FLIR thermal imaging camera used to help catch Boston bombing suspect

April 25, 2013
The Star SAFIRE thermal imaging camera from FLIR helped Massachusetts State Police to find marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev by picking up the IR signature generated from his body.

One detail in the manhunt of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev that should not go unnoticed is the technology that was used to help locate the suspect. Using a Star SAFIREthermal imaging camera from FLIR, a Massachusetts State Police helicopter was able to spot the 19-year-old hiding inside of a boat in a residential driveway in Watertown, Mass.

Despite the fact that the boat was covered in plastic, the camera picked up the IR signature generated from Tsarnaev, which was crucial in finding the suspect, according to Andy Teich, President of FLIR's Commercial Systems Division.

"This imager is a mid-wavelength IR imager -- meaning that it looks in a certain area of the infrared spectrum in the 3-5 micron range," he said in an interview with “Why that was significant in this case is that in that particular spectrum, many plastics become transparent."

The Star SAFIRE camera is a gyro-stabilized electro-optical infrared system that carries seven payloads and is most often used in airborne, land, and maritime force protection and medevac operations. It is a multi-mission capable camera with high-resolution color spotter scope and matched multi-FOV optics. The SAFIRE, which tests and qualifies beyond military specifications, extends its identification range performance by providing maximum details from a distance.

The camera’s features also include:

  • Multiple FOVs with long range performance and image blending capabilities
  • Day/night imaging in multiple wavebands
  • High MTBF
  • All-weather design and combat survivability
  • View and track ground locations and the ability to follow moving targets with multi-mode Autotracker
  • An ability to covertly illuminate large areas, point out distant targets, and determine distance and location
  • Total cable compatibility which allows operators to upgrade existing Star SAFIRE family installations

View more information on the Star SAFIRE camera.
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View more information on FLIR.

-- James Carroll, Senior Web Editor, Vision Systems Design

About the Author

James Carroll

Since joining the team 2013, James covered machine vision and imaging from numerous angles, including application stories, industry news, market updates, and new products. In addition to writing and editing articles for each issue of the magazine, James managed the Innovators Awards program and webcasts.

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