The Use of Thermal Cameras for Pedestrian Detection

Fatih Altay, Senem Velipasalar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Visible-range camera sensors have been widely used for pedestrian detection. However, most of the methods, which employ visible-range color cameras, do not perform well under low-light and no-light conditions, e.g. during night time. Since the working principle of thermal camera sensors is mainly based on temperature and not light, they have been employed for person detection to overcome the drawbacks of visible-range sensors under these conditions. Every object gives off thermal energy, which is captured by a thermal camera sensor. When an object becomes hotter, it emits more thermal energy, and is therefore captured as much brighter or vice versa. Yet, compared to visible-range cameras, there are many additional challenges that need to be addressed when detecting pedestrians from thermal camera images. These challenges include bright hot objects close to humans, similar pixel values in an image due to weather conditions, or objects that block thermal cameras such as concrete or glass. Glass acts like a mirror for infrared radiation and reflects whatever is in front of the camera. Thus, novel methods are still required to accomplish pedestrian detection task from thermal camera images. To contribute to these efforts, we propose a new method and a modified object detection network incorporating saliency maps of thermal camera images. The features obtained from thermal images and their corresponding saliency maps are combined to obtain richer representations of pedestrian regions, and better detection performance. We perform extensive evaluations on five different datasets to compare the performance of the proposed approach with two baselines. Moreover, we evaluate and compare the transferability of these approaches by doing leave-one-out cross validation across different datasets. The results show that the proposed approach outperforms the baselines, and has better transferability properties across different thermal image datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11489-11498
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Sensors Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022


  • Pedestrian detection
  • Saliency maps
  • Thermal cameras
  • Thermal images

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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