Camera Integrations in UAV’s Flight Control Systems
One of the most important features of an unmanned aerial system is the ability to provide visual insights through cameras and sensors. In fact, UAVs are used in ISTAR missions because they are equipped with the necessary capabilities for surveillance.
Recording from an unmanned vehicle is a complex process because the images and clips need to be captured during the flight. So, the platform moves, vibrates, experiences different light changes, and therefore needs an advanced lens to capture quality images. The tools deployed to capture images cannot be fragile and therefore some specialized brands offer robust solutions, exclusively designed for this purpose. Such specialized products facilitate the UAV to capture high-quality images. For instance, over the past few years, the gimbal sector has evolved its image capturing technologies. It now deploys advanced techniques to capture high-quality compressed images and is easy to integrate into a UAS.
One of the core challenges that both camera gimbal and platform manufacturers face is the need for prompt stabilization of the camera. The camera must be facilitated by the gimbal to capture high-quality images for data acquisition. So, it is inevitable to rely on efficient dumping systems to compensate for the in-transit movements. UAV Navigation completely understands this problem and therefore offers different levels of camera integration with the autopilot. That enables our clients to use their camera optimally while deploying our flight control system. We classify camera integrations into three levels.
Level - 1
The autopilot transmits data about the flight dynamics such as speed, GNSS position, accelerations, etc… to the camera in order to facilitate stable operation. As mentioned earlier, some cameras include IMUs to estimate the altitude of the platform. However, the data acquired by the autopilot and its AHRS systems need to have advanced algorithms that facilitate precise stabilization. Also, using data procured from the autopilot helps reduce costs as it eliminates the need to use cameras with INS (Inertial Navigation Systems).
Level - 2
With this level of integration, the user is able to visualize the camera target coordinates which increases situational awareness for the operator.
Additionally, the user is able to use these coordinates as a reference for the navigation of the platform. This integration level therefore allows the platform automatically to follow coordinates provided by the camera (i.e. 'camera guided' mode). This capability can be particularly useful for following moving targets.
This level of integration can be achieved as long as the camera has a geo-pointing feature. It is important to note that the coordinates provided by the camera can be obtained either automatically (object tracking) or via manual input, so users should check the features provided by the camera.
Level - 3
In Level 3, complete integration of both systems (autopilot-camera) will be made. The GCS will provide the user with the option to control the camera’s focus by clicking on the map and that too without any additional applications.
Since its inception in 2004, UAV Navigation has established itself as an experienced and skilled service provider in the UAV sector. At UAV Navigation, we are fully aware of the needs of the UAS sector and the technological progress made by platform and gimbal manufacturers. In fact, we share a good relationship with most leading camera manufacturers and have collaborated with them to explore viable solutions.