon me for my ignorance but how effective would these be in sighting stationery trucks parked on dark highways due to a breakdown or sorts (after it's engine etc has cooled down)?
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Old 31st August 2009, 17:28   #15
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Nice info Sn1p3r!

Q: What kind of realistic range would an active system have as compared to a passive system?

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