Talk about stretching the limits of technology, try a camera night vision helmet mount. These cameras may be custom created using a specific helmet, mount, camera, Digital Video Recorder or DVR, and battery pack, or may be purchased as one system or unit. The cameras are small and light enough in weight to be mounted to a helmet with other components attached on the user or the user’s clothing or gear.
There are many uses for a camera night vision helmet mount. One of the most popular uses for this type of surveillance camera is as a tactical device used by various military personnel on a variety of assignments. The news and sports media may also use this camera for Point Of View or POV camera shots, especially for fast paced, extreme non-contact types of sports (skateboarding or snow skiing for example). These cameras also are used by home inspectors, contractors, pest control applicators, mine inspectors, and just about anyone that needs to use a hands-free device to record or document video in low or no light conditions.
There are just about as many camera night vision helmet mount systems commercially available as there are uses. The cameras can vary in size, shape, and features, but there are some night vision cameras that can be mounted on a helmet that are as small as a U.S. quarter. Usually these cameras have their own built-in lighting for infrared operation and this is what becomes the limiting factor in the size of the camera.
Regardless of the size or type, camera night vision helmet mount systems share some basic characteristics and/or features. The following paragraphs will describe how these systems work and some of the common features.
Just like their full size, stationary mounted security camera cousins, camera night vision helmet mounts are digital video cameras. They work by transferring radiation in the form of visible or near infrared spectrum light into electrical impulses that can be used to create a digital image. They do this by using an electronic sensor chip.
There are two different types of sensor chips, Charged Coupled Devices or CCDs and Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductors or CMOSs. Each is also inherently sensitive to near infrared spectrum light; light or radiation that is invisible to the human eye. For infrared operation, infrared Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs are used to illuminate the field of view or target.
The more LEDs used for infrared lighting the greater the range in distance for infrared capture. However, as mentioned above, the LEDs not only become a factor in camera size but also in electrical power consumption. There are camera night vision helmet mount systems that have up to 9 LEDs or more, operate off of 5 volts DC, with only a 50 mA drain, and yield a maximum effective infrared range of from 80 to 100 feet.
Digital video cameras create video by taking several digital photographs in rapid succession. To the human eye fluid motion is obtained by taking about 30 photographs, called frames, per second or 30 FPS. Each one of these frames has the digital data equivalent to a single digital photograph and is contained within a digital video file that is normally stored on a DVR.
Although DVRs in standard security systems usually consist of a hard disk drive like the one found in a Personal Computer (PC), camera night vision helmet mount systems usually use SD cards or other similar small, portable memory media including Flash drives. In addition, helmet camera systems’ DVRs may or may not include a built in monitor.
The monitor on a camera night vision helmet mount is usually a small TFT-LCD (Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display) that ranges in size from about one to four inches. Usually, the DVR including the memory media port and the monitor are built as one unit and may often be mounted or carried separately from the camera. Often these are clipped to a belt, held in clothing pockets, or are attached to guns and other tactical devices.
All camera night vision helmet mount systems require electrical power to operate. This may be provided in the form of one-time use batteries, rechargeable batteries, or battery packs. The batteries or the battery pack may be incorporated in the body of the camera or the DVR or may occur as a separate component.
As technology increases, camera night vision helmet mounted systems get smaller, use less power longer, and increase their potential for high quality video.