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Thermal imaging has played a crucial role in the war in Ukraine, allowing military forces to spot targets in the dark. However, the technology has remained stagnant due to a lack of mass market demand, resulting in little incentive for manufacturers to invest in advancing the technology. While digital cameras have evolved rapidly, thermal imaging devices have not seen the same level of progress.

Seek Thermal imager for consumers was introduced in 2015 with relatively low resolution and cost. More powerful thermal imaging systems with higher resolutions are available but are expensive and sell in small numbers, making it difficult for drone makers to incorporate them into their products. FPVDronesUA, a drone maker in Ukraine, explained the challenges of finding a balance between price and performance when selecting thermal imagers for drones.

Obsidian Sensors Inc, a U.S. company, has developed a new thermal imaging technology that could revolutionize the market by offering affordable high-resolution sensors. The company’s approach involves separating the bolometer array from the readout circuits, allowing for a different, more cost-effective manufacturing technique. This innovation has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of high-resolution thermal imagers, making them more accessible for drone makers.

The demand for thermal imaging technology extends beyond military applications, with potential markets in automotive safety, self-driving cars, and delivery drones. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration recently issued a safety standard requiring automatic emergency braking systems in new passenger cars to detect pedestrians, a task that thermal imagers are well-suited for. Obsidian has partnered with Quanta Computer Inc to produce thermal imagers for automobiles, signaling a growing interest in the technology for various industries.

Obsidian’s new thermal imaging technology has the potential to disrupt the market by offering high-resolution sensors at a fraction of the cost of current models. The company plans to sell a thousand VGA cameras in a pilot production run this year and is raising funds to scale up production in the coming years. This approach could attract new suppliers, with many potentially based in China, and align with the growing demand for small, low-cost thermal imagers in various industries around the world.

Overall, the development of affordable high-resolution thermal imaging sensors by Obsidian Sensors Inc could open up new possibilities for drone makers, automotive safety systems, and other industries. The technology has the potential to transform the thermal imaging market, making high-resolution sensors more accessible and versatile. With growing demand for thermal imaging technology in different sectors, the future looks promising for companies like Obsidian that are driving innovation in the field.

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