Yes, children... THAT is a rhetorical question. I got out of Boston on what might have been the last flight to leave Logan before the predicted snow-bomb hit and made it here in plenty of time to enjoy FLIR's Annual Thermal Imaging Tour of the Miami waterfront. Tis a brilliant bit of marketing. Movers and shakers and evenly lowly journalists get to eat and drink at FLIR's expense on a posh dinner boat while viewing their nocturnal surroundings through a thermal lens.
The gear truly is amazing. Unlike more pedestrian "night-vision" technology that simply amplifies what light is available, FLIR's "cameras" ignore light and just read heat instead. Which means they not only work in low-light situations, but literally in no-light situations. One thing they are very good at is spotting life forms in the water. In the photo here, for example, revelers have just identified a dolphin that was trying to sneak up on us.
Obviously this is exactly what you need to have onboard any time you lose people overboard and are uncertain as to their whereabouts. Even in broad daylight this thermal-imaging kit makes it much easier to spot mammals and other floating heat sources. As I saw on our cruise last night, it's also great for identifying nav aids lost in a blaze of urban backlighting. Or for finding unlit buoys and docks when the triple darkness descends. You can even use it to suss out the weak spots in your home's insulation.
The downside, of course, is the price. Most of FLIR's gear is aimed at commercial vessels or big yachts and costs tens of thousands of dollars. Their M-Series, Navigator II, and Voyager II camera systems are all large, fixed-mount units that would be difficult to install on most modest recreational craft, even if you could afford to buy one. But there is also a very nifty handheld unit--the First Mate--that is light, portable, and even floats. It's not quite as easy to see things with as the bigger units, which display images on a large screen, but it still works well enough to be extremely useful.
At $3,000 a pop, the First Mate sure ain't cheap, but I'm hoping FLIR will succeed in lowering that price in the not-too-distant future. They are doing well enough that they should be able to. They announced last night during dinner, with justifiable pride given the current economic climate, that their fourth quarter maritime sales last year were up 40 percent and this year so far are up 80 percent.
Stand by for more hot product previews, as I shall be hurling myself further into the maw of the great Miami International Boat Show over the next two days. Also, an in-house promotional announcement: WaveTrain and all other BoaterMouth blogs are now available at Boats.com. Cocktails in our honor shall be imbibed this evening.
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