If you are having trouble using your Vehicle Markers, the problem could be:

  • Position
  • Weather conditions
  • Camera settings
  • Foreign substance



How Hawk-i Works WellThe position of the observer, marker, and reflection affect the visibility of the thermal markers. An ideal situation appears here. There is a clear sky, reflecting its cold temperature off the numbers on the roof of the vehicle.
How Hawk-i Fails BldgHowever the image on the left, a building’s temperature is being reflected. With the building in the way, the letters will not look as cold, which will make them less visible.


How Hawk-i Works Bldg Fix


In the image on the right the helicopter has adjusted his position so that the sky temperature is reflected again. Trees and buildings are the most likely objects to cause this problem.



How Hawk-i Works Sun

Another position issue involves the Sun. When the observer happens to be positioned so the Sun’s temperature is reflected, the markers will appear very hot. In this case the roof may appear hot as well and the markers may get washed out. On the other hand the thermal markers may be very visible, appearing hot on a cooler surface. Moving slightly will fix this problem.


Weather Conditions
Cloud Cover

How Hawk-i Works Good 72dpi

Clear sky=Colder sky=Better visibility

The sky temperature is LOWER when the sky is clear as shown here. The lower sky temperature reflects on the Vehicle Markers, resulting in a greater ΔT (temperature difference) between the marker and the roof of the vehicle. The greater ΔT makes the thermal markers more visible on the roof.


Dark, thick clouds INCREASE the sky temperature. The higher sky temperature reflects on the Vehicle Markers, resulting in a lower ΔT between the marker and the roof of the vehicle. The lower ΔT makes the markers less visible on the roof.

How Hawk-i Works Cloudy

Cloudy sky=Warmer sky=Less visibility

That does not mean that you will not be able to identify the vehicles on cloudy days. You may have to look more carefully or adjust the settings on your camera’s gain and contrast to compensate.
How Hawk-i Works Trouble 5When temperatures are warmer the visibility of thermal vehicle markers will increase. For the same sky temperature, the surface around the marker will be warmer. Therefore, the color around the marker will tend to be more white rather than gray. As a result the markers will be more visible as the air temperature increases. When air temperatures are very cold, users may have to look more carefully or adjust the settings on the camera’s gain and contrast to compensate.


Camera Settings (Gain, Contrast, and Automatic Gain Control)
Most thermal imaging cameras have the ability to automatically adjust gain and contrast, keeping the overall scene clear. However, the automatic control can also make specific items harder to see. See our blog on Automatic Gain Control for more details. Sometimes it becomes more effective to use manual gain and contrast to be able to see Vehicle Markers most clearly.


Foreign Substance
Vehicle Markers can not have other paints, films, or waxes on top of them. If the markers get covered, the visibility can be lessened or completely negated. Make sure they stay clean, but don’t cover them up. Clean them with mild soap and water and a soft cloth. Be careful you do not lift an edge when cleaning.


Vehicle Markers are simple and effective products. It is very helpful to understand the conditions that influence visibility, so you can use them effectively. If you are having trouble seeing your markers, please evaluate position, weather, camera settings, and cleanliness.
For more information about marking your vehicles using thermal imaging  call us at 443.292.8885.
Qualifying inquires will receive a free sample.  Just ask
The Author
 googleplus linkedin
Tom Portrait Tom established IR.Tools™ in 2006, working out of his home for several years before growing into an official office space in 2012. As a veteran and engineer, Tom was led down a path to manufacturer quality infrared markers and insignia for soldiers and military equipment. “My passion for the military, engineering and business leadership all came together in a perfect blend at the perfect time.” An innovator who is always moving forward to stay ahead of the industry, Tom has 15 awarded patents, and 10 patents pending. The Cattis (Calibration Targets for Thermal Weapon Sights) is one of his “babies”, a quick and easy solution for sighting weapons. Tom received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and his MBA from Regents University.


Skip to content