For Starters…What is Thermal Anyway?


The simple definition of thermal is: “ something related to heat or temperature”

For the more advanced readers in the group, the definition will take them back to science class and the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum is the term used by scientists to describe the entire range of energy that exists. 

Most energy cannot  be seen with the naked eye: microwaves, radio waves, ultraviolet, and X-ray are examples of such energy.

In short : thermal (heat) is also a form of energy that is invisible to our eyes. 

But thanks to advanced imaging technology (fancy cameras), we can now  see this “invisible” heat energy. Night vision devices give us the ability to see near infrared energy and

thermal imagers connect us to mid and far infrared (heat) energy.


How Thermal Film Boost Military and Law Enforcement Operations


Years ago, the military saw how this science could benefit and strengthen friend-foe identification. In the end a thermal film was created.

In addition to protection against friendly fire casualties, thermal film is used to eliminate confusion between ground to ground units, air and ground units and pinpoint landing zone locations.

The film present in these operations uses heat energy that cannot be seen with the naked eye.  The energy (heat) reflects off of the thermal film and is detected by looking through a thermal imaging device.

The film will “shout out” its location with a cold black signature to the thermal imager .

Thermal film markers on Police Car


Attaching the thermal film to a vehicle, person, dog, or the ground, instantly strengthens the operation communication.   

Therefore, Military and Law Enforcement units can detect and determine how and where to proceed with an accuracy not available prior to thermal film technology. Leading to more lives protected and saved.

The use of thermal technology in an operation boosts the potential of a successful outcome significantly.


The Upside of Thermal Film


  • Thermal film is effective 24/7. Day or Night, this film makes a difference.
  • Thermal film can be used wherever thermal imagers are on hand. They are excellent for covert operations, search and rescue, specifying landing zones, target training,  and other applications.         thermal A12 on top of building
  • Eliminates confusion in city lights. Night operations in well lit areas have an advantage with thermal film.  The heat energy from the film can be detected without interference of saturating or blooming lights. 
  • No batteries or electric needed! A good word to define thermal film is “passive”. Passive is used additionally with thermal to describe how the film works without need for additional power. The film reflects the heat energy in the environment to the thermal imager.


The Challenges


While the upside of thermal film is well worth the investment for improving operations in both the Military and Law Enforcement, there are some challenges to consider.

First of all, the film can be detected and located through sandstorms, smoke, fog, dark, and rain but water on the film will create a barrier. Operators will need to keep the film dry.  Water will not damage the film but will make it temporarily less detectable.

The other challenge is cost. While the cost per square inch is in line with NVG detectable film, the amount of thermal film needed for equal detection is 2X – 10X more.


Can Thermal Film be Trusted?

4' TIP Panel thermal view

The Military has confidently been implementing thermal film for 25 years.  They introduced the film during Operation Desert Storm for protection during combat operations.

Thermal markers and panels were attached to tanks, humvees etc… to prevent friendly casualties.

Now, with the uptick of NVG in the hands of the enemy, the military is trusting the film as a viable alternative for personal ID protection. Thermal patches and panels are becoming part of the required infantry gear.




Making a Difference

While it may take some studying to understand the science behind the technology, one thing is for certain; thermal film is making a difference.

Military and Law Enforcement communities realize how the

use of the film is positively impacting their jobs and personal safety.

Careful evaluation of  thermal film advantages and challenges along with the desired outcome will determine if the film is the right choice for your job.


Browse the Thermal Products available from IR.Tools™


Personal ID





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 The Author

Tom Boyer profile picture

Tom founded IR.Tools™ in 2006. He has embraced manufacturing premium IR patches, panels, thermal markers, and thermal targets to better protect and train the military and law enforcement communities.  Always the innovator, he is always thinking out of the box. Currently he has 21 awarded patents, and 14 patents pending.  Tom received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and his MBA from Regents University.