An Introduction to Thermal Imaging Systems and Their Applications by Dr Duncan Hickman

Start date: 12th October 2021

End date: 26th October 2021

Time: 18:30 - 20:30 (AEDT)

Location: Online

This event will be split into 3 sessions:
Session 1: Tuesday 12th October 2021
Session 2: Tuesday 19th October 2021
Session 3: Tuesday 26th October 2021


Thermal imaging systems offer a powerful means of gaining useful information from within the infrared spectrum of a scene – information which cannot be observed by the human visual system or by conventional CCTV cameras. Once the domain of military users, the use of thermal or infrared imaging has now expanded into security and commercial sectors, including civil engineering, agriculture, land management, and home surveys. As thermal imaging systems have become more widely used and understood, many new applications have been established and these continue to fuel the expansion.
In this series of three lectures, we introduce the concept of infrared and thermal imaging, and then move on to examining some important aspects of the underpinning technology for current generation camera systems. The capabilities and limitations of infrared imaging will be illustrated using a wide range of applications that cover military, security, remote sensing, and commercial systems.
The first lecture will describe what an infrared image is and what its properties are. We will then introduce the basic principles of infrared signature generation and the radiometric propagation from the source to the camera through the atmosphere. The second lecture will discuss the infrared camera in terms of its primary components and how they can be mathematically represented. The emphasis will be placed on the optical and detector assemblies, and the impact of their design on the overall camera’s performance. The third and final lecture will address image and data processing. The ability to apply increasingly complex and powerful image processing methods to real-time video streams has been a major factor in the increased exploitation of infrared imaging systems. Several important image processing functions that provide this capability are described and examples presented.


Dr Duncan Hickman has over 35 years of research and development experience of some of the most advanced and high-performance imaging systems for defence, security, and commercial applications. His areas of expertise include sensor design, image and data fusion, image processing, and the mathematical modelling of complex systems. Duncan is a Director of Tektonex Ltd (2012 – present), a company which provides infrared design and development services for international customers. Recent projects have included the development of a real-time image fusion system, the development of a multi-band polarimetric sensor, modelling and simulation of the celestial hemisphere across the infrared spectrum, and the development of tri-band image fusion for a handheld camera system. Current research interests include the use of smart imaging on drones for the monitoring of the health of vegetation and water resources. Prior to Tektonex, he was a Director and Chief Engineer for Waterfall Solutions (2005 – 2011), where he led the development of numerous imaging systems for surveillance applications ranging from underwater to satellite platforms. He also authored a guidebook for the UK Government on the specification and deployment of infrared cameras. Before joining Waterfall, Duncan held several senior design posts within BAE Systems, Thales, and Marconi, where he worked on several major sensor development programmes for land, airborne, and maritime platforms. Duncan’s background is in physics, and he completed his first degree at Manchester University and his Masters and Doctorate at Kings College, London. He has held academic posts at Oxford University and Surrey University and has published over 75 papers on imaging technology and applications. Duncan currently chairs the SPIE Electro-Optical and Infrared Systems: Technology and Applications Conference.