We talk a lot about the benefits of using thermal imaging on our aerial drone survey work but what exactly is thermal imaging?

Along with the advancement of aerial drones, thermal imaging has become a practical and significantly helpful tool in aiding inspection and survey services for both land, sea and air.

It has expanded the range of tasks that we can provide using UAV surveys that are carried out in high risk and dangerous environments.

So what is thermal imaging?

Thermal imaging cameras translate heat (ie. thermal energy) into visible light. Anything from living things to mechanical devices can produce heat which means that they are visible to thermal devices – even in the dark. While the range of quality in thermal imaging cameras varies, the thermal imaging cameras that we use on our drones can provide precise detailing and can highlight even minimal amounts of heat.

While it may seems like a relatively new technology, thermal imaging has actually been in use since the Korean War where it was used for scouting and night time combat. Over the years, it has been improved upon and along with Balmore using it for building inspection, maintenance and surveying, you will find thermal imaging used by firefighters, rescue teams and law enforcement.

What are the differences between types of thermal imaging?

The simplest thermal imaging cameras will evaluate heat sources entered on a single pair of cross hairs and featured a more limited colour palette with other spec versions even coming in plain monochrome.

There are two key areas where thermal imaging camera quality can make a significant difference. Detector Resolution and Thermal Sensitivity. If a device has (for example) 0.01º of thermal sensitivity then it can distinguish objects with one-hundredth of a degree in temperature difference. The resolution of the device is similar to that of a conventional camera where the resolution describes the total number of pixels. When each individual pixel has thermal data associated with it – this translates into the simple explanation that larger displays produce clearer imagery.

There are a couple limiting factors to thermal imaging which the world of Hollywood has managed to overlook. Thermal Imaging can not look through glass because of the reflective properties of the material. Likewise, while thermal imaging can see into a wall, it cannot see through it as if the wall was simply not there.

These two limiting factors are however benefits for the likes of aerial building inspection services. Our aerial drones can provide a thermal imaging inspection of the stonework of a building that can spot any cracks, points of heat loss or water entry easily.