Flir Systems is pushing toward a goal of “infrared everywhere” by combining its defense and commercial market access and technology, according to new president and CEO Andrew Teich.
A 14-year veteran of the company, Teich moved into his current job in May.
The trajectory of thermal imaging will be similar to that of GPS, Teich predicted Oct. 21 at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting & Exposition. With GPS, commercial applications provided far more volume than the military could support and consequently drove lower costs, which in turn allowed the military to equip every soldier with GPS. Today, he says, thermal imaging “is on a path from dual use to broader commercialization,” with Flir’s lowest-price thermal camera having broken the $1,000 cost barrier.
One example of interaction between the commercial and military markets is driver vision enhancement (DVE) systems for vehicles. “There is a need for 20,000-30,000 military DVE systems, but we ship 100,000 systems a year for BMWs, Audis and Mercedes, with automatic detection of pedestrians or animals,” Teich says. Military systems “cost $13,000-$15,000, with no automatic detection. We can reduce that cost by a factor of four or five and add functionality.”
Flir will retain its government/military and commercial marketing organizations, but is moving to integrate its technology development operations. (The company’s defense products are “commercially developed and military qualified” rather than being funded in development by the customer.) Teich sees that as an essential step to meeting such future needs as a ubiquitous helmet-mounted thermal imager for dismounted troops. “The key enabler is cost, and these are silicon devices and the basis of cost is volume. If the military is the only driver, the cost will never come down.”