The concept of the night vision devices has a very flexible use around a wide spectre of different industries. Whether it would be for self-protection, government protection, military usage, wildlife observations and night-time stargazing or just plain night-vision enthusiasm and entertainment, the different night vision technologies always find their way to fit into each specific need for the industry.
Talking about the usage of the night vision in general, let’s take a broad look into the main industries where night vision is used and further dig deeper into each and every industry on its own.
When talking about night vision, in order to fully utilize and understand its concept and how/why and which industries use it as their primary technology, you have to be well aware of its original purpose.
The night vision was mainly developed with the original purpose of simply location enemy targets after dusk. This STILL is so, but from its original purpose to this day, the use of the night vision has reached many more horizons and has spread into a lot of different industries throughout the world.
1. Military Industry
When you first hear night vision, you immediately think of how the military forces breach a building searching for a very dangerous and wanted criminal right, or is it just me?
The night vision technologies were firstly introduced into the military as mandatory equipment way back in the 1930’s when Germany equipped more than 50 of their own tanks with night vision devices. Let’s not get carried away here, those night vision devices definitely weren’t the same as the ones we know today and are used by humans, they definitely didn’t just put night vision goggles for instance on tanks right? – That definitely wouldn’t seem to work.
The devices that were used way back when the night vision was still underdeveloped were mainly for substantially bettering the vision of the tank riders compared to a naked eye but was way more rustic and blurry than the night vision technologies that are used by the military today. In-fact, if speaking facts, the original night vision that was with a military purpose was in fact mostly unsuccessful and unusable as it wasn’t practical at all, was way too expensive and exceedingly heavy – a situation where the disadvantages greatly outweigh the advantages. In short, it just wasn’t worth it.
Today, the military still uses night vision devices but they are MUCH BETTER suited to the military needs. The three types of night vision used by the military today are an image intensification, active illumination and thermal imaging technologies which most of night vision enthusiasts already know well but in short – image intensification magnifies the natural light available and gives the user a clear picture from the ambient lights of the moonlight, starlight and street lights. The active illumination uses light that is undetectable by the naked human eye to ‘’ light up’’ images. Last but not least the thermal imaging technology is able to show images that radiate heat without the need of having any sort of ambient light source, basically works in pitch black environments.
They focus on using only two main devices – night vision goggles and the other is a simple night vision device that resembles a telescope that can be mounted on tanks or even if reduce-sized can be mounted on weapons. They chose those specific two devices because of their 3 main points – reliability, compactness and picture-quality, as the military cannot compromise into any of those three crucial points in the night vision device especially when most of the time there are human lives on the line.
2. Law Enforcement Industry
When talking about the law enforcement industry, the night vision technology finds its way into many of the police’s chases and cases. First and foremost, it is widely used in the police industry with the purpose of finding eluding vehicles on different pursuits. So just about everyone who has been in a vehicle chase and pursuit when running from the police could easily escape the police cars especially through the night. A dark, parked car in a parking lot full of other cars or even alone in an open field can be very difficult to be spotted even if the police cars that are chasing it go nearby it, especially when all of its headlights are turned off. This is where the night vision comes at aid. Seen through an Infrared Scope or a Thermal Imaging scope can almost immediately detect the car and make it stand out from others as if it is lit by a spotlight but invisible to the naked human eye.
The law enforcement industry implements the use of night vision devices in a few different ways, let’s take a deeper look into each one of them.
There are many different arguments on how lighting should be used when searching for a specific criminal or clue through a dark building. But would this be the best choice for police offers? Perhaps not. Unlike normal flashlights, the night vision is invisible to the human eye and will definitely take the criminals by surprise – the element of surprise is always the biggest advantage and most powerful weapon of the law enforcement.
Wide Area Searches
Searching through the woods or an open meadow after dusk leaves a good possibility of the police walking literally a few feet away from the object or person they are looking for and still missing them. Now the police can survey the same area with infrared, thermal or regular night vision and the object, if radiates heat, or the person cannot escape their sights!
Search and Rescue Operations
Both children and seniors with diminished capacity wandered away from home and most of the times it’s a race against all elements to find them the quickest way possible before they die of exposure to the cruel mother nature. IR is great for finding them the quickest way especially in an open area, but is also as useful when looking under stairways, in alcoves and even other urban places where they might be concealed or hidden from plain sight.
Locating Abandoned Property
Non-living items that have basically been lost or just ditches by a running suspect or criminal will eventually radiate the same temperature as its surroundings, but there still is a possibility that they may heat or cool at a different rate, depending on when they are thrown away by the criminal/suspect making them actually stand out from the thermal background! This technique is extremely effective if the police has reacted quick enough so that the item has been dropped or disposed from the criminal/suspect recently or just after sundown/sunrise, when the background temperature is slowly changing.
Identifying Homeless Camps
Someone sleeping inside a vehicle in a parking lot? The vehicle itself will definitely be considerably warmer than the ones around it. Why would that be you may ask? The breathing inside of the car with closed windows raises the temperature greatly. This change in temperature gets detected by the thermal imaging night vision and glows like a streetlight when looked through the thermal imaging. Another thing is campsites that are hidden from plain view, especially at night, may even be greatly evident from their thermal signature.
Law Enforcement Tactical Operations
One of the most tedious assignments any patrol officer can be assigned to would have to be the stake-out of a perimeter in a wide-area search. It is VERY unlikely that almost anything is going to happen while the chance that the suspect gets very close to you and still gets away is very huge, depending on how much territory you are assigned to watch. Now try surveilling the same wide area with a night vision scope, monocular or goggles, then we are talking a brand new, way more interesting story. No one is going to get out of there or anywhere close to you without you knowing about his every step!
