If you ' ve ever been in command of a watercraft at night, whether it ' s an unpowered boat, a sailboat, a motorboat or a ship, you ' ll appreciate the challenges that the night brings. There are lots of precautions we all take to ensure our safety is maintained, but can night vision enhance the experience when operating at lower light levels?
Firstly, we ' ve got to understand the different types of night vision. Night vision itself can be applied to a wide range of sectors which all have varying needs, we ' ll take a closer look at the main benefits and limitations of each for marine use.
Analogue night vision (also known as image intensified night vision) essentially magnifies the light that ' s there. They rely on some light being visible to work, whether it ' s low ambient light or moonlight for instance. The green imagery that most people associate with night vision are usually generated by analogue devices.
Analogue devices generally offer the best depth perception and offer a clearer overall image; however, they are limited in complete darkness due to their reliance on some light being available. If you ' re in the middle of the ocean on a cloudy night in an un-lit dingy (although it probably won ' t be your top concern), your analogue device may not deliver in this scenario. This can be mitigated with the use of an infrared illuminator which essentially acts as a torch that the night vision device can see. Analogue devices have excellent low-light performance, however, it ' s worth noting that analogue devices are extremely sensitive to light, which means using them in daylight will very easily damage them.
Analogue devices which are geared towards marine applications are generally more expensive than comparable products from digital and thermal types of night vision.
Digital night vision devices operate in a different way to analogue devices, whilst they still enhance the image like an analogue device does, they do so using a CMOS or CCD sensor which transforms the light into a digital signal. Digital devices then enhance the image several times before it becomes viewable on the device ' s display.
Digital night vision devices offer a good level of clarity and great low light performance. The limitations of digital devices are similar to analogue devices, whereby their performance in complete darkness is marginal to none. Digital devices can also be complimented with an infrared illuminator for really dark conditions, but in reality, for a vessel coming to harbour there should normally be enough ambient light for the digital night vision device to function. Unlike analogue night vision, digital devices are not easily damaged in bright conditions, which means they are therefore more flexible and ultimately less fragile.
Digital night vision devices are generally the most competitively priced when compared to the analogue and thermal marine options.
Night vision devices that use thermal technology, detect heat and process it to display an image. This doesn ' t necessarily mean they only pick out hotter objects, as they can detect very small heat differences, in some cases as small as 0.01°C.
Thermal imaging devices are passive devices as opposed to optical, they work well at picking out heat sources and differences in heat signatures but have a reduced recognition range when compared to digital or image intensified (analogue) night vision. Thermal imagers work in both daytime and night-time conditions, and operate without any issues in complete darkness, as they don ' t rely on light at all.
Thermal-based night vision devices are often much more expensive when compared to their digital and analogue alternatives.
It ' s possible to achieve colour night vision when you ' re out on the water. There are devices available which combine the flexibility and economy of a digital night vision device with the practicality of colour imagery. This is particularly useful for manoeuvring vessels at night and identifying:
Whether you ' re participating in competitive racing and crave an enhanced view, operate a fishing boat during the darker hours and want an aid to assist with the lower light levels or you ' re in command of a ship and need a better view in increasingly busier waters, the benefits of night vision in a marine setting are far and wide reaching.
The colour digital night vision option offers the marine sector a flexible solution to seeing at night. Devices can stream to a smart device such as a tablet, or smartphone which can be mounted on the bridge, making them ideal for complimenting the vessel ' s navigational equipment.
Setting up night vision on your boat is pretty straight forward, if you ' ve ever used an action camera in a different setting, you ' ll find the way it connects to your equipment for streaming purposes and the mounts that keep the device fixed are all similar in functionality. Depending on the watercraft or vessel you ' re in, the more challenging task will likely be finding the perfect location to mount your camera and screen for live streaming.
Thomas Jacks specialise in providing optic products to dedicated retailers and dealers, particularly low light solutions across a number of different sectors, including marine customers.
Our favourite is the SIONYX AURORA range, in particular the AURORA Sport. The AURORA models are digital night vision devices. The AURORA range has a number of benefits which make them ideally suited for marine use, including its colour imaging technology, highly competitive price and it ' s shock-proof and IP rated casing.
The SIONYX AURORA Sport offers the ability to stream footage to a smart device via the SIONYX app, which can make it a staple accessory when behind the helm. See live night vision footage, and even record your journey when you ' re underway.
SIONYX are specialists in developing ultra-low-light CMOS image sensors and high-performance night vision camera systems. Based in Silicon Valley, SIONYX works closely with the United States Department of Defence, supporting their IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) program and advanced imaging technology.
The SIONYX AURORA range starts with the popular AURORA Sport model which has been specifically designed for coastal environments. The Sport model is available for £399.95 from a wide range of dealers both online and in stores.
Find your nearest SIONYX dealer below to arrange a product demonstration, or buy from a number of selected retailers online.
Last updated: 10/12/2020 12:56:24
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