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Going Thermal with the iRay USA MH25

Our minds categorize tools, concepts, and activities for the purpose of both relating information to others and simplifying our understanding of the world. Sometimes this results in unusual categories: often thermal optics and night vision are seen as direct competitors within a highly specialized field. While both technologies have been integrated into both wearable and weapon-mounted varieties, their capabilities are hardly the same, and as a result, the application of each categorizes them rather differently. While night vision has become the identifying equipment of Special Operations, the most publicly recognized inference of thermal tech could be the -80's action movie, Predator. While night vision has held the spotlight for years, both iRay USA and those participating in the “near-peer” conversation have their eyes on the sudden leap in the capabilities of thermal imaging.

Capability

It is one thing to list off the statistics of iRay USA's new MH25 thermal device. It is another thing to consider the application. From resolution to battery life, to weight, and heat dispersal, the possibly hand-held, possibly helmet-mounted thermal imaging device would immediately be the envy of earlier tech. Similar to a digital camera, a thermal lives and dies by its sensitivity to heat instead of light, and ability to process a clear image. The past limitations, however, are the infantryman's greatest woes: weight, overheating, and battery life.

iRay USA MH25 side by side

The iRay USA MH25 tackles each of these with a refreshed vigor. For all but a few, thermal tech had dropped off the radar, still making its way into video games and pop culture. In the background, however, the capabilities of the individual unit grew exponentially, and the benefits of that are leaking into the civilian market.

The iRay USA MH25 camera features a 25mm objective lens that captures a 640×480 resolution image with a framerate of 50 hertz. Where old thermal optics would create a ghost-like trail when scanning an area, the MH25 displays a crisp image with an almost unrecognizable delay.

A single rotary button controls the entire camera, swapping between white-hot, black-hot, fusion, and that weirdly iconic color spectrum. The pixel size of the sensor comes in at 12 microns, and picks up heat signatures at distances up to 1375 yards.

Application

The best forges for developing new applications for equipment like thermal technology are adversity and the civilian market. While the military has been fielding thermal imaging devices for years, American civilians have adapted them into activities like hunting feral hogs, from a helicopter, at night. Surveillance techniques, fire and rescue operations, and investigating systems for heat loss especially in the colder States all have benefited from thermal tech, and that's just the beginning.

The iRay USA MH25 thermal monocular takes a jab at the military-ish side of applications with its ability to be helmet-mounted. Even with future accessories already in the works, the already capable micro thermal camera can be used to scan a woodline for predators or check to see how well a home's insulation keeps in heat.

Mk18 Burn Proof Gear
The Suppressor Cover by Burn Proof Gear does more than help minimize the heat signature, but mitigates mirage as well. It also helps protect against burning yourself.

We are well aware of the damage entertainment media has done on the reputation of silencers and suppressors, depicting them as virtually silent and undetectable. While so much cultural attention has focused on sound reduction, those who operated on behalf of the US Government at night were more concerned about eliminating the flash of a gunshot. The sound could be distorted by the environment, but a muzzle flash would immediately give away one's position.

Thus the development of suppressors was inexorably tied to the expanded use of night vision. By containing that flash, heat is transferred to the body of the suppressor. Even if not picked up by the naked eye, when seen through a thermal camera the forbidden popsicle produces a radiant signature. Extrapolating the suppressor/night vision relationship, as thermal tech becomes more integrated into military applications and the civilian market, the desire to reduce the heat signature of firearms could follow a similar path. One such approach is wrapping the silencer in a heat shield.

iray usa MH25 hybrid single shot
Note, this is not an accurate representation of the image quality, but a phone camera taking a picture of the internal display screen.

As seen above, after a single shot, the suppressor is warm enough to register on the iRay USA MH25. While some of the heat from the barrel is visible, the Burn Proof Gear suppressor cover contains much of the heat radiating from the can.

Big Picture Evaluation

For some, the thermal imaging capability of the iRay USA MH25 is one more tool in the toolbox. For others, it solves a specific problem. Both scenarios come into play, as the MH25 both integrates into current systems such as helmet mounts, and while also pushing respectable stand-alone capability. Whether hunting predators or feral hogs, it reaches out to distances far enough even experienced shooters and hunters still prefer to close the gap before taking the shot.

When the military began encountering suicide vests and the types of concealed weapons typical to insurgency-style warfare, thermal cameras were fielded to inspect people for these at a safe distance. Here, where the resolution and sensitivity of the sensor saved lives, the virtue of the MH25 begins to shine. People no longer appear as bright blobs, but detailed images with distinct features. Concealed weapons, whether in pockets or the beltline, stand out much better than older models.

iRay USA MH25 helmet mounted
Pro Tip: use a rubber band to eliminate wiggle on helmet-mounted monocular devices.

Finally, choosing to construct the MH25 out of both aluminum and ABS, iRay USA has produced a rugged, compact camera that holds up to the elements without overheating. Roughly the size of a PVS-14 night vision monocular, the dovetail mounting option integrates into helmet-borne systems easily. Whether on a helmet or handheld, the MH25 has an option to use a PVS-14 eyepiece, which drastically improves the user's experience.

Loose Rounds

While the application of thermal tech continues to expand and explore, iRay USA is solving the other half of the equation with the capability of the MH25. By almost all metrics, it represents the unseen improvement of the technology, and having arrived at a relevant time, could very well change the way we think about thermals.


iRay USA MH25

Sensor Resolution: 640 x 480
Pixel Size: 12 microns
Framerate: 50 hertz
Objective Lens: 25 milimeters
Display Resolution: 1280×960
Battery: 16650 or RCR123A, port for external power source
Battery Life: 16650 – 3 hours, RCR123A – 1.5 hours
MSRP: $4,000
URL: irayusa.com


More on Optics, Thermals, Suppressors, and Tech

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