Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Entering the Thermal Dimension

As my first visit of the year to Loch Ness approaches, I mentioned my previous plan to use a drone to scout the waters just below the surface of the loch. I have now added a thermal imaging device to the repertoire of scientific devices as the hunt for data on the creature steps up. To be more precise, I will be taking up a Flir TS24-Pro imaging device shown above.

You may have seen devices similar to this in use by the popular series "Finding Bigfoot" and I have always wanted to acquire one for the Nessie hunt.  The device works on the principle of constructing images from heat and not light. This is demonstrated in the two images below which shows an optical image taken at night and the corresponding Flir image built on the heat emitted by the deer and surrounding foliage, etc.

This is in contrast to another data collecting device I use which is the Yukon Ranger Pro night vision binoculars which work on the principle of intensifying the low level of ambient light into a monochrome image. An example of the use of this device can be viewed in this previous article. One advantage the TS24-Pro has over the Yukon is that it has an SD card feature to allow video or still image recording while on the move. The Yukon video stream can only be recorded by attaching its composite video output to a cumbersome device like a laptop running video processing software.
Nevertheless, each device has its own particular domain of use. In the case of the Flir, if I am fortunate enough to record a heat image of the Loch Ness Monster, then that could be used to determine to what degree the animal is endothermic or exothermic by comparing its heat signature to other animals. Mind you, getting any heat image of the beast would be a bonus. Clearly, this is a device that is suited to the night environment where things invisible to the naked eye cannot escape the gaze of the thermal imaging device.

How and where the Flir will be used is still in the planning. I may employ it on the dawn night run alongside the optical dashcam or just use it on beach patrols. One possible problem I envisage is that having gazed at the bright thermal images through the eyepiece, it will take a while for the eye to re-adjust to the surrounding low light levels of the night.

By coincidence, I was recently watching a documentary on the Lake Champlain Monster and noted a couple who had taken the hunt to a small island on the lake with a similar device looking out for Champ on land by night. I can relate to that tactic, firm in the belief that Nessie also has nocturnal habits.

Wish me luck.

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  1. What kind of range does the Flir have? That is, how close to Nessie do you have to be for it to de detected by the heat sensor?

    1. It says it can detect a vehicle sized object (2.3m sq) at 900m.

  2. This is exciting stuff Roland.

    My only concern is if Nessie is cold blooded, could her heat signature appear nearly nonexistent in the frigid waters? I have seen many images of Snakes recorded on Flir cameras, and they are often discernible from the background because of their body typing. I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

    Best of luck. I'd love to have the opportunity to fly a night vision drone over Loch Ness!

  3. If 'nessie' is cold blooded would it show up on thermal imaging ??

  4. Regarding reptiles, yes they will have a lower body temperature than mammals but it still greater than the surrounding environment. This is especially so in the context of the surrounding water which will be a lot lower and provide a decent contrast in thermal signatures.

  5. Good luck with your new piece of kit Roland. Love FLIR equipment - I think this will prove a real assistance in your hunt !

  6. Best of luck - and thanks for the nice book on Nessie land sightings.

  7. great stuff..i nearly bought a night vision device for my cabin park stops but never got round to it. Wasnt sure how good they wer! Good luck GB..always good to try summit new. When are u up the loch anyway? up in a few weeks for a few days......Roy

  8. Please tell me this technology is soon to be used underwater. If this thermal camera can be used under the Loch surface wouldn't it easily spot all aquatic life or is the Loch temperature going to reduce the body temp of any fish or Nessie too much to be visible ?
    If Nessie submerges beneath the bottom silt layer would she be visible on a thermal camera?

  9. I would love to see this thermal technology on cameras specifically designed for dark underwater use at night. Wouldn't this be superior to sonar in identifying underwater animals ?