A recent acquisition in the thermal imaging market could consolidate the position of one company in low cost thermal imaging technology.
FLIR Systems, the NASDAQ-listed sensor systems manufacturer and parent of Raymarine, last week acquired assets of DigitalOptics’ micro-optics business for US $14.9 million. It gives the company the ability to drive its already competitive prices down further. Carolina-based business DigitalOptics fabricates wafer-scale specialty optics products, which are low cost optics technologies used in applications including security, surveillance, and 3D gesture recognition. Not only are they low cost but can be produced on a mass scale.
“We see our industry-leading volumes in producing thermal detectors widening this technology, allowing us to continue to lead the industry in cost to produce thermal imagers, and therefore be the leader in price,” commented Shane Harrison, vice president of corporate development at FLIR Systems, US.

The acquisition will create low cost, entry point technology for thermal imaging options on board yachts. But in the superyacht industry there will always be a market for more bespoke systems that might cost more, but deal with a range of complex functions including detecting intrudors at distance and enabling crew to react quickly and effectively to man overboard situations. It is here that British marine surveillance manufacturers, Vector Developments (VDL), believe they have the edge on FLIR.

The MS-324b from FLIR detects a man overboard up to 440m away

VDL's night vision package. L to R: The Seenite mini, the resulting thermal image shown on a monitor and ergonomic joystick controller

“We’re driven by the use of innovative technologies – the systems we deliver offer more than just detecting a target, the thermal imaging core is one part of a system which enables the operator to detect, engage or deter other craft. We’re smaller [than FLIR] and more dynamic, we regularly update our systems to implement new technologies,” said Andrew Chandler, director at VDL.

VDL has just released the Seenite Mini, a lightweight, gyro stabilised thermal imaging system, which includes high resolution thermal imager, high zoom colour camera and a 10mW laser pointer to engage targets and visibly point out their location to crew and other vessels. It has the capacity to detect small vessels from as far away as 5.4km and to detect a man from 2.3km distance. Priced at EUR 28,000 it is seen as a compromise between the ultra high end options and ones to suit a more modest yacht management budget.

“Seenite has previously been perceived as the best but also the most expensive, however our latest product range offers systems suitable for all budgets,” said Chandler.

Considering the unique requirements and itineraries of each yacht, there is scope for the adoption of both basic and more expensive systems. But for low price-point technology with adequate technical specifications, it doesn’t look like FLIR will be budged from its perch any time soon.

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FLIR Commercial Vision Systems

Vector Developments Limited

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