FLIR Operational Analytics (A Series) Examined

By Ethan Ace, Published Apr 12, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

Despite marketing hype, the relative high costs of thermal cameras restrict their adoption. Making these cameras useful for site inspection and maintenance, in addition to security may help to ease adoption and make thermal systems more attractive. FLIR has released the A Series for this purpose. In this note, we overview the features and functions of these models, potential applications, and compare with competitor Vumii.

Overview

The FLIR A Series is similar to existing F and PT series cameras, and consists of two models. The A310F is a fixed thermal camera, while the A310PT is a dual-imager (visible/thermal) pan/tilt model. Both models share the following features:

  • Uncooled microbolometer sensor, 320x240 resolution.
  • Fixed 18mm lens standard, approximately 25º field of view. 7, 15, 45, and 90-degree options are available.
  • H.264, MPEG-4, and MJPEG encoding.
  • Temperature measurement analytics available in high and low temperature ranges (32ºF-662ºF and -4º-248º F, respectively). The camera may be calibrated for custom ranges, as well.

The A310PT adds a standard definition day/night camera with a 1/4" Sony Exview sensor for further assessment of subjects, equipped with a 36x zoom lens (3.4-122.4mm).

The A series is available now. The A310F has an MSRP of $11,800-17,750, depending on lens, with standard 25º lenses being least expensive. The A310PT ranges from $25,950-31,900.

Thermal Analytics

The A Series's thermal analytics allow the camera to detect actual temperature of objects in its field of view, and generate alarms when temperatures exceed a configurable threshold, either high or low. Measurements may be performed on the entire field of view, a single point, or geo-referenced areas within. This may be used to detect overheating equipment, as well as open flame. Alarms are displayed on screen, and may trigger relay outputs and emails, as well. 

Here is a visual example of the analytics in action:

The following video shows examples of on-screen alarms and temperature measurement. We strongly recommend you watch it to get a better sense of the claimed capabilities:

Applications

FLIR cites two main applications for the A Series in its marketing:

  • Electrical substations: In addition to serving security functions, the A Series's thermal analytics may allow electrical operators to be warned in case of substation equipment malfunction. Overheating transformers and connection hotspots may both be located before equipment fails, causing outages.
  • Bulk storage facilities: Use of these analytics in bulk storage facilities, where hazardous chemicals, fuel, or other materials are stored allows the operator to be alerted before materials reach critical temperatures, potentially averting loss of product, fire, or explosion.

Aside from these target markets, the A Series may find use among other high security facilities with the large budgets thermal cameras demand. These facilities may see the benefit of temperature analytics in exterior areas, where fire may be a threat, either manmade or natural. We discussed these issues in our overview of Vumii's EyeSec FD thermal camera, as well.

Competitive Options

We know of few competitive options for the FLIR A Series. Vumii's EyeSec FD (about $12,000-23,000 MSRP) is capable of flame detecting open flame, as well as hot spots, so may fit in to some of the same applications. However, Vumii currently offers the EyeSec FD with only a 35mm lens option, approximately 15º FOV, as it is intended for long-range detection. This will likely be too narrow for smaller areas such as electrical substations and storage facilities.

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