How to: Aerial Survey Part I

  • Nor Knidud
  • 10 July , 2015

What is needed for aerial survey? 

Imagine you'd start up your own aerial survey company. What would be your first needs? In a very -very very- simplified summary, this is what this article is about. A start into aerial survey might be something to sleep on for a few nights more, but nevertheless, it could be interesting to see what basicaly is needed. 



And not just any airplane; preferably one with a hole in it, so the camera can get to see something. Also, twin engine planes are prefered over single engine airplanes, since the multi engine planes are not bothered by exhaust gases and greasy oils flowing along the camera(hole). That does not mean one won't see single-engine airplanes being used in aerial survey: plenty of Cessan 206, 207, 208 and even 182 or 180 models are being used a lot. But multi engine will offer more benefits, for example larger cities that have problems and.or higher demands for single-engine airplanes flying low over their crowded cities. 



This might be the most expensive step in the whole proces, depending on buying a medium or large sized camera. Despite medium models getting more popular, the large size cameras win in terms of expert use and results. Microsoft Ultracam, Leica, Visionmap, many famous and less famous cameras are photographing our earth daily. A limited number of homemade camera or small scale built series. For this see our series about the market for vertical cameras later on. The cameras usualt weigh between 30 and 80 kilos, depending on size and the storage system. If the storage system is a set of oldfashioned harddisks in a box, it might weigh many kilos, whereas the newer SSD sets are more reliable and lighter, sometimes even integrated in the camera itself. 


IMU, mount, camera navigation and control system and software

To know where to go to, a system is needed that -based on gps- will lead you to the photo project and, when there, show you the photo tuns that need to be recorded. This system will guide the pilot to the project, and on the project itself. After completing the project, back on the ground, a smart system (IMU) has remembered every tiny movement that the plane has made on this trip. Combined with the GPS data, the result ca be used to create a very reliable positioning of the images. The system also steers the mount in which the camera is placed in order to stay level on the photo run at all times. 


Image software 

Then when the images have been downloaded, the next proces can start: image processing. Depending on the product requirements multiple products can be output: stereo photography, orthomozaiek tiles, ECW files, Near Infrared Images, etc. The software is usually not cheap, but capacity might make the proces benefit in case of huge numbers of photos or if intensive processing is required. Ofcourse a dedicated hardware set is needed as well, offering reliability and high performance in order to make use of the softwares potential. 

In the next parts we will pay attention to every one of the above mentioned assets, with plenty of attention to many details and know-hows of the aerial survey. We will keep you posted.


Nor Knidud: Some years of experience in the aerial survey world, and interested in many many aspects that have to with this little big world of photography. The applications that come from aerial survey are endless and technically and commercially very promising.

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