Austin Richards: High Resolution Panoramic Thermal Imaging
Presented at SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing 2017.
The infrared camera industry has made steady progress in increasing the resolution of commercial IR camera products over the last 30 years. Today you can buy a cooled InSb infrared camera that is 1344×784 pixels (~1 megapixel) and outputs 720P HD video. Video from this infrared camera looks very nice on a 20 inch monitor, but when the image is printed for a large wall poster, the resolution again becomes an issue.
This is an inherent limitation of commercial thermal infrared cameras: the still relatively low pixel count compared to even consumer visible-light cameras. Multi-megapixel thermal infrared focal plane arrays have been made for satellite imaging and astronomy applications, but their very high cost and complexity do not lend themselves to being used for more conventional photography.
A solution to this resolution problem is the stitched panorama. If the scene is relatively static, a low-resolution infrared camera with a long focal length lens can be moved around the scene in a systematic way while capturing images. The images can then be stitched together or tiled as in a mosaic to make an extremely high pixel count image that will show little or no evidence of "seams." There are special panoramic tripod heads that make this task easy, allowing for precisely controllable pan and tilt angle steps.
Austin Richards, a senior research scientist for FLIR Systems in the Instruments R&D camera group, was given the task of producing high quality infrared artwork that could be put in the lobbies and conference rooms of various FLIR facilities. With the help of some colleagues, he produced some stunning stitched panoramic images of local Santa Barbara landmarks and vistas.
Richards has over 17 years of experience in cooled and uncooled infrared camera applications engineering, with specialization in InGaAs and SWIR camera system design and applications, imaging radiometry and IR sensor characterization.
He conducts training courses in infrared imaging radiometry and target signature measurement for FLIR both in the US and abroad. Richards teaches two courses in the SPIE DCS short course program and is the author of the SPIE Press Book Alien Vision: Exploring the Electromagnetic spectrum with Imaging Technology.