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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

June 15, 2016

Infrared Helicopter Uncovers ‘Fight Club’

In the middle of the night, at a closed Winn Dixie parking lot in Orlando, Florida, a ‘fight club’ assembled and began voluntarily assaulting each other. The Winn Dixie employees had gone home and no shoppers were in sight. Two men, an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, were caught engaged in their illegal activities by a thermal imaging camera mounted to a police helicopter while it floated quietly above. (See video above.)

The helicopter called local patrol cars below to intervene. The suspects ran, of which the 18-year-old ran into the woods to evade both the helicopter and the police on foot, but thermal imaging spotted him through the trees from above. The police helicopter coordinated with law enforcement on the ground, and all suspects were caught. Both men now face charges of public fighting and resisting arrest.

More video at Live Leak

June 15, 2015

Thermal Camera Observes Computer Hack Using Heat

Highly secure computer systems, referred to as “air-gapped systems”, are not connected to the internet or connected to other systems connected to the internet so their data can’t be hacked and stolen. These systems are used in military complexes, payment systems, or systems that control critical infrastructure, to name a few examples. But investigators have found a new way to hack into these systems — using heat. Researchers are also using thermal infrared cameras to observe the process (see above video). By having an infected computer that is connected to internet placed near the non-internet connected computer, for example, a laptop that goes home with a worker and returns to the office placing it near the air-gapped classified system, the internet hacker manipulates the laptop’s temperature in a pattern creating 0’s and 1’s communicating to the air-gapped system via it’s thermal sensor that is normally used for its cooling fan. At present time, the rate of information exchanged via heat signals back and forth is slow but information such as password transmission has been demonstrated. Researchers are determining if internet connected air conditioning systems can also communicate with these offline classified computers sometime in the future as this method develops.

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June 15, 2014

Infrared Camera Helps Analyze Parts At Over Mach 5

Lumistar Corp Mach 5

Manchester University (Manchester, UK) researchers are using a thermal imaging camera to examine the performance of aerospace components in a wind tunnel. The knowledge gained by the wind tunnel tests will help designers of high-speed aircraft and re-entry space vessels that need to bring payloads to orbit and return to Earth.  The wind tunnel at the university is one of the few experimental facilities in Europe that can reach Mach numbers higher than 5. According to Professor Konstantinos Kontis, head of the Aerospace Research Group at Manchester University , the prolonged exposure to friction induced heat caused by the air flowing across the surface of an aircraft traveling at Mach 5 can be detrimental to the structural integrity of the material used in aircraft components. It is therefore important to test such components extensively before they are deployed in the field.

To capture thermal maps of the entire surface of the parts under test in the wind tunnel, the thermal imaging camera which contains an uncooled microbolometer detector that produces thermal images at a thermal sensitivity of 50mK (0.05°C), is located on top of the test chamber, looking in through a protective housing. This allows the camera to accurately map the thermal hot spots caused by the air friction, without being subjected to the force of high velocity air-flows. The full resolution can be captured at a frame rate of 50 fps, but it also provides high-speed windowing modes that allow the operator to increase the frame rate to 200 fps. The captured thermal footage along with it’s radiometric temperature data is analyzed with specialized software. “We use it to capture the data, define special regions of interest and export the temperature measurement strings to third party software for an in-depth analysis of the data,” says Dr. Erdem. On one end of the wind tunnel there is a chamber capable of containing pressurized air up to 15 bar, 15 times Earth’s regular atmospheric air pressure. At the other end is a vacuum tank which is brought to 1 milibar, one thousandth of regular atmospheric air pressure. In between the two is the test chamber where the test object is placed. As the pressurized air travels from the pressure chamber into the vacuum chamber, it passes the test object with a speed of about 6,000 kilometer per hour, similar to traveling at Mach 6 or approximately four thousand miles per hour at 50,000 feet (flight level 50), the highest altitude at which planes don’t lose air density. Velocity at sea level to obtain Mach 6 is 3,147 miles per hour. The difference in the velocity at different altitudes is due to the fact that the earth is spherical, so the amount of speed needed to cover a certain distance of the earth’s surface at a low altitude, is a lot lower than the amount needed to cover the same distance of the earth’s surface at a very high altitude.

