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Development and Deployment of an Intelligent Kite Aerial Photography Platform (iKAPP) for Site Surveying and Image Acquisition

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Direct correspondence to: J. C. Murray, e-mail: john@jcmurray.com.

Abstract

Aerial photographs and images are used by a variety of industries, including farming, landscaping, surveying, and agriculture, as well as academic researchers including archaeologists and geologists. Aerial imagery can provide a valuable resource for analyzing sites of interest and gaining information about the structure, layout, and composition of large areas of land that would be unavailable otherwise. Current methods of acquiring aerial images rely on techniques such as satellite imagery, manned aircraft, or more recently unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and micro-UAV technologies. These solutions, while accurate and reliable, have several drawbacks. Using satellite imagery or UAVs can prove to be very expensive, costing tens of thousands for images. They can also prove to be time-consuming and in some cases have constraints on use, such as no-fly zones. In this paper, we present an alternative low-cost, versatile solution to these methods, an intelligent kite aerial photography platform (iKAPP), for the purpose of acquiring aerial images and monitoring sites of interest. We show how this system provides flexibility in application, and we detail the system's design, mechanical operation, and initial flight experiments for a low-cost, lightweight, intelligent platform capable of acquiring high-resolution images. Finally, we demonstrate the system by acquiring images of a local site, showing how the system functions and the quality of images it can capture. The application of the system and its capabilities in terms of capture rates, image quality, and limitations are also presented. The system offers several improvements over traditional KAP systems, including onboard “intelligent” processing and communications. The intelligent aspect of this system stems from the use of self-image stabilization of the camera, the advantage being that one is able to configure the system to capture large areas of a site automatically, and one can see the site acquisition in real time, all of which are not possible with previous methods of AP. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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