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Idaho State University working to expand infrared technology

Idaho State University is adapting infrared camera technology to be able to help law enforcement and other agencies with issues of safety.

Bengal Solutions, which is part of ISU’s College of Business, is working to develop a business plan to market the technology.

Infrared cameras track heat sensors. For example, if someone is lost or hiding in the woods, infrared cameras could still spot them. A regular aerial shot would be hard to see a person through the thick foliage, but by tracking the heat source, infrared cameras can pinpoint a near exact location.

The technology was originally developed to monitor wildlife. The expansion to wildlife started at ISU’s biological sciences division. The technology was then expanded to help wildfires. It tracks the hot spots to better help crews fight fires.

Dr. Gifford Gillette, wildlife scientist at the wildlife management institute, said they approached Bengal Solutions for help on the business end of the technology. That’s when Bengal Solutions suggested the expansion to be able to help law enforcement, search and rescue teams, even border patrol efforts.

“We looked at this technology and we said well, ‘If this is studying animals, couldn’t it track people? Yes, of course,'” said Dan Cravens, director of Bengal Solutions.

Cravens believes using the technology to help find or track people could benefit other agencies, such as law enforcement. He said right now, those agencies have a demand for applications and new technology.

The infrared cameras track the heat source, cutting through trees or other obstructed view points. It allows animals, or people, to be found from high up even in areas that would otherwise be difficult.

So if law enforcement is tracking a fugitive through the woods. infrared could help locate and track that person. If someone, or even a group, gets lost in the woods or backcountry, infrared could help spot them and potentially save a life. By doing this, it could help save on resources that law enforcement and search and rescue crews have to rely on.

The cameras have the ability to zoom in and out, go between infrared view and HD views, and send a live feed from the air to whoever needs it on the ground.

Cravens said he’s excited about this project and feels it has a lot of potential.

Gillette said when Bengal Solutions first mentioned the expansion idea and the potential for a business plan with it, he was excited. Both he and Cravens feel it’s a viable business option and expect it could do very well. Gillette said it has a lot of appeal to it.

“One, it’s provided right here in Idaho,” he said. “Two, it’s affordable. And three, we’re using some of the best technology that’s available on the market. Those three things are not always used in that fashion in those industries.”

ISU said infrared technology is nothing new, but it continues to grow, develop and change. And that’s what this technology aims to do – expand the use of infrared. By working with Bengal Solutions, it also aims to make a business plan that makes the technology affordable.

Several different colleges at ISU are contributing to this technology, as well as Bengal Solutions. The US Geological Survey has also been a partner in helping. Owyhee Air Research, out of Nampa, is the industry partner behind the technology.

Cravens said right now, Bengal Solutions is applying for some grants to get additional funding to further its business plan.

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