In the LOTR, The Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee caught Gollum doing something suspicious and asked him what he was doing. Gollum gave him a dirty look and sarcastically replied, “Sneakin’!”
In the context of the movie at that point, sneaking was a bad thing to do, but out here in the real world sometimes sneaking is exactly the right thing to do. Consider the military special forces. Their need for stealth (sneaking) is paramount to the successful conclusion of many of their missions. Without the ability to sneak in, look around, and sneak out undetected, their missions would probably be impossible short of a battalion-sized incursion into enemy territory.
If you wake up in the middle of the night to a loud crash as someone breaks into your house, turning on a light is just about the worst idea imaginable. You make yourself into a target and lose the element of surprise. If you’ve got some night vision goggles beside your bed though, that changes everything.
Or does it?
Infrared night vision devices (goggles, binoculars, etc.) only work with – wait for it – light.
Night vision devices need light in order to work. They don’t need much light, but they do need some. Otherwise, they’re as blind in the dark as you are. This is different than the thermal devices the military uses. Those high-tech weapons of war use equipment that detects the body heat of people, bushes, animals, and trees, regardless of how much light is or isn’t available. That heat is actually called thermal-infrared.
Most non-military equipment in the wavelength range of 850 nanometers (nm). A nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter. This light can be seen as a faint glow when you’re looking directly at the beam of light but, other than that, it’s effectively invisible.
Most night vision goggles, hunting lights, and CCTV security cameras use 850 nm IR light. Most night vision cameras operate in the 850 nm range. Military infrared equipment uses different wavelengths so we’ll put that aside for now.
Types of Security Cameras
Security cameras come in many different types and flavors: IP, thermal, wireless, bullet, box, fixed, physical PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom), virtual, dome, day/night, and 360-degree rotation. The available list of features is equally impressive. They can have auto-focus, infrared, remote zoom, and ultra-high definition (4K).
Security cameras can be mounted anywhere, although doors, windows, hallways, stairs, and porches are the most common locations.
But as we mentioned earlier, at night, all these devices need some kind of light in order to function. And that is where IR illumination comes in.
Picking An IR Light
Companies such as Stealthy Ninjas can give you the complete lowdown on IR lights and illumination. Infrared lights are the perfect companion to night vision devices. They provide the light necessary for them to work without showing any visible light to intruders and unwanted guests.
Going back to our example of someone breaking into your home in the middle of the night. Theoretically, electrical blackouts should happen at any time of the day or night, but it’s amazing how many of them take place after dark. It’s almost as if blackouts “know” when they’ll be the most inconvenient and time themselves accordingly.
They don’t, of course, but sometimes it sure seems that way.
So the chances are your uninvited guest will come barging into your house during a blackout. There won’t be any ambient light from the city lights outside, or “always on” lights on the TV or coffee pot, so those expensive night goggles won’t do you any good unless you have an IR flashlight.
So, you put on your night vision goggles and flip on your IR light. Instantly you can see everything but the bad guy in the next room is none the wiser. Remember, they can’t see the light unless they’re looking directly at the beam. You’d have to be pointing it directly in their face for that. Point it slightly at the ground and they’ll never see a thing.
So, while they’re fumbling around in the dark trying to take your stuff you can come sneakin’, as Gollum would say, right up behind them with your favorite piece of home defense ironmongery.
A 12-gauge pump makes a nice scary sound in the dark. 😉
And that, as they say, will be that. There might be a urine smell as the perp has a lavatorial accident in their pants but you, your family, and your stuff will be safe.