By Jason Baird, Ph.D.
That was the recurring theme during the FLIR Systems, Inc., “meet and shoot” on the first evening of this year’s SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, NV. According to the NSSF, SHOT is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries; it showcases products and services related to those industries and attracts buyers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.
FLIR (http://www.flir.com/US/) has been around since 1978, creating high-end products for industrial and government applications, but they used this evening to introduce two new products for the commercial (i.e., you and me) market at prices that make thermal imagers attractive.
ThermoSight® R-Series thermal scope (FLIR ThermoSight R-series)
For serious predator and varmint hunters, FLIR’s new ThermoSight® R-Series (http://flir.com/cvs/americas/en/personalvision/view/?id=46844) opens a world of hunting opportunities in low light/no light situations. Previous light amplification scopes from other companies require at least some background light to work (those readers as old as I will remember the Vietnam-era “Starlight” scopes, an early example), but thermal scopes only require heat to form an image of the nighttime world invisible to our eyes. In some areas of the U.S. where feral hogs are causing millions of dollars in damage to crops and property, the hogs have already become educated to daylight varmint hunting pressure and only show themselves at night. After shooting Modern Sporting Rifles equipped with R-Series scopes last night, I can attest to the scopes’ light weight, ease of handling, and decent eye relief. As these scopes enter the market, I think hunters will have the feral hogs on the run.
Iain Harrison firing a Modern Sporting Rifle with an R-Series thermal scope mounted, at night (FLIR ThermoSight R_series live fire)
FLIR also debuted their FLIR ONE™ (http://www.flir.com/flirone/) “personal thermal imager” last night. As much as the R-Series scope impresses us, the FLIR ONE™ really grabbed everyone’s attention. This device truly lives up to “thermal imaging for the masses,” because to use it, one doesn’t have to be a revenooer or a hunter. It attaches directly to an IPhone 5™ or 5s™ and is at a price low enough that folks who enjoy gadgets will want one. That’s the beauty of it; it is so compact and well done, and generates such a “wow” factor that I am sure creative geniuses out there will dream up far more uses than FLIR mentions on its webpage (“Use for security, home repairs, outdoor activities, and more.”) Remember, lasers didn’t really evolve beyond the lab until laser pointers arrived on the scene. Who knows what the personal thermal imager market will be in ten years?
Jason Baird, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Explosives Engineering Missouri S&T, and President of Loki Incorporated.