Daring flights

Published: Friday 28 February 1997

Pilots can now fly daring low-level missions at night using the Nightbird forward looking infrared (FLIR) imaging system. The system has revolutionised the operational effectiveness of military aircraft and can also add to safety in civil airlines. The FLIR, which was recently demonstrated in a display at London's science museum, operates on the principal that all objects in the world emit radiations at wavelengths of around 10 micrometers. It is so effective that the pilot can take off, fly at a low level with full manoeuvrability and land in complete darkness. The key component of the imager is a detector known as TEC, invented by the UK defence research agency.

A prime feature is that it can detect and integrate the infrared signals and provide excellent picture quality and high sensitivity. Originally developed for military roles, Nightbird and its associated family of sensor systems are finding applications in search-and-rescue helicopters, customs and excise and various other civil and policing functions.

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