New thermal imaging technology to make big difference in search and rescue missions

As the blazes in Nelson continue to burn, the hunt to find potential hot spots can be a challenge, but new technology being introduced by a Dunedin helicopter company could make the job easier in the future.

A new thermal imaging kit – the most powerful commercial camera of its kind in the country - could make a huge difference for firefighting and for finding lost trampers.

Body heat is picked up by the powerful infrared sensor and, once spotted, the camera locks on to its target.

Highland Helicopters chief pilot and CEO Paul Williams said, "If you're out there lost, and you've seen the footage of people in the bush, it can see them, whereas with the eye you really can't, and once it’s dark, they're still omitting infrared radiation so we can still see them".

It also has the ability to track moving objects, such as a truck on the Dunedin motorway, and find potential faults in high-voltage powerlines. 

As for its ability to help fight fires, Grant Dobson of the Forest Owners Association's fire committee is among those excited to see it in action. 

"There's different technologies available with thermal imaging, but ultimately, it comes down to sensitivity and what you are trying to find as a hot spot under the ground that can’t be detected easily by people," he said.

While some drones use similar technology, the helicopter should be able to survey the land while other choppers fly close by, making it easier for missions to be carried out.

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Body heat can be picked up by the powerful infrared sensor. Source: 1 NEWS