A few months ago I became intrigued with the concept of obtaining aerial photography utilizing RC planes for GIS applications. After reading the RC forums and different websites I purchased an EasyStar RC plane. I bought the ready to fly (RTF) kit, a couple of Pentax cameras w/cracked LCDs (I was going to replace the cracked LCDs later), an IR switch to trigger the shutter and an alarm in case I lost radio contact with the plane. I also picked up a couple of RC simulators, FS One and FMS.
Flying the plane was a lot harder than it looked and I started to have issues with my plane. The motor would cut out after a few minutes. I received some help from the people at the local RC airfield and we ruled out a number of issues, the problem was with either the engine or the speed control. Unfortunately I had spent most of my money getting the initial equipment and did not have any spare spending money to buy the needed replacement parts. Not mention school quickly overcame what little free time I had for the hobby.
However, this semester I am taking “Remote Sensing for the Geospatial Intelligence Professional” and I am toying with getting back into the hobby. Chris Anderson’s “DIY Drones” site has a few posts on how to upgrade the EasyStarto become a viable remote sensing platform. I also recently found a program that allows Canon cameras to take unlimited timed-interval picture series with only one shutter activation. I do not have a Canon but that seems like a better solution than using an IR switch to get three picture bursts.
For only a couple hundred dollars I can do this . . . now to convince the wife that this is a school expense.
Today I was able to spend some more time exploring Geosquan’s panoramas. I mostly explored what he has already done, so that I could get a feel for what is capable with existing free solutions. I used Casa’s Photo Overlay Creator to see if I could get the 360 degree view that Geosquan has on his website and was successful. I also manually placed Geosquan’s pictures in Google, and used Sketchup to create some basic models to represent the houses on the beach.
The Photo Overlay Creator does not allow the user to change the orientation of the picture. So when I flew into both of the pictures they were shifted off the correct orientation. Also the field of vision is too big, as shown in the second picture. Since the software is not open source we will need to examine how adjusting the picture will effect the orientation and FOV.
By manually placing the photos in Google I was able to create content similar to Google’s HD content. Floating pictures that you can zoom into. They are not as immersive as Casa’s tool, but at least the orientation is correct.
The transitions from view to view still needs to be worked on. I was trying to use Sketchup to create models to act as a transition tool, I’m not sure how well it worked. I have not been using Google’s Sketchup for very long and I will have to continue playing with it to get the correct textures on the buildings. Maybe if the models look more like the building and not white and gray blocks it would engage the viewer more.
Place is all important, there are so many written documents about people, places and things that it is hard to get a handle on anything. Enter the GIS, that allows us to visualize what is happening around us into a spatial picture. If we want to learn about an area we can open Google Earth, Flickr, Panoramio or other mapping tool. Besides these public sites and tools most people and most organizations have a plethora of other images and experiences that are tied to locations. If these images and sounds are placed in an environment that allows the users to interact with them, a form of virtual reality is created. We can gain a situational awareness of an area without actually going to the location.
I have been playing around with how to leverage the power of place in regard to hundreds of pictures of different locales. Especially interesting is how can we create the “immersive hotdog” experience that is postulated on Greetings from Manasquan’s blog. More particular for me, how can I create this immersing experience with free / non server software, which can preferably be used without having to install it on the computer.
Panoramas have always been a fascinating to play with. In the past I have explored panoramas using AutoStitch, from Matthew Brown, University of British Columbia. Now I am looking at several pictures that were taken with a fisheye lens for use with the iPix software. However, I do not have a copy of the software but would still like to use the pictures.
AutoStitch does not have the capabilities to convert fisheye pictures to traditional rectangular pictures. I have been exploring several different options, however I have not yet figured out how to do this. During my research I came across a website which promises to defishify a picture, however the downloaded program is a .sit file. I believe this is the main compression type for Macs, I use Windows. The website does say that Windows 98 and NT are supported but I have had little success in finding a program that I can use to uncompress the files.
I have found, Panorama Tools, which seems like it can help. However I am still trying to understand how to use the software. Lately I have been playing around with hugin which is a manual panorama creator. It promises that it can take a fisheye picture and turn it into a rectangular picture. I can then stitch the pictures together. However my results have been less than spectacular. The software has issues with perspective, and I’m not sure the “immersive hotdog” experience is going to be possible using fisheye pictures.