M5Stack Teases Low-Cost, Live-View, Ultra-Compact Thermal Imaging Camera

FLIR Lepton-compatible board, seemingly based on the M5Stick, could sell for under $100 with sensor.

Gareth Halfacree
8 months agoSensors

Approachable Internet of Things development board specialist M5Stack has teased a new design which offers nine frames per second of live thermal imaging video on a compact LCD panel — and which may be priced cheaply enough to bring thermal imaging to the masses.

While full details on the design are not yet available, M5Stack's prototype appears to be based on the company's M5Stick and features a color LCD panel to the front and a FLIR Lepton thermal imaging sensor to the rear. Powered by USB, the board is shown displaying a live thermal imaging feed from the FLIR sensor and switching between multiple color palettes including the classic greyscale and 'iron' options.

The display also shows additional information, some of which isn't immediately accessible on rival high-priced thermal imaging systems: A live histogram can be seen to the bottom-right, while status information is printed above. The unit can also be seen taking a spot reading which appears to track the hottest spot on the image — all at nine frames per second.

M5Stack has confirmed compatibility with the FLIR Lepton 2.0, 3.0, and 3.5 long-wave infra-red (LWIR) thermal imaging sensors. When paired with a Lepton 2.0 sensor, the device should offer an 80x60 thermal resolution; the Lepton 3.0 and 3.5 quadruple the measurements to a 160x120 resolution, at a greater cost, with the latter also extending the measurement range.

Thermal imaging cameras are useful for everything from occupancy detection to fault-finding in electrical systems as large as a substation and as small as an embedded PCB — and without the usual technique of poking components until a sizzling sound and sharp pain alerts you to the short. Their high price, however, has typically kept them out of the reach of hobbyists; with M5Stack looking to target a sub-$100 price bracket with Lepton 2.0 sensor, that could change.

Those eager to find out more should follow M5Stack's progress on the company's official Twitter account.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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