August 27, 2020

Thermal Imaging Camera Applications & Technology Advancements

Thermal imaging technology has been in development since the early 1930’s and has seen widespread use since the beginning of World War II. Leonardo’s thermal imaging technology has continued to evolve since. In 2020, Leonardo offers a wide range of thermal imaging technologies for various applications across industries and the globe. Reducing cost and improving usability have been the major focuses among industry leaders in broadening capabilities. 

Leonardo’s Director of Business Development for Targeting Systems and Sensors, Steve Rehermann, recently gave a presentation on thermal imaging and their applications, sharing some video of real-world use-cases. One example shown was the view of the London Eye at a vantage point 4-5Km away from the target. You can see that the London Eye is barely visible in the distance at the widest zoom:

thermal imaging of the london eye with leonardo thermal camera

The subject gets clearer as the operator continues to zoom in and eventually, you are able to make out individual pods and, in the video, see slight movement of passengers within the pods.

zoomed in thermal imaging of the london eye with leonardo thermal imaging camera

Among other examples in the video, the London Eye example shows the seemingly impossible range and sensitivity of modern thermal imaging cameras. These cameras are commonly utilized in border security or military surveillance, but the versatility and long-range capability of these products opens the door to a variety of use cases. Our MOVPE process and the MCT material used to manufacture detectors significantly reduces pixel “cross talk”. The resulting superior image sharpness and thermal sensitivity makes target acquisition more efficient, improving the success of critical missions.

Leonardo has seen rapid growth and technological advancements tailored to long range land and maritime surveillance, border security, and counter drone applications. Innovation in this space has not stopped since the introduction of these products nearly 100 years ago, and we expect this trend to continue as the industry leaders increase ranges, reduce sizes, and lower costs.

A few of the popular and upcoming options from Leonardo are:

  • SLX Hawk, a mid-wave IR (MWIR) camera with a lightweight and thin form factor with resistance to heavy vibrations.
  • SLX SuperHawk, an MWIR camera in the prototype/developxment phase, offering two variations—standard lifetime and long lifetime.
  • Horizon, a high-definition MWIR camera with superior reliability.
imagers camera


The MOVPE process and MCT materials used to develop these units is a key factor in their superiority among other products on the market, which will be covered in upcoming blog posts. Each of these cameras run Leonardo’s proprietary image post-processing effects, minimizing haze and turbulence, adding local area contrast enhancement (LACE), and other effects which make these cameras more efficient for long-range viewing of targets. Steve Rehermann’s presentation covers these products, their specs, and their applications in greater detail. To learn more about the availability of these products and hear directly from Steve, access the presentation below.

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