Custom Airborne Mapping

Led by geospatial innovator Roman Kathofer, Canadian-based Frontier Geomatics specializes in developing tailored airborne and mobile mapping solutions to meet some of today's most intensive, unique and challenging projects from tracking high voltage power lines to mapping wildfire hotspots.fig2

Kathofer says, “Every customer has a unique set of challenges and requirements. We don't provide turnkey solutions-we develop optimized, tailored hardware systems that mesh with existing equipment, expertise and processes. We try to make it all fit within the designated budget while meeting our customer's short and long-term mapping objectives.”

In the following, Kathofer provides insight into how he and his team match Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) plus Inertial Navigation System (INS) solutions with today's wide range of camera systems to achieve cost effective, highperforming navigation solutions.

Begin with Flexibility

Integrating LIDAR systems, film and digital cameras, GNSS receivers and Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) as well as flight management systems into a seamless mapping solution-within a reasonable budget-isn't something that can be bought off-the-shelf or pulled out of a box.

Most airborne mapping specialists have compiled their favorite cameras, sensors and flight systems from multiple manufacturers.

These experts look to Frontier Geomatics to integrate their existing and new hardware systems (or to recommend new hardware) with advanced accuracy/positioning technology to improve operational processes and/or data workflow. A key part of Frontier Geomatics customized solution fit is the modular SPAN® positioning and attitude measurement system, which includes a deeplycoupled GNSS receiver with an IMU.

The challenges associated with combining a GNSS+INS system with an aerial camera are many-and flexibility is imperative. Kathofer says, “Every installation is different; there is no cookie cutter solution. The wide performance range of NovAtel solutions allows me to focus on the best fit installation for just about any customer.”

Complementing GNSS with inertial measurements, provides more robust and more accurate positioning in challenging conditions where GNSS alone is limited, and offers continuous position and attitude output. The deep coupling of GNSS with inertial technology provides demonstrable benefits of faster satellite re-acquisition and faster re-initialization after outages, such as steep turns. Also, the ability to post-process GNSS and inertial data with NovAtel's Inertial Explorer® software provides additional tools for the user to improve upon the accuracy and integrity of the combined solution.

Every project requires installation and training and then front line field support. Factors to consider for every installation include the type of flight system, existing equipment, space available in the plane, the type of camera, and of course, cost.