Burglars. The most common criminals known in the world. Literally the simplest act of crime, that is why it also the most popular one after killing. Burglars and other prowlers are often likely to lay low and use a specific neighborhood as their hideout place, watching for targets of opportunity or simply just hiding after they have been discovered, just waiting for the police to be gone. Experienced prowlers know each and every neighborhood by the nook-and-cranny and can hide themselves from plain sight very well, but when we bring the night vision into the equation, them hiding successfully from the police becomes quite a hard task.
3. Hunting Industry
The hunting industry focuses on the night vision devices to be the main tool when talking about nighttime hunting – Infact, most hunters even stated numerous times that the night vision device they use is even more important than the weapon they use to shoot and kill their targets!
When using night vision as a nighttime hunter, there are a few things that need to be more carefully looked into. The main thing has got to be choosing the preferred device – a regular night vision or a thermal image night vision. To each their own, but by a percentage statistic, a bigger percentage of the hunters that use a night vision device for the sole purpose of HUNTING, prefer the thermal imaging technology, as it comes with more advantages when using it with the purpose of locate-track down-shoot to kill type scenario.
The thermal imaging devices offer the hunters advantages such as being able to locate and see whether there are dug up grounds around them as well as shelters made by animals that will still radiate body heat if used recently as well their target’s footprints even, which will further lead the hunters to the fact that their desired pray would be nearby!
Those footprints bring us to the topic, which is crucial about the night time hunting. But how exactly can a hunter determine whether certain animal footprints are fresh? Most of the time, depending on the thermal night vision device and its quality and sensitivity to temperature, an animal footprint is considered ‘’fresh’’ and would glow up and be seen through the thermal imaging device for as long as 10-12 minutes after the certain animal had left them! The thermal imaging device is not only superior with the mentioned advantages though. It works excellent in drastic changes in weather conditions too
Fog, rainy weather, mist and even animals that use camouflage as their protection? Nothing can escape from the sight of the thermal imaging night vision.
4. Surveillance/security industry
When talking about surveillance and security, the day is 24 hours right? For the best and optimal security and surveillance – from those 24 hours, around half of the day is dark. It wouldn’t be a good choice If seeking to protect a certain object, person or just for surveillance purposes but only for the daytime of the day – around 12 hours right? So that is exactly where the night vision comes into play. The surveillance and security cameras that have a built in night vision automatically switch from day to night mode – covering up not only the bright time of the day but as well as the dark time of the day offering you the best surveillance and security experience.
5. Navigation industry
Navigation with a night vision? You may react like this at first but when talking about PALA (passive ambient light amplification) night vision telescopes can be adapted to optical navigation instruments.
When they are mounted on a sextant, the night vision scope gives the possibility to the navigator to view the horizon throughout the night and further extend the time when star sights can be used as a navigational tool. As a terrestrial instrument, mounted on a bearing circle, the night vision scope permits viewing of lighted/unlighted geographical points especially at night far beyond the optical range.
So with all those fancy words said, simply – the units that the navigational purpose of the night vision tested basically provide a system light gain of better than combining the naked-eye sight of 2100 humans!
6. Automotive industry
Taken from a worldwide car accident statistic, fatal car accidents are around four times higher at night than during the day and in total, according to the European Commission for the automotive Industry, 50% of the overall car accidents throughout the world occur at night.
As technologies develop every day, people strive for absolute vehicle safety. This factor has become one of the main vital points in automobile safety system development.
The automotive collision warning system brought to the world a potentially significant leap in that vehicle safety technology, but as consumers are continuously gaining awareness about the advancement in today’s safety features, they are indicating great interest in improving their vehicle’s safety systems.
The risks associated with traffic are much higher during the nighttime, compared to the anytime. This is where the implementation of Night Vision System in the automotive industry takes place. The purpose of the Night Vision Systems is to greatly improve the driver’s range of vision through the night while providing him with protection as well as to the pedestrians around him.
So how does the night vision system work in cars? – The automotive night vision system is split up into two main categories – referred to active and passive systems.
The Passive Night Vision System uses thermal image-based cameras that have the ability of picking up heat-radiation from certain objects, animals and people, the same as regular thermal imaging head mounted devices. Since the system relies on heat, it is easy to pick out the differences between a warm object – person or animal, and a cooler object like the road or different road obstacles.
The Active Night Vision System relies on infrared light. Since the infrared light spectrum falls outside of visibility, those light sources don’t have the possibility of blinding oncoming drivers like the high beam car headlights. This makes the infrared lights illuminate objects that are significantly further way, even having more reach than the headlights of a car, while removing the possibility of blinding oncoming drivers and actually raising the risk of an accident.
7. Entertainment Industry
Stargazing, nighttime hiking, expeditions or simple wildlife observation. The night vision devices fit perfectly into those casual events or simple hobbies. A simple night vision device can be a great gift even for a toddler or the younger audience as it is definitely not harmful to the eyes and can be used for longer periods of time and wont hinder or damage the seeing capabilities of younger night vision enthusiasts. Bringing your child for a nighttime hike or a stargazing trip through the night will definitely leave you and your young night vision partner mesmerized and full of memories.
The night vision is a very interesting and flexible device that can be fit into an extremely wide spectre of different industries from hunting down dangerous wanted criminals or even breaching into buildings looking for a wanted terrorist to automotive and road safety as well as hunting and the most optimal way to keep an eye on specific objects and properties.