Mass. State Police Deploys FLIR Infrared Imaging System to Locate Lost Hiker

Alone and cold, a rescue helicopter crew found the woman and directed personnel from the local fire department to her location.

LOWELL, Mass. – The Massachusetts State Police Air Wing, aided by an infrared imaging system by FLIR, track down a 22-year-old woman who became lost while hiking on New Year’s Day.

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The woman began hiking on Jan. 1 in the early afternoon, but became lost on the western Massachusetts’ trails in the dark, the Lowell Sun reports. About 9 p.m., the State Police Air Wing deployed a rescue helicopter crew who were able to locate the lost hiker and direct personnel from the local fire department to her location. Found alone and cold, she was then escorted out of the woods to safety.

FLIR, which has a facility in Billerica, Mass., is credited for playing a crucial role in this and other recovery operations in the state. The infrared imaging system on the helicopter that found the lost hiker was the same technology that helped locate the Boston Marathon bomber hiding in the Watertown boat in 2013. Soon thereafter, police captured the suspect in the boat.

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“Our customers may be looking for a hiker in the woods, or they may be looking for a bad guy,” FLIR General Manager Brian Giroux told the newspaper. “It helps keep people safe and really makes a difference in the world.”

FLIR has an extensive list of customers, from the Massachusetts State Police to the U.S. Coast Guard. Its technology is used for airborne and ground-based surveillance, navigation, search and rescue, transportation safety, interrupting drug deals, border patrol, explosives threat detection, and more.

Founded in 1978, the company has 3,200 employees worldwide, including 273 workers at the Billerica facility. Employees work on design, production, manufacturing, support and purchasing at the Billerica location. Many of the workers there have been out on the state police helicopters to help train troopers.

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Thermal-imaging technology is critical to the state police, according to Trooper Mike Wong, who is based in western Massachusetts. The technology is installed on all of the agency’s aircraft, he said.

“It used to be only searches by the human eye, but thermal technology has improved our ability to see,” Wong said via the Lowell Sun. “We use it to look for people who want to be found, and for people who don’t want to be found.”

In addition to products designed for law enforcement, FLIR has also created products for consumers, including the Scout TK, a handheld monocular with thermal imaging. The $600 product was recently unveiled at CES in Las Vegas, a global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show. The pocket-sized monocular is lightweight for hiking and camping, and it can take photos and video. It helps adventurers see people, objects and animals more than 100 yards away.

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