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The Vexcel Ultracam-x: a 216MB pixel digital aerial camera

Images at the interactive map services from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have been compiled with the help of satellite and aerial digital photography. Vexcel, which has been acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, is one of the companies to supply digital cameras specifically for this purpose. The Vexcel Ultracam-x digital aerial camera delivers 216 megapixel images, spanning 14,430 pixels across track and 9,420 pixels along track, and stored on devices called  DX units of 1.7 Terabytes that can hold 4000 images...

OVERVIEW

Vexcel UltraCam x digital aerial camera brochure (pdf)Vexcel's new UltraCamX provides the same obvious advantages over film cameras as the UltraCamD, but has superior specifications and extended capabilities. The data flow is simpler, the technology is more robust, and image formatting is the world's most precise.

Taking advantage of improved CCD technology, UltraCamX employs 7.2 micrometer pixels and thus achieves an even larger image format at 14,430 x 9,420 pixels without sacrificing radiometric performance.

An all new optical system developed for the UCX by LINOS improves light fall-off over previous solutions, maintaining image sharpness and high radiometric range well into the corners of each image.

As large scale mapping applications are rapidly growing more important, the ability to deliver imagery at fast intervals has become critical. The UCX collects pixels at an astounding sustained rate of 3 GBits per second. It maintains a forward overlap of 70% at 3 cm pixels, and an 80% overlap at 5 cm pixels is feasible at normal flying speeds.

The results of this improved technology include: urban mapping with minimization of occlusions, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) with no spikes or holes, ortho-photo production from only the most central image portions, and support of automated image analysis.

Because the diameter of the sensor units (SX) has been reduced to fit into all current gyro-stabilized camera mounts, customers can still maintain their old flight environment and mounts, as they continue to move to digital technology.

Camera customers will be thrilled with the entirely new data flow concept that allows unlimited image collection in the air. Low-cost, exchangeable data storage devices called DX units can hold 1.7 TBytes each. When one unit is filled (with about 4,000 UCX images), it can simply be replaced with another during flight. Five pairs of DX units can collect 20,000 images in redundant mode, each image stored twice.

The DX units can now be directly shipped to the home office or copied onto a single large capacity disk or tape. Eliminating the data download from the SCU. Significantly reduces ground turn-over time. The UCX contains the same temperature models that were introduced in the UCD in 2006. It maintains the proven UCD real-time in-air computation capability. The UCX is also completely compatible with the UCD-legacy via identical software and data structures. In fact, an existing UCD sensor unit (SU) can be upgraded to the SX sensor unit of the UCX system and maintain the same SCU-data flow. Of course, it may also be exchanged for the novel CX & DX data flow to provide unlimited in-the-air imaging capacity and no download down-time.

Additional information: Vexcel UltraCam x digital aerial camera brochure (pdf)
October 3, 2006
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