« Previously: Developing a high-res geospatial imagery platform  

The Generation I platform addresses application requirements ranging from 6cm/pixel down to sub-1cm/pixel resolution, operating at speeds up to 160 knots and altitudes up to 12,000 feet on light aircraft. The system can collect more than 15TB of imagery in a single day.

201705_EETA_IconTechnologies_Spookfish_NISponsore_Figure3_cr Figure 3: A low resolution print reproduction of a digital image acquired at 6cm/pixel. (Download a slightly larger—reduced to 3.6MB—image here.)  

201705_EETA_IconTechnologies_Spookfish_NISponsore_Figure4_cr Figure 4: Print reproduction of an excerpt from a digital image acquired at 1.5 cm/pixel. Download a slightly larger (reduced to 2.7MB) image here.  

Generation II is targeted at achieving similar resolutions to Generation I, but acquired at higher altitude and ground speed to greatly increase productivity. This will require ongoing improvements to the precision and control tolerances of the Camera Control System.

Spookfish’s product development journey to this point has been supported by the NI PXI Express platform’s flexibility and wide range of expansion modules, allowing the system to evolve far beyond its originally envisioned performance specification as new requirements arose during development. For example, at the start of the development programme there was no expectation of needing multi-axis accelerometer data, but when the requirement arose, it was a straight-forward change to add the PXIe-4464 Accelerometer Module and extend the LabVIEW based Camera Control System to utilise the new data source.

Similarly, initial expectations were that all data would only need to be logged with millisecond accuracy, however as the project evolved ICON Technologies and NI were able to deliver three orders of magnitude improvement in timing accuracy and precision.

Enabling new application spaces

The Spookfish Airborne Imaging Platform delivers on-demand, wide-area, high-resolution geospatial imagery at a price point that has not been previously possible. It will expand the reach of existing applications for this type of data, and open up opportunities to create whole new applications that have not previously been considered viable.

National Instruments’ PXI Express and FlexRIO technologies were fundamental to realising the Spookfish Airborne Imaging Platform. The flexibility of the NI platform was critically important during the development phase as the system specification evolved. In particular, the platform was able to accommodate a three-orders-of-magnitude increase in the timing precision requirements from the project inception with relatively minor changes to the system hardware and incremental evolution of the application software.

The ability to implement all stages of the product development lifecycle, from conceptual prototype to airborne testbed and final deployment as a commercial product on a single platform was also an important factor to bringing the product successfully to market in the face of an extremely challenging development schedule.

(Best Paper in Industrial Machinery & Control at the 2016 NI Engineering Impact Awards ASEAN/ANZ Regional Content. Finalist paper at the 2017 NI Engineering Impact Awards Content.)

This article was sponsored by National instruments. The paper was selected from a pool and edited for publication by the editors.