Image Quality Testing of Fire Service Thermal Imaging Camera

Published on February 28, 2012

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"Image Quality Testing of Fire Service Thermal Imaging Cameras" (PDF, 2 MB)

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Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Image Quality Testing of Fire Service Thermal Imaging Cameras"
Author: Francine Amon, Ph.D., Borås, Sweden
Date of issue: September 2011


Thermal imaging cameras are a relatively new technology being increasingly used by today’s fire service. Standardized performance requirements are being addressed by a new NFPA 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service. This document addresses the design, performance, testing, and certification requirements for thermal imagers used by fire service personnel during emergency incident operations.

One key set of tests in NFPA 1801 is for image quality, and additional validation of these test methods in a round robin format is pending. These image quality tests are complicated and the degree to which they are reproducible from testing laboratory to testing laboratory has not been fully established. This is a critical step for the purposes of testing and certification of products. ASTM E691 – 09, Standard Practice for Conducting an Interlaboratory Study to Determine the Precision of a Test Method is a recognized existing methodology to evaluate the repeatability and reproducibility of the NFPA 1801 test methods.

The objective of this study is to establish Lab-to-Lab repeatability and reproducibility of the four image quality tests in NFPA 1801 that address: Spatial Resolution, Non-uniformity, Effective Temperature Range, and Thermal Sensitivity. The final results indicate acceptable levels of repeatability and reproducibility for certain test characteristics but not for others.

The Research Foundation expresses gratitude to the report author Francine Amon, Ph.D. Dr. Amon is currently located in Borås, Sweden. She started this project while employed with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) located in Gaithersburg, MD, and has finished it while serving as a member of staff at SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden. NIST facilities were used for one half of the inter-laboratory test series, and their support and involvement is appreciated. The other half of the test series was conducted by Intertek Testing Services of Cortland, NY under the direction of Mr. Chad Morey. The in-kind support and involvement of Intertek Testing Services and Mr. Morey has been a critical aspect of completing this study and is appreciated.