Forget those TV news department helicopters
March 27th, 2006 by JTJ

Recently in Santa Fe, NM there was a tragic
accident when a driver plowed through the front of a shopping center
medical clinic, killing three persons inside.  We watched a
news chopper from an Albuquerque TV station hover over the scene for
at least a couple of hours.  We have no idea what it costs per
hour to operate a high-tech machine like that, but for small-market
stations — and perhaps even newspapers — the article below (from
) suggests a relatively low-cost alternative for aerial

What does this have to do with analytic
journalism?  For starters, think of how such aerial images
could help vet and enrich infographics.  Need to illustrate
the real size of demonstrations such as the recent ones related to
U.S. immigration policy?  Here's the
chance.  Of
course the usual caveats apply: you might want to check with your
liability and workman's comp folks before letting a reporter/photographer get airborne in one of

“An Innovative System
for Low Cost Airborne Video Imaging

Paul Maxwell Dare

Paul Maxwell

Spatial Scientific Technologies Pty. Ltd.
Box 520, Blackwood, SA 5051, AUSTRALIA

Ph: +61 405 141 647; Fax +618
8278 8067



Airborne video imaging has been used for many years for
various mapping
applications worldwide. Experience has shown that it
is a technology
that is neither well-suited to spectral remote
sensing (due to its poor
spectral capabilities), nor is it
well-suited to spatial remote sensing
(due to its poor geometric
properties). Even so, airborne video imaging
has proved enormously
popular for some very specific mapping
applications. One such
application is mapping of linear infrastructure
features, such as
roads, pipelines or powerlines. Any country, whether
developing or
developed, can benefit from mapping of its linear
assets. However, to derive full benefit from this type
of mapping,
the data collection and processing must be both
cost-effective and
efficient. This paper presents an innovative yet low
cost methodology
for acquiring airborne video data, based on the use of
an aircraft
known as a powered parachute (PPC). A PPC is a low cost,
aircraft which can fly safely at low speeds and altitudes, but
provides an extremely stable platform for imaging sensors. Tests
carried out in Australia have shown it to be an ideal platform for
airborne video imaging of linear features. However, the choice of
platform is only part of the system – the remaining component,
is no less important, is the software that is used to process the
video data. Over the years many different algorithms have been
developed for mosaicking video images into continuous scenes. This
paper also presents a methodology for rectifying, processing, and
analysing sequential video images. The resulting combination of
platform, camera and software forms an ideal system for asset
which can realistically be implemented in less developed

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