Microsoft UltraCam Product Group

Case Study

Aerial Surveyor Captures Efficiency and Innovation with Digital Camera Upgrade

By Microsoft UltraCam Product Group and Keystone Aerial Surveys

Business Needs
Keystone Aerial Surveys has nearly a half-century of experience providing airborne image acquisition and image processing services. The company boasts one of the largest aircraft fleets in the United States that is dedicated to imagery collection and flight support.

Driven to continue to produce superior images for its customers and to stay ahead of the competition, Keystone wanted to ensure that its cameras were always leading edge and not approaching obsolescence. “There is a lot of competition from other companies,” says Ken Potter, Executive Vice President at Keystone Aerial Surveys. “We have to be state-of-the-art in order to offer our clients what they need.”

Based on a simple upgrade path, combined with the technical support offered by Microsoft, Keystone upgraded first to the UltraCamX in 2006 for its larger image footprint and increased storage capacity compared to the UltraCamD and recently to the new UltraCam Eagle. With 20,010 pixels across the flight strip, the UltraCam Eagle bests traditional “large-format” cameras to establish a new “ultra-large” industry standard for across-track PAN image footprint capacity. The UltraCam Eagle features a new housing concept with everything integrated into a modular sensor head, including the new UltraNav embedded flight management and direct georeferencing system developed in partnership with Applanix.

Additional enhancements include in-flight exchangeable, solid-state storage for high reliability and minimal ground time, and an exchangeable lens system with 80mm (standard) and 210mm (tele for high altitude flights). Though Keystone purchased its first UltraCam Eagle without the integrated UltraNav, the potential for reducing the overall system footprint in the aircraft certainly guarantees a future where Keystone options for the tight integration of the UltraNav.

Keystone can affix the cameras to gyro-stabilized mounts inside any aircraft in their fleet, which are equipped with an Applanix Inertial Measurement Unit and an airborne global positioning system. By using UltraCam systems, Keystone can collect black-and-white, RGB, and infrared imagery in one flight pass and can capture the widest PAN image footprint available in a digital aerial camera, resulting in fewer flight lines. In addition, UltraCam systems capture 14-bit data, giving Keystone the ability to fly in low light conditions and capture images in shadows.

Keystone also upgraded to the UltraMap workflow software system for optimal image management. By using UltraMap, Keystone can take photographs over several days and multiple flights and still generate corrected, balanced imagery. “UltraMap offers great capabilities, including better reporting and logging tools,” says David Day, Director of Information Technology at Keystone Aerial Surveys. “With those capabilities, along with radiometry enhancements, it was a quick decision to upgrade.”

Keystone’s digital path has continued in the direction of Microsoft because of the excellence with software and technology and the flexibility with system integration. Keystone’s first UltraCam was a relatively easy transition, being compatible with existing Flight Management and Inertial Systems. Microsoft continues to support integrating the UltraCam with the multitude of mount, FMS, and GNSS/IMU components on the market while developing relationships to provide a one-stop solution to companies that are new to digital.

Access to Ongoing Innovation
Keystone recognizes that to stay ahead of the competition, it must efficiently offer the highest quality aerial imagery. By using UltraCam, which features a clear upgrade path, the company has access to ongoing innovations. “Microsoft is constantly innovating UltraCam products, which makes us confident that we’ll have state-of-the-art cameras in the future,” says Ken Potter.

Efficient Imagery Collection
By using UltraCam, Keystone can photograph more area with fewer flight lines than with other cameras in its class. “You can’t buy weather or airspace, so you have to take advantage of both when you can,” explains Neil DiFranco, Senior Project Manager at Keystone Aerial Surveys. “UltraCam means less time in the air; more efficient, quality image capture; and, in the end, fewer costs.”

Increased Business Opportunities
Keystone can now take on projects that require digital images and, specifically, those that require large format, frame-based images. “More customers, especially government agencies, are coming out with programs that have specific image requirements, and the UltraCam is perfect for all of the jobs that require digital images,” says DiFranco. “Without UltraCam, you’re just not going to get that work.”

Reliable Support
Keystone underscores the importance of the support it receives, including a calibration lab in Colorado where it sends its cameras for calibration and repair. “The benefit of using UltraCam products is that you get the vision of Vexcel Imaging, and Microsoft continues that innovation but adds incredible support,” says DiFranco. “Microsoft listens to its customers—you can see it in their products, which continue to help make our job easier and our company more profitable.” 

Corporate Profile

The Microsoft UltraCam Product Group offers state-of-the-art photogrammetric products based on the latest and most advanced technological developments. Our flagship product—the UltraCam photogrammetric digital aerial mapping camera—was first introduced in 2004 to offer customers an alternative to traditional film aerial technology. Since the launch of the first UltraCam model—the UltraCamD—we have continued to enhance the product, resulting in the releases of the UltraCamX, UltraCamXp, the UltraCamXp Wide Angle, the UltraCampLp, and the recently released next-generation UltraCam, the UltraCam Eagle. In working towards a more complete photogrammetric system, we offer the UltraMap workflow software. UltraMap provides a complete and integrated photogrammetric workflow for UltraCam images, scales for small to large system needs, and features distributed image processing with automated load balancing.

The UltraCam Product Group has become a leading provider of photogrammetric digital aerial cameras, thanks in part to our technological innovations and commitment to quality customer support. Products are offered worldwide through sales teams located in Graz, Austria, and Boulder, Colorado, backed by a support team with calibration labs in both locations. We also partner with organizations across the globe to provide worldwide sales and support for our products.

Our strengths lie in our technical and community know-how combined with our ability to tap into Microsoft innovations, a unique value proposition within the remote-sensing industry. It is this technology integration, in part, that enables our team to consistently offer state-of-the-art products at price points accessible to smaller organizations.

Microsoft UltraCam Product Group
(Vexcel Imaging Gmbh)
Anzengrubergasse 8
8010 Graz Austria

+1 303 5461422

Contact: Jerry Skaw

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