Aerial View Systems has been in business in Newport Beach, Calif., for 25 years developing increasingly sophisticated external cameras for business jets. The cameras not only provide passengers stunning scenes of the outside world on entertainment system monitors, but also enable pilots to view problems with flaps, landing gear, APUs and so forth, as well as to see taxiing aircraft that might not be viewable from the cockpit.
The company’s glareshield-mounted cameras also remain popular because they allow passengers to see the view pilots have through the windshield. Aerial View president Joe Brunner noted that the firm pioneered the zoomable tail camera.
Until recently, Aerial View’s primary product has been the two-part camera head and control unit, with cables connecting the head to the power supply and break-out box. The latest version delivers 470 lines of resolution and weighs about 4.25 pounds.
But technology marches on and customers now want digital cameras for their airplanes, so Aerial View has responded by developing high-definition digital cameras. Thanks to compact electronics, the new digital cameras deliver higher resolution (800 lines) and are much more compact, with no external break-out box and therefore no racks or trays. The only connections needed are a BNC cable and power supply. The hi-def camera system weighs about one third the total system weight of the standard-resolution camera.
The hi-def camera will be available for all of the mounting schemes, including the glareshield, belly and tail. In the glareshield cameras, microelectronic systems technology is used to adjust the camera angle automatically to keep the runway in the center of the view during taxi, takeoff and landing. Installation centers use a programming unit to set up the camera during installation to make sure the view remains correct.
Aerial View’s tail cameras remain the most popular of its products, according to Brunner, who said the company has engineered more than 25 different tail cap shapes for various aircraft models. Aerial View will also do custom work and has designed tail cams for Cessna Caravans and the de Havilland Otter. Many aircraft manufacturers offer the cameras as factory-installed options, said Brunner. “We’re on more types than anyone else,” he added.
At its NBAA booth (No. 7629), Aerial View is demonstrating the new hi-def camera mounted in a Bombardier Challenger tail cap. It has a 10X optical zoom and automatically shifts to black-and-white in low-light conditions. The zoom could be increased to 25X, Brunner said, but at high zoom levels, the view gets too shaky and it’s not worth going out that far. And in any case, to preserve the 85-degree horizontal field of view on the tail camera, he said, “we had to give up some zoom.”
For airplanes that don’t yet have hi-def monitors, the digital cameras can still be installed and set to deliver standard-definition NTSC or S-video output, then be reconfigured later to hi-def when new monitors are installed.
The camera itself is mounted in a pressurized nitrogen enclosure with a two-millimeter-thick heated sapphire lens coated with indium tin oxide, which conducts electrostatic charges away from the lens. The lens has to be heated to prevent ice buildup when flying through visible moisture at low temperatures.
The current standard-definition tail camera sells for $13,700 with all equipment, cables and racks. The new hi-def tail camera costs $16,500.
According to Brunner, the glareshield camera system will be the first hi-def camera available from Aerial View Systems.