Many camera manufacturers are quick to let customers know when their products are no longer subject to a regulatory body known as ITAR. These “Internal Traffic in Arms Regulations” restrict the export of defense technologies.

Why the excitement when a technology is suddenly ITAR-free? And if a camera is not subject to the demands of ITAR, which other regulations must the technology meet?

In a webinar titled Infrared Imaging Technology, a Tech Briefs reader asked two industry experts:

"What makes some cameras ITAR vs. ITAR-free?"

Read the edited responses below from Martin H. Ettenberg, CEO of the NJ-based imaging supplier Princeton Infrared Technologies, and Doug Malchow from Collins Aerospace, based in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Martin H. Ettenberg, Ph.D., CEO, Princeton Infrared Technologies: ITAR vs. ITAR-free gets us into a very long discussion.

ITAR is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations,  which dictates technology that is covered by the military. In simple terms, if the camera or its main components were developed originally for a military application, it’s more than likely considered an ITAR camera and treated as such. The camera manufacturers know whether they’re ITAR-controlled or whether they're controlled by [the Department of Commerce] and free to export.

Commercial cameras, like those microbolometers that are sold at Home Depot, are free to export, and are not under military control. A manufacturer and seller will be able to tell you what the status of the camera is, but it’s a matter of how it was manufactured originally and for what purpose.

Doug Malchow, Business Development/Sales, Industrial Products, Collins Aerospace: To clarify, most infrared cameras are under some controls. Something designed for Home Depot probably is “no license required,” but you should be aware that all U.S. technology is under some obligation, and you need to pay attention to the regulations.

If a camera is not ITAR-controlled, it is controlled under what’s called EAR, or the Export Administration Regulations . Most infrared imaging cameras fall under a level of control there as well, from the Department of Commerce.

Before you get involved with using any of the infrared camera technology with non-U.S. persons, or using the camera technology outside the country, you do need to consult the regulations and an export compliance lawyer to be sure you’re on the right side of everything.

What do you think? Share your comments and questions below.