The images produced by thermal scopes are depicted in high contrast light between objects giving off energy and their less energized surroundings.
Remember, energy is heat and heat is what we're targeting. If you're shooting at targets that do not produce heat, thermal scopes will be nearly useless for you other than to show you what not to shoot at.
First and foremost, we need to understand what it is we are trying to see. Since our eyes cannot see most of the light in our world, we need to narrow down what we need to view.
In the case of Infrared light waves, there are three types.
Near-infrared is the closest to visible light.
Mid-infrared is what we use when we turn the TV on with a remote controller.
Thermal-infrared, which occupies the largest portion of the light spectrum is what we are looking for when implementing thermal scope technology. This type of infrared is emitted by an object instead of being reflected off of it like the other types of infrared above. This type of light is emitted due to the atomic release of energy.
To pick up thermal light that we cannot see, we must use special equipment with lenses that can focus on the thermal infrared light and then paint us a picture by rendering it with a processing unit.
There are typically 3 pieces to a thermal scope.
Optics: Are used to focus and sometimes magnify the target. Click here to see pics.
Infrared Detector: All energy gives off light, but the human eye can only pick up a very small portion of the light spectrum. The infrared detector focuses on energy in the air which is on a spectrum our eyeballs cannot see. Thermal light occupies the largest portion of the light spectrum, thus making the task of an infrared detector very difficult as nearly everything gives off at least some signature of energy.
Signal Processor: This is where the image is created by painting you a colorful picture the infrared detector is witnessing. Since you can’t see what the infrared detector can, the signal processing unit must translate the image into something viewing to the human eye.
The above three pieces make up a professional core thermal camera. Click here to see pics.
There are two main types of thermal imaging.
Sideways tracking systems can only utilize a one-dimensional sweep of pixels, the digital dots which make up the resulting false-color IR image that is viewed by the operator.
How Are Thermal Scopes Used?
Thermal imaging has a lot of use cases.
Like I mentioned earlier, the most common civilian application is hunting, especially hog and coyote hunting.
Many farmers and hunters use thermal scopes to prevent hog overpopulation on their property, but because the pigs reproduce so rapidly their efforts have been futile, even with hunters killing them around the clock from helicopters and with state of the art shooting gear.
To see thermal rifle scopes imaing in action just type in ''ZIP Technology into YouTube.
Thermal imagers are also handy tools for search and rescue teams. Without thermal imaging locating lost hikers and party members in the extensive and vast open spaces would be nearly impossible.
Their usefulness is also demonstrated on the border. The Soldiers use thermal equipped helicopters to detect illegal border crossings and to direct ground agents to a group of suspects fleeing the area.
If you've ever seen this in action, you know how difficult it is, if not close to impossible, for a fleeing suspect to evade a thermographic tracking imaging device, whether it's the ZIP module mounted to a thermographic scope being used in the same capacity while mounted to an agents assault rifle.
They're commonly used by search and rescue teams, law enforcement, and military units. A few years ago, they were too expensive for the everyday outdoorsman, but the prices have dropped quite a bit enabling a price range friendlier for the general consumer.
You can pick up a high-quality thermal optic without having to worry about a lien being put on your house or shelling out your child's entire college fund (only part of it needed)!
The technology has been used to successfully detect cancerous tumors, allergies in animals; in fact, the CDC even used thermographic imaging to scan for cases suspicious for COVID19 afther the pneumonia outbreaks in large -scale.
If you've walked through immigration at an international airport lately, you may have noticed a station set up with massive cameras. These cameras are thermal imaging cameras used to see if travelers are running unusually high fevers or carrying something abnormally full of energy with them.