January 15, 2014

Coldest Spot On Earth Found By Thermal Camera

Lumistar coldest spot on eath

If one had to guess where the coldest place on Earth is, if you guessed Antarctica you’d be right. The coldest place on Earth has been measured by a space-borne high resolution thermal infrared camera sensor on the recently launched satellite named Landsat-8. On August 10, 2010 during the 24hr dark Antarctic winter months, it was recorded to be a bitter -135.8 Fahrenheit/-93.2 Celsius at a latitude of 81.8 degrees South and a longitude of 59.3 degrees East, at an elevation of about 3,900 meters. It turns out there are many cold spots in Antarctica “strung out like pearls” at each peak along the ridges. The satellite’s sophisticated thermal camera sensor made its way through the dry and clear air that surrounds the interior of Antarctica all the way to the ice’s surface where the temperature was taken. Traditionally, the temperature has to be taken in the air for it to count in the world record books, but scientists are certain the air above the surface is cold enough to beat the current record in 1983 by the Russians also in Antarctica, by at least -4 degrees Celsius/-25 Fahrenheit. In fact, the thermal camera is at such high resolution scientists aren’t sure how to fully calibrate it’s sensor until it has more time to understand all the data Landsat-8 is giving them. Scientists speculate it is in fact be even colder in these spots by several degrees. They hope to get some ground based instruments capable of air temperature there in order to take a measurement and secure the world record. By comparison, the coldest temperature recorded in Alaska and Siberia is about -43/ -45F, and the summit of Greenland being -63C/ -81F. The lowest temperature recorded on Earth’s moon is that of -238C/ -396F.

In case you were wondering if this high resolution thermal sensor also happen to record the hottest place on earth — it did. The hottest surface temperature on earth recorded by Landsat-8 was in Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran, where it reached +70.7 Celsius/+159.3 Fahrenheit in 2005.

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Filed under: Camera,Infrared,Lumistar,Technology,Thermal Imaging — Tags: , — Lumistar @ 08:00

September 15, 2013

Thermal Imaging Allows ATM Theft From A Distance

Lumistar; ATM Keypad Thermal Imaging

Researchers have learned a new way thieves can steal ATM information – using thermal infrared cameras to reveal the user’s PIN. Traditionally thieves use an illegal card skimmer attached to an ATM in conjunction with a video camera. The researchers found using their thermal camera’s software it performed more accurately predicting one’s PIN, in chronological order in some cases, than humans in their study looking at video much like the thieves. Researchers detected PINs with approximately 80% accuracy 10 seconds after the person entered their PIN. Forty-five seconds after being pressed the thermal cameras were still able to determine PINs with a 60% accuracy. Non-thermal cameras used in ATM skimming attacks won’t get the job done if the target is blocking the view of the thieves’ hidden video camera using their forearm or hand, for example. Of course thermal cameras overcome this obstacle because its capturing an echo in time, capturing the person’s left over heat on the keys shortly after the target has left. Keep in mind this discovery also applies to other keypads such as access to secure office buildings and digital safes. One good piece of news the researchers found: while plastic PIN pads with rubber keys are a jackpot for potential thieves, on the other hand, metal PIN pads made thermal detection attacks almost impossible because they retain heat for only a few seconds due to their high conductivity. The researchers said one way to combat the heat transfer of plastic/rubber keys is to place your hand over the entire keyboard to warm all the keys – if you can handle the germs lol.

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June 15, 2013

Thermal Imaging Finds Hidden Boston Bomber

Massachusetts State Police released video taken of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s hiding spot after he was discovered in a boat parked in a Watertown, Mass. backyard. The boat’s owner was the first to find Tsnarnaev in the boat after going outside to smoke when the citywide lock-down was lifted.  The owner said he saw something out of place and upon a closer look the cover had been cut. Lifting the cover to look inside, he discovered the suspect, calling police to report his discovery shortly thereafter. The first part of the video is taken with a thermal camera mounted to a helicopter, which is designed to pick up the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The video switches to a full color CCTV camera, then back to thermal infrared for visual comparison. The best thermal images from the above video come between t-minus 20 through 12. This technology is often used by police to locate suspects and by the military to isolate targets, as human body heat is particularly recognizable when juxtaposed with objects that aren’t giving off nearly the same amount of heat. It picked up the heat signature of the individual, and was able to see-through the boat cover he was underneath on the boat itself.  The helicopter was able to direct the tactical teams over to that area.

Update: Tsarnaev was convicted in federal court in Boston, April 2015, and is now on death row.

May 15, 2013

Drones Use Infrared to Identify Civilians With Guns

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

In what has become a growing controversy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to push the boundaries on what constitutes invasion of privacy vs. catching criminal acts via aerial drones.  As the debate heats up and  more information comes to light as to whether these drones used for civilian purposes will be armed with some kind of ammunition such as the hellfire missile, citizens and advocacy groups are becoming concerned whether military drones will be used lethally in a non-combative situation on U.S. citizens.

In March, NBC News uncovered a confidential 16-page Justice Department memo that concluded the U.S. government may execute a drone strike on American citizens if the government believes the suspect to be either a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.”  The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained and revealed a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s drone requirements through a Freedom of Information Act request. CNET found a  copy that included all the text.

The technology of the drones used for civilian use, referred in the documents above, is of  interest.  These docs state the Department of Homeland Security has an unmanned drone fleet with technology that can ‘root out civilians who are carrying guns’.  Homeland Security design requirements specify that its Predator B drones “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” and must be equipped with “interception” systems capable of reading cell phone signals.

