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Disaster business helps FLIR

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Articles - September 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
FLIR's cameras work by sensing wavelengths "beyond that of visible light" and display the temperature differences in black and white images. // PHOTO COURTESY OF FLIR

Recent disasters around the world have helped boost the fortunes of FLIR Systems, the Wilsonville-based manufacturer of thermal imaging cameras used in the private and government sectors.

Thermal imaging cameras manufactured by FLIR were in the hands of oil recovery workers at the BP oil spill in May. Thermal imaging allows the workers to see oil on the surface of the water during rough sea conditions.

In Iceland, FLIR’s cameras were used by geological researchers to view the eruption of a volcano.

“[Thermal imaging] brings a lot of new possibilities to analysis capability,” says Andy Teich, president of FLIR’s Commercial Systems Division, which generates more than $700 million of the company’s annual revenue of $1.2 billion.

FLIR’s Government Systems Division is also busy. In July, a $5.4 million order was placed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A similar order for $14.1 million was placed by STARA Technologies. These cameras will be used by U.S. Army personnel in Afghanistan. The cameras can see 15 to 20 km during the day or night, which is important for security operations of any type, Teich says. FLIR acquired ICx Technologies of Arlington, Va., for $274 million in late August.

FLIR’s purchase of Raymarine, a marine electronics company based in the United Kingdom, in May added $27.2 million in revenue, which accounted for more than half of the 19% increase between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2009. The acquisition of Raymarine took their employee count to almost 2,000. FLIR’s new manufacturing and research facility located in Santa Barbara, Calif., will be operational in 2013. “We expect the company to grow 15% per year,” Teich says.

FLIR gets approximately 35% of its total revenue from government contracts. The rest is commercial sales, and the domestic and international market is almost equally split.

The need for infrared cameras has expanded past the military. Thermal imaging technology will probably take a path similar to GPS technology, Teich says. “Someday you will probably have a thermal camera in your cell phone.”


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