Thermal Camera vs. Radar: Which Is Better?

One of the common questions is which is better, thermal cameras or radar? It is not easy to answer the question straight away because both have their purposes, advantages, and limitations. If you are looking for definitive answers on whether a thermal camera or radar is better, read on to know the differences between the two and how they can suit your purposes.

Object detection

How radar and the thermal camera detect objects are different from one another. While the radar detects and displays echoes of any object, the thermal camera works like turning on a light switch to uncover a more distinguishable, lifelike picture of any physical object. Also, radars can detect objects underwater whereas thermal cameras are not reliable for underwater usage.

Range

Radars can reach over a larger distance depending upon the model, with an average range between 24 and 64 miles, and sometimes beyond that too. Conversely, the thermal-imaging cameras have a shorter range of about a quarter mile or so. However, some latest and most advanced models can zoom and extend the view to three miles or more.

Direction

Thermal imaging is focussed on a single direction of interest, whereas a radar offers a 360-degree picture of all objects around.

Suitability

Radar is often better suited for the prevention of collision, navigation to locate specific landmarks, and navaids. It is also useful to follow a coastline and reveal harbour entrances. Thermal imaging, on the other hand, is better suited for identifying and distinguishing things among a collection of objects.

Differences between radar and thermal imaging

Below are some of the common differences between the two:

  • The radar antenna and display are mounted in a specific place. However, a thermal-imaging camera can be mounted, handheld, or portable.
  • Radar can measure the range and bearing of a moving target, and track and predict its movements. It is very useful to create a navigational map when interfaced with GPS and an accurate heading sensor. The thermal imaging camera cannot track or predict the movements.
  • You can create an invisible guard zone with radar; along with setting up an audible alarm should any object intrude into the safety-alert zone. This function can be operational even if you aren’t watching the radar screen.
  • As the thermal-imaging cameras produce pictures by displaying the differences in heat levels between objects, even a slight heat remittance becomes visible.

Both thermal imaging and radar can be used with dedicated monitors or on the screen of a multifunction navigation display. Certain MFDs offer built-in Wi-Fi with the added advantage of having the radar or thermal-imaging pictures replicated wirelessly on the screen of a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

As you can see, both thermal cameras and radars have their unique purposes and properties. They can be used together to get more reliable and effective results. And while there is no definite answer to the question of which is better, both can be powerful tools in your hands.

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