Daylight cameras are what you might be using today to record your home movies. They offer reasonable resolution and can see from early dawn to just after dusk. Most border cameras of this type are installed in “Pan / Tilt” mounts which allow a camera operator some many miles away to move the point of aim of the camera in azimuth and elevation.
Most of these “Pan / Tilt” cameras also offer a “Zoom” capability and can magnify the image to see a human face even five miles away.
The cameras in use today along the border are standard NTSC resolution — just what you have at home. There are newer camera technologies available today that offer even 16 times NTSC resolution for only a little additional investment.
By the way, NTSC is the acronym for a format named for the National Television Systems Committee. While they talk about 525 lines of image on the screen, just as with gas mileage, the reality is far less, — about 485 lines. This TV format was created in 1941 and was a compromise to low quality even back then.
Daylight cameras cannot see through fog or rain or snow or a sand storm or even haze. They cannot see any better than you can with your own eyes. This can be very bad if there is fog or rain or snow or a sand storm or haze and a few dozen gang members or drug smugglers are coming across the border and your life depends on seeing them before they see you.
These daylight cameras can “see” objects through the obscurant if enough light gets through that obscurant. For example, they — just as you — can see brake lights of a distant car right through fog.
Low Light Level Cameras
Low light level cameras are similar to Daylight cameras except that they can provide an acceptable image with just moonlight. These low light level cameras are usually only NTSC resolution.
These cameras cannot see through fog or rain or snow or a sand storm or even haze. They cannot see any better than you can with your own eyes. They may be “low light level” but if you sit in a dark place for a few minutes you can see better than they can. Your eyes become “accustomed” to the dark.
So again, this can be very bad if there is fog or rain or snow or a sand storm or haze and gang members or drug smugglers are coming across the border and your job is to see them.
And just with the other cameras, these cameras can “see” objects through the obscurant if enough gets through the obscurant. For example, they — just as you — can see brake lights of a distant car right through the fog.
Light energy can be amplified. Today this is done with odd devices called “micro-channel plates” and more. Some of these devices are made of hundreds of thousands of hollow tubes and the “pixel” at the front of the tube is sped up on its way along that tiny tube and that energy hits another phosphor at the other end — that you are looking at — and makes it blink. Some of these devices have the bundle of tiny tubes twist so that the image is right side up when you see it. Modern devices of this type can amplify light fifty thousand times. Because making that bundle of tiny tubes is so expensive, these devices don’t have enough tubes / resolution to see people farther away than about 150 yards.
If you have ever wondered why images from these things are always green, it is because the human eye can see more gradations of the color green than any other color.
These devices still need light to operate. The light can be from stars, or — at sea — even from the minute levels of light given off by dynoflagelates.
Another incredibly interesting capability associated with the tiny amplifier tube itself is the ability to turn it on and off in a millionth of a second. This can be important when you combine it with other technologies.
This site is maintained by supporters of the United States Border Patrol and is not an official government site. The contents of this site are privately managed and not subject to the direction of the United States Border Patrol.