AeroVision improves aerial camera

 - January 24, 2007, 3:54 AM

Toulouse, France-based aerial work specialist AeroVision is further developing its proprietary aerial cinematography system, which Airbus uses exclusively for in-flight images. The camera system is mounted on a modified Aerospatiale Corvette.

“We are working on an evolution of the optical part of the system,” founder and managing director Patrick Piallat told AIN. The idea is to enhance the system’s motion picture capabilities to better meet the needs of movie producers. The improvements rely on multiple layers. First, highly accurate navigation devices such as differential GPS allow an airplane to fly a given flightpath several times with great precision. Meanwhile, AeroVision is now able to record camera movements, which allows the system to superimpose several objects on the same image. The result is that all objects appear sharp on the final image, even though these objects are at various distances, which is beneficial to movie producers.

When Piallat created the company in 1994 it was using Nettman’s VectorVision system. Since 1997, AeroVision has used Imagin’Air, an automated camera system developed in house. Better stabilized systems exist but are not suited to jet speed, as they are mounted in a large external sphere. Imagin’Air requires only a small periscope.

The camera operator manipulates camera movement via two joysticks that control parameters such as roll, zoom and focus. The image is stabilized so that the camera follows its target even when the relative speed is 240 knots, Piallat said.

The external part of the camera system is usually installed under the Corvette’s center fuselage. It can also be fitted in the tailcone or in the wingtips. Its field of vision is 360 degrees, significantly more than the 38 degrees conventional equipment offers.

Many of AeroVision’s image-shooting flights are for Airbus publicity purposes. In fact, the company’s Corvette can be seen in some images of the first flight of the A380. More recently, AeroVision captured the formation flight of four A380s last summer. In November, the company was scheduled to study A380 wake turbulence in cruise for certification purposes.

The French company is also expanding its executive air charter business. “We are the exclusive supplier of internal VIP flights for Airbus,” Piallat told AIN.
For these missions, AeroVision operates another Corvette and a Cessna Citation II. Piallat said that soon the fleet will consist of two owned Citation IIs and one Dassault Falcon 50 under a management contract.