November 07, 2005
Fighting the war on "Meth" with a vehicle mounted NOPTIC thermal imager
One of the key ingredients used in the manufacture of the deadly street drug methamphetamine ("Meth"), is a popular fertilizer used by many farmers. The fertilizer is anhydrous ammonia and can be very dangerous, even by itself, if not handled properly. Because of the widespread use of methamphetamine, theft of this fertilizer can become a real problem for law enforcement agencies.
Liquid anhydrous ammonia fertilizer is stored in special tanks that are typically left outside, sometimes in an unlit field. The difficulty for law enforcement is the ability to monitor these tanks in the dark field. Traditional spotlights can work to temporarily observe or detract a would-be thief, but seeing a spotlight, one can simply avoid it until it passes.
A new key technology for this battle on methamphetamine is a thermal imaging camera that is mounted to the patrol vehicle spotlight. Called a NOPTIC, the compact night vision camera allows an officer to monitor farmer's fields in total darkness from inside the patrol vehicle. Since the camera emits no light of its own, surveillance can be conducted in a stealth mode. This greatly improves the odds of catching the unknowing criminal in the act, and preventing the theft. The idea is to stop this drug before it has a chance to be manufactured. Preventing the theft of anhydrous ammonia is a key step in that effort.