While we had previously seen the stunning thermal images that helped police confirm that Boston Marathon bombing suspect was indeed hiding in a boat, under a tarp, in Watertown, Massachusetts, now the raw video of the camera in action has been released.
It's absolutely mesmerizing.
The three-minute video shows off footage captured by the Massachusetts state police's forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras, much of which is familiar from the stills released yesterday. But watching the camera in action is another experience entirely. Not only can you see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's heat signature glowing like something out of Cocoon, you can follow one of the most tense parts of the entire ordeal: the removal of the tarp to reveal the terrorism suspect inside, and the deployment of flashbang stun grenades (at around 2:20).
As we've discussed previously, FLIR cameras come equipped with special sensors that can detect infrared radiation, such as that caused by a heat source. Specifically, in this case, caused by a heat source belonging to a human body. FLIR cameras have the added benefit of being able to see through smoke, fog, and other barriers. Including tarps.
The Massachusetts state police had theirs mounted to a Eurocopter AS-355N Twinstar, which was equipped with GPS synchronized mapping, interoperable communications equipment, and a digital video downlink system in addition to the all-seeing FLIR.
There's nothing particularly new about FLIR imaging; the first prototypes were developed back in the late 50s, and they've been used on a larger scale for the last 40 years or so. But to see it applied in this context—and to effectively relive the end of last week's harrowing manhunt—is to have a newfound appreciation for and old piece of technology, and of the people who use it effectively in our times of greatest need.