Applications of Long Wave Infrared Imaging For Cave Science
Thermal imaging using 7 to 14 μm wavelength focal plane array cameras has caught the attention of cavers and scientists, as a tool that can assist in measuring thermal characteristics of cave features and biology. Over the past decade the cost of equipment to create video images of thermal distributions has dropped and the quality of the images has increased. In 2006 the author was using 160 x 120 pixel cameras that cost a few thousand dollars, to help locate unknown cave entrances by their thermal signatures. Success was limited but the work was rewarding in that it expanded ideas to improve on these concepts, after better hardware became available. Now imagers with 640 x 480 (VGA) can be gotten for less than one thousand dollars. Cell phones can be inexpensively converted to imagers using crude LWIR sensor add-ons. Drones can be made to fly around and capture images with lightweight sensors. Cavers have attempted to use LWIR to help locate new caves and digs, but also they have played a role in dynamic studies of bats and anything else that moves in total darkness. This report will summarize a decade of work by a handful of IR practitioners and will demonstrate what state of the art hardware can do.
Presented at the Communications and Electronics Section meeting at the 2017 NSS Convention in Rio Rancho, NM, by John T. M. Lyles