One of the most effective ways of minimizing oil spill impact is early detection. Effective early detection requires automated detection that relies as little as possible on an operator and can operate 24/7. A new and innovative optical detection system exploits the polarization of light, the same physics used to reduce glare through the use of polarized glasses but in the thermal infrared (TIR) portion of the optical spectrum. Measuring the polarization of thermally emitted radiation from an oil spill enhances the detection over conventional thermal cameras and has the potential to provide automated day / night monitoring and surveillance. The sensors developed thus far are relatively small and inexpensive and can be easily mounted in areas that need monitoring and installed in unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Since the sensor is adapted from a conventional TIR camera, thermal imagery as currently used is collected in addition to the polarimetric imagery to further improve the detection performance. Lens options enable wide area coverage at shorter ranges and higher resolution at longer ranges from the camera position.
A TIR Polarimetric camera was tested at Ohmsett to establish performance under a variety of conditions. The Polarimetric camera was tested during the day and at night, under several different wave conditions generated in the wave tank, and with oil of different compositions and thicknesses. The imagery collected was analyzed to establish the contrast improvement through the polarimetric properties of the oil and to assess the automation of the detection process. In this poster, the sensor and test setup will be briefly described with detailed description of the results and the potential of this detection approach for automated detection.