What does this have to do with thermal infrared imaging?  The answer is simply put: when a drone has the capability to find something at “night” it is usually involves thermal infrared imaging. Occasionally near-infrared (NIR) is used, and on helicopters at lower altitudes with less expensive equipment night-vision technology is used, which is the greenish looking video used in night-vision goggles and scopes. But large drones like the Predator B are at high altitudes to go undetected therefore use thermal imaging.

To explore this idea further, it wouldn’t be an X-ray camera on board the Predator B because of the lack of current technology due to the energy needed and the radiation danger to the public. It wouldn’t be a normal visual camera as it can’t see at ‘night’ even with LED on a zoom lens. It wouldn’t be a  the greenish night-vision camera (a notch below near-infrared ‘NIR’ or two notches below thermal imaging)  because it couldn’t clearly see if someone is holding a weapon even with a zoom at high altitude. It also couldn’t tell if someone has a bomb or many other weapons.  The only technology as is the opinion of this author is thermal imaging. Thermal imaging is the only camera that can ‘see’ through the atmosphere in multitude of conditions and ascertain a weapon is being held due to the differential in temperature of cold steel and the surrounding air. A thermal camera can spot a weapon if someone was holding it in their hand or even possibly under their clothing or other concealment. Of course a ‘zoom lens‘, as the gov puts it in their response to public inquiry, is critical in this procedure and the only thing gov officials will confirm can achieve this feat.  Add the assist of an on-board computer to identify weapon-of-type and you got a militarized civilian-use piece of hardware – Predator B.


April 15, 2013

Thermal Quasi-Reflectography For Art Conservation

(a) Color Photo; (b) Near Infrared -NIR; (c) Mid-Wave Thermal Infrared; Note: helmet detail in photo ‘c’

In recent times, art restorers have employed lasers and other sophisticated imaging techniques by other infrared techniques or Ultraviolet and X-ray to reveal details not present to the naked eye. Over time wall murals are re-touched, many times painting over original details unrecoverable by past imaging tools.  Now a team of Italian researchers from the University of L’Aquila, the University of Verona, and Italy’s National Institute of Optics in Florence, have developed the latest imaging tool that can bring back these features for future restoration, and may even give more details about pigments used long ago.

This technique known as Thermal Quasi-Reflectography (TQR), takes advantage of reflected infrared light from the mid-infrared part of the spectrum (3-5 micrometers in wavelength). Why specifically the mid-infrared portion of the spectrum?  Because certain materials shine more brightly in one wavelength than in others.  At normal room temperature, paintings typically emit more invisible light in the longer infrared wavelengths than they do in the mid-infrared. These researchers came up with the idea of flooding the works of art with these normally scant (1.1%) mid-infrared wavelengths (using halogen lights a great sources of mid-IR) to see what detail reflects back with an infrared camera. Unlike traditional thermal imaging techniques reading the heat differences reflected represented by individual pigments, or the less detailed reflection of light in the Near Infrared (NIR), the TQR system reveals new details of great works of art.

The researchers were careful the halogen lams were place far away enough not to produce heat on the art which would defeat the process creating longer wavelengths.  “For mural paintings the use of the mid-infrared regions reveals crucial details,” said Daffara. “This makes TQR a promising tool for the investigation of these artworks.”


March 15, 2013

Brain Implants Lets Rodents ‘Feel’ Infrared Light

Infrared signals, which the rat senses through a device attached to its brain, lead the rat to a reward. The device enables the rodent to feel infrared light. (Figure courtesy of the Nicolelis Lab)

Infrared signals, which the rat senses through a device implanted in its brain, lead the rat to a reward. The device enables the rodent to learn the feel of infrared light. (Figure courtesy of the Nicolelis Lab)

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, implanted infrared detectors into rat brains so that they could sense infrared light around them creating a ‘sixth’ sense. The infrared camera was place on top of their heads and wires went from the camera to electrodes implanted within the part of the brain responsible for touch. Through experiments, scientists were able to prove the rodents could feel the infrared light around them. This breakthrough will lead to further research on how to connect an external “brain” ie: a camera detector or computer processor to an organic living brain or ‘brain-to-brain interface.’ Imagine this furthering research for humans to have cybernetic ‘wet wiring’ to external memory with many packets of new skills or information. Or an external camera wired into the brain to assist the blind. This groundbreaking research proves you can use another part of the brain and re-purpose it for another task, in this case putting sight reception into the part of the brain responsible for touch. For the first time scientists have re-purposed the brain in new ways successfully. “This suggests that, in the future, you could use prosthetic devices to restore sensory modalities that have been lost, such as vision, using a different part of the brain.”  It may also lead to neural implants that could let the paralyzed walk again. Or use X-ray cameras to give subjects ‘X-ray vision’, according to Duke University.


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