Aerospace & Defense Stakeholders Explore Potential Impact of Thermal Imaging Innovations

September 21, 2018

The new technologies emerging out of the rapidly growing defense and aerospace industries are among the most advanced available today. The next-generation technologies are foundational to the future of industries even beyond aerospace and defense, providing incredible research and development (R&D) opportunities, an event at Masdar Institute recently highlighted.

The “Partnering to Achieve Innovation in Defense and Aerospace” (PAIDA) Working Group met last month at Masdar Institute, bringing together industry experts and academicians for a focused discussion on one technology that has multiple applications in the aerospace and defense industry: thermal imaging.

Dr. Mohammad Omar, Head of the Institute Center for Smart and Sustainable Systems (iSmart) and Head of the Department of Engineering Systems and Management, led the thermal imaging discussion at PAIDA.

The meeting, which was organized by the UAE’s Defense Services Marketing Council (DSMC) and hosted by Masdar Institute, was the third in a series of focused discussions around innovative defense and aerospace technologies and their potential applications in the UAE. The working group included industry leaders like the Abu Dhabi-based Tawazun group and Italy’s Selex ES, academic experts from Masdar Institute and the Khalifa University of Science Technology and Research (KUSTAR), among other organizations.

Analysts from MarketsandMarkets (M&M) expect the global thermal imaging market to grow from approximately US$7 billion in 2015 to US$10 billion by 2020, and aerospace and defense stakeholders in the UAE want to capitalize on this growth to develop thermal imaging devices across a diverse range of applications.

“Thermal imaging allows us to image out-of-reach areas, in real-time, quickly,” said Dr. Omar, whose research has been recognized by the American Society of Manufacturing Engineers SME and the Society of Mobility Engineers SAE.

“Through thermal imaging, we can determine an object’s shape, whether it is moving or stationary, and we can characterize the materials it’s made from and how it will react in different conditions,” he added.

Thermal imaging can provide a lot more information about an object than can be gathered by the naked eye. Dr. Omar described how human eyes are limited to the very tiny portion of the solar spectrum known as visible light, whereas infrared imaging allows us to view a much larger portion of the spectrum, known as infrared radiation – the heat emitted by all objects. Thermal imaging creates an electronic image based on the temperature differences between the different objects being imaged.

Thermal imaging systems can characterize objects in the thermal spectrum, which helps to identify an object, including the materials it’s made out of (such as wood, plastic, metal, etc.) as well as its function. This technology can be used to identify a military vehicle, weapon, or aircraft, and even determine the state of the vehicle’s engine (for example, if it’s overheating) and the condition of the people inside the vehicle. This is done by imaging extremely small bands of infrared light emitted from an object.

The thermal imaging systems Dr. Omar has developed, which combine thermal imaging and visible light imaging, can be used in many applications, including improving an object’s design.
Innovations in infrared imaging systems are just scratching the surface of their potential, but as Dr. Omar pointed out, further R&D should be advanced with a specific purpose, guided by industry experts. Otherwise, such innovations may never leave the lab.

“We need the industry to bring us their problems. The knowledge and technologies we are developing in the lab must be guided by need and must be developed for specific applications requested by industry leaders,” Dr. Omar stated, reminding the PAIDA members of their goal.  

The goal of the PAIDA working group is to connect innovative aerospace and defense R&D with industry experts who have an intimate understanding of the industry’s needs. Such collaborations will help to guide relevant research, disseminate research results and accelerate the commercialization of viable products that the industry wants.

These collaborations will help reduce the barriers that tend to hinder novel technologies from leaving the R&D stage and entering the market.

Erica Solomon
News and Features Writer
20 October 2015