FLIR Scout TK
Unveiled this week at CES in Las Vegas is the new FLIR Scout TK Thermal Camera, a handheld monocular designed for outdoor exploration and security applications. The Scout TK detects infrared light—what we usually call heat—providing an image whether it is night or day, foggy or clear. Easily capable of detecting a person at 100 yards, the Scout TK is also powerful enough to detect the heat left behind by a person recently sitting on a park bench, or an animal recently sleeping nearby. The FLIR Scout TK will retail for $599 and will be released in the first quarter of 2016.
Imaging for the Scout TK is provided by a 160 x 120 pixel FLIR Lepton thermal core. While the resolution seems small at first glance, it proves quite enough to get the job done for many applications. The aim here is not primarily to identify, but simply to detect the presence of a person or animal. This core resolution is then enlarged and smoothed to the 640 x 480 resolution of the eyepiece screen.
Like other recent products using the Lepton, we expect that the Scout TK has a thermal sensitivity of 0.10 °C, giving plenty of contrast to the target objects. And as with the FLIR ONE, the temperature range visible to the Scout TK is likely -4 to 248 °F (-20 to 120 °C). This gives it the ability to render all but the most extreme natural conditions. If you need to image objects in the natural environment that are above 248 °F, we beg that you step away from the edge of the volcano….
Going the Distance
In order to get better long-range detection capability, the FLIR Scout TK is fitted with a 20 degree lens. This certainly narrows the field of vision, but it yields better imaging over longer distances. The lens is fixed but offers good performance from around a foot out to a theoretical infinity depending on the size of the target. But practically, the 100 yard mark feels about right. At this distance the field of view is is around 35 yards wide, and each pixel is covering roughly an 8 inch square. So if you were looking for a mouse, you should probably be inside 25 yards. And if you want to see past 100 yards, I hope you are looking for something very large.
The Scout TK can store up to 1000 images or 4 hours of video to onboard flash memory. Images are saved by depressing the Capture button on top of the camera, easily accomplished without taking your eye off the target. The saved media can be downloaded through a micro USB port on top of the unit (cable included). This USB port is also how you charge the Scout TK’s internal lithium-ion battery. When fully charged the battery will power the device for up to 5 hours of continuous use, while a recharge takes around 4 hours.
The FLIR Scout TK makes use of four buttons to control all common functions of the device. Depress the Power button and the camera comes to life in just 4 seconds. The Brightness button will adjust the eyepiece brightness between several preset levels. The Capture button saves still images by giving it a short push, while a longer push will start a video recording. Press the Palette button to choose between six color palettes including common favorites such as Iron, Black and White, and Rainbow. The InstAlert palette renders a scene in black and white, then automatically highlights anything significantly warmer in a red color. This makes a great choice for situations when immediate awareness is prioritized over subtlety. The final external control on the Scout TK is an adjustable diopter, used to dial in the best image on the eyepiece.
Thanks to the tiny Lepton core (around 3/8” cubed) the Scout TK is among the smallest thermal cameras that FLIR has ever produced. At only 4 inches long, and weighing in at just 6 ounces, the Scout TK is about as portable as it gets. To help you take full advantage of that portability, FLIR has designed the camera to be rugged. The Scout TK carries an IP67 infiltration rating, meaning it in completely dust proof, and can be submerged in water up to three feet and remain undamaged. Sensitive areas such as the USB port and the camera lens are further protected with rubber caps.
As we consider where the Scout TK falls within the FLIR pantheon, two close cousins immediately rise to the top: the FLIR C2 ($699) and the FLIR ONE ($249). Like the new Scout TK, both are built around the Lepton core. The FLIR C2 is a standalone camera like the Scout TK, yet has a lower resolution of just 80 x 60 pixels. If the C2 had the newer 160 x 120 core, the comparison between it and the Scout TK would be fairly close, with the primary differences being the lenses and the form factor. For around the home or the garage, I would want the C2, while I would take the Scout TK in the woods or other open spaces.
The FLIR ONE is a smartphone attachment that boasts the same resolution as the Scout TK, yet at considerably lower cost (assuming you already have the phone). Other than not having a built in screen, it’s most notable hardware difference is that it uses a wide angle lens. This gives the FLIR ONE an advantage indoors and at close range, but hampers performance at long distances. Here again the Scout TK shines as a thermal camera for outdoor recreation or security. While the $599 price is not insignificant, in coming months and years the FLIR Scout TK will find its way into many pockets and packs, opening the secrets of the dark to human eyes for the first time.
Thoughts or questions about the new FLIR Scout TK? We welcome your comments below, or you can drop us a line at [email protected]