DRS Technologies WatchMaster Thermal Camera

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Sep 28, 2011

In the past year, thermal IP surveillance has been a growing trend, with Axis, Bosch, and Pelco entering the IP thermal market, FLIR and VideoIQ entering a partnership, and SightLogix adding a thermal camera to their line.

DRS Technologies, traditionally a provider of high-end defense systems, has joined these IP camera incumbents with the WatchMaster IP Elite thermal camera, aiming for a price point well below competitive offerings.

Overview

The WatchMaster uses an uncooled 320x240 thermal imager, available in 40, 16, and 9-degree field of view, and housed in an IP66 enclosure. DRS has made the camera ONVIF compliant for integration to third-party systems, an intelligent choice for a newcomer to IP surveillance. The camera has motion detection capability on-board, but no further analytics. DRS is in the process of evaluating analytic providers to equip the IP Elite with on-board analytics in the future. Last, but not least, the camera is powered wholly by PoE, a feature which is found in Axis' Q19 line, with most other manufacturers requiring separate low-voltage power.

Competitive Offerings

The WatchMaster IP Elite will be available in Q4 2011 and carries an MSRP of about $3,000, which will vary slightly depending on lens selection. The closest competitors for this product are Axis Q19 series, Bosch's VOT-320, and Pelco's newly-announced Sarix Thermal. The Axis Q1921-E sells for over $4,000 and the VOT-320 sells for over $7,000 online. With DRS' MSRP being as low as it is, we imagine street pricing would be at least 25% below the Axis model. This price is below even Axis' Q1910-E camera, which uses a smaller 160x128 sensor. DRS is aiming to get prices on this and future cameras even lower, to push thermal to more applications.

That is not to say DRS does not have some challenges ahead of them. They are relatively unknown in the commercial surveillance market, having released their first products (the thermal/visible pan/tilt WatchMaster) in only January of 2011. Axis, Bosch, and Pelco all offer analytics on board, and FLIR has partnered with VideoIQ to bring their analytics to FLIR's analog thermal cameras via an external processor/encoder. 

[Update 2012: DRS lowered their price to $1,999.]

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