To explore the feasibility of utilizing an IR imaging system to support flow visualization studies, an initial series of tests were conducted using an AN/AAS-38, NITE Hawk targeting pod. The targeting pod, installed on the left side of an F/A-18 aircraft provides a stabilized infrared imaging capability in the 8-12 micron spectral band. Initial data acquired with system indicated that IR thermography was a very promising tool for flow visualization. For the next phase of the investigation, an advanced version of the NITE Hawk targeting pod equipped with a staring 3-5 micron sensor was utilized. Experimental results obtained with this sensor indicated improved sensitivity and resolution. This method was limited to position the experiment and chase aircraft sufficiently close to each other and with the sightline angle required to acquire the region of interest. For the current phase of the investigation, the proven 3-5 micron staring sensor was deployed in an externally mounted podlet, located on the experimental aircraft with a fixed line of sight, centered on the region of interest. Based on initial data collection efforts, this approach appears to provide consistent high quality data for a wide range of flight conditions. To minimize the size of the podlet and resultant drag, the sensor was oriented parallel to the air flow. This also placed the line of sight parallel to the experiment. A fold mirror was incorporated in the design to fold the line of sight inboard and down to center on the region of interest.
The experimental results obtained during the current test phase have provided consistently high quality images clearly mapping regions of laminar and turbulent flow. Several examples of these images and further details of the experimental approach are presented.