Introducing thermal and radar for cost effective perimeter protection at sites of all scale

Magnus Lundegård

This post is a collaboration between Magnus Lundegård & Niklas Lindman, Global Product Managers Thermal and Radar.

Deploying radar technology and thermal imaging can create a more effective security solution for a wide range of installations, from small facilities such as builders’ yards, to large high value facilities, such as petrochemical plants and solar farms. Perhaps surprisingly, combining these two technologies and even adding traditional visual camera surveillance can actually reduce the total cost of ownership by lowering the amount of cameras and supporting infrastructure required, while enabling more efficient human monitoring and response.

It’s often assumed that radar and thermal technologies need to be used separately or there is a choice to make between deploying one or the other. In fact, they complement each other and even enable a new approach to perimeter protection that opens up new possibilities. Traditionally, thermal cameras and radar technology have been used as separate solutions to cover different areas within a site. In most cases, thermal cameras protect the fence line or perimeter while radar provides area protection by detecting people and objects inside the perimeter. However, combining the two technologies, or even complementing them with visual cameras such as PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) or deterrents like speakers and lights, can provide major advantages to a site that wants to create a buffer zone around the perimeter.

Radar & thermal technology summarized

Radar technology and thermal imaging effectively extend the field of view and enable earlier and more accurate identification of multiple targets. As radar and thermal cameras don’t depend on visible light, they can detect intrusion 24/7. Because of these characteristics, radar and thermal cameras are commonly used to compliment visual cameras and audio systems, creating a robust security solution across large and smaller scale facilities. Depending on the layout of the surveillance area and the security requirements, radar and thermal technology can be used either separately or together.

Typically, radar has been used as a second layer of defense for the area inside a fence line. However, what if we instead positioned radar on the perimeter facing outwards, providing wide angle surveillance? This would mean that protection is provided beyond rather than simply on or inside the perimeter, establishing a buffer zone that can detect potential intruders at an earlier stage in order to deter them before they even reach the fence line.

Transmitting harmless radio waves and measuring the distance from objects based on the wave’s travel time, radar can differentiate moving from static objects, showing the distance, direction, and speed of travel. As radar is unaffected by adverse weather conditions, it continues to provide effective surveillance in rain and fog.

Alternatively, thermal cameras detect infrared radiation (heat) emitted from all objects, organic and inorganic, and use these signals, with variation in wavelength according to temperature, to form an image. Thermal cameras can detect humans, vehicles and other objects at much greater distances than visual cameras.

Both thermal cameras with analytics and radar can classify potential targets as humans or vehicles. While neither technology can confirm visual identification, a key advantage is how they augment the potential of visual cameras. Radar technology and thermal imaging can track multiple targets in real time, and radar can also send coordinates to cameras that can provide a visual assessment of the threat potential.

Increased detection accuracy also improves the efficiency of security staff by preventing false alarms, as well as enabling them to make the most appropriate response based on threat level and behavior. As radar and thermal technologies create an extra layer of security surrounding the perimeter, this provides security staff with more time to react, and consequently, empowers them to decide the most appropriate and effective response. This could include flooding the area with light to deter an intruder, as well as relaying audio messages. Speakers can warn of danger to potential intruders or deter entry by announcing the arrival of security personnel.

Combining radar and thermal technologies

Layering the different technologies provides more robust detection where a pre-alert is required before a potential intruder reaches the perimeter. Radar installed facing outwards from the fence creates a buffer zone to identify potential intruders as they approach. Should the intruder reach the fence line, the thermal camera can then detect them while a visual camera, such as a PTZ, provides the possibility for visual identification. The advantage of using two or more of these technologies together increases the accuracy of threat confirmation.

Smaller organizations relying on third-party security, in particular, can benefit from combining both technologies. In the building and construction sector, builders’ merchants and independent construction companies carry high value materials, tools, and machinery. Increasingly, security installers are combining radar, thermal, and visual cameras to increase the accuracy of threat detection and enable a more efficient response. If the three-layer defense identifies an intruder, a security guard can be dispatched to quickly arrive on location and prevent a break-in.

Reducing the total cost of ownership

Dependent on the layout of the surveillance environment and the security requirements, using thermal cameras, radar technology and even visual cameras in a clever combination can create the optimum solution for site security, while also lowering the total cost of ownership. Taking this combined approach allows the number of visual cameras, mounting poles, cabling, and external lights to be reduced. In addition to decreasing the initial outlay for installation, this also results in lower maintenance costs. Beyond this, increasing operator efficiency and removing security guard attendance to false alarms means that overall costs are reduced for the end user.

Making the most of radar and thermal in combination

When designing a surveillance solution, the critical factor to consider is the environment, and how the layout and objects within the detection area will impact the identification accuracy of the available technologies. With the ability to effectively extend the perimeter and provide cover night and day, whatever the weather, deploying thermal cameras and radar detection in combination can create more robust protection. Even for smaller sites, it could also be more cost efficient to use radar and thermal detection, rather than relying on visual camera detection alone.

Find out more about Axis thermal cameras and AXIS Security Radar here.