Masterclass with Duncan Hickman

10 March, 2020
Institute of Advanced Studies, UWA
Postgraduate Students, Early Career Researchers, Academics, Professional Researchers


Thermal Imaging Systems and Technology

An Masterclass with Dr Duncan Hickman, Founder and Managing Director of Veiller Systems Ltd; Founder and Director of Textonex Ltd and 2020 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

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 identified which continues to fuel this expansion.

In this Masterclass, we will review thermal imaging technology and camera systems, and discuss a number of illustrative designs. To begin with, however, some of the basic principles of thermal imaging will be introduced, such as the generation of infrared signatures, the relationship between thermal brightness and an object’s temperature, and the propagation of radiation through the atmosphere. The anatomy of thermal sensors will then be described, and different types of detectors will be reviewed, together with some of the key measures used by the industry to define and specify thermal cameras. 

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 thermal imaging. Several important image processing functions that provide this capability are described and examples presented.

Finally, the trend towards using systems with multiple sensors that operate over several discrete spectral bands will be discussed. The primary objective of such systems is to gather complementary information from within the scene, although this does present several practical design challenges. The benefits and limitations of such multi-band imaging systems are reviewed, and the conclusions are illustrated by examining some examples of practical systems. 

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 a number of 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. 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.