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A 1Gpixel Camera to Open the Markets of Aerial Data Acquisition

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Aerial BCP (A 1Gpixel Camera to Open the Markets of Aerial Data Acquisition)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

The Aerial BCP project aims at developping a camera for photogrammetry and aerial survey, with the highest resolution (720Mpixels during the project, and 1Gpixel by 2021).Other large format cameras are limited to 250Mpixels and their design, due to optics and mechanical constraints, and cannot allow a better resolution. A resolution above 720Mpixel will open up the market of photogrammetry and aerial survey, since flight time is reduced by 2 and data acquisition costs is cut by 4. Planes flying over cities for photos before building construction will not need anymore any autorisation, delaying missions by several months sometimes. Images for Google maps, construction sites and other needs will be more frequent, refreshed more frequently. Flights over large areas will be facilitated for mapping and surveillance.

The project aims at developing the camera, test, characterisation and production means for Resolve Optics to supply specifically designed 185mm lenses, and IMAO the camera itself (electronics, body, sensors). The combination of Resolve Optics and IMAO's expertises is necessary to maximise the coherence between lenses and sensors, as it is the key of the design of our camera.

The project will therefore result in two B72 cameras (720Mpixels), fully functionnal, which will be tested on field. Photos and data acquisition will be promoted worldwide. Besides, Resove will acquire the capacitiy to deliver over 40 lenses a year, and IMAO will be able to manufacture 10 cameras a year at least in specifically designed premises (clean room, automatic characterisation means…). IMAO will therefore be able to produce 1Gpixel cameras, through suitable sensors.
In the first period, the work allowed to develop test and characterisation means for Resolve and for IMAO, notably related to distortion analysis and collimation. Resolve Optics was able to manufacture a set of 4 lenses, and another set of 4 ones can be made readily. Lenses and sensors are thus fully characterised, which is necessary to industrialise production (WP1). In WP2, we were able to analyse requirements for the flight management system to define the two suitable systems after tests. Integration of the two systems is done. IMAO was able to begin the construction of the pilot cameras (B72s), however a situation of force majeure pushed us to delay the construction of the pilot cameras as well as the industrialisation work.

In the second period, Imao was able to assemble the first B72 and perform ground tests and alpha tests which notably demanded a complete calibration software review. Test flights were performed in May 2020 to prove the relevance of the B72. The second one is not yet assembled yet and is expected for fall 2020, all of the design is over for B72s to be produced starting in 2021. IMAO has performed all of the preparatory steps to set up production premises in order to build several cameras a year. Resolve Optics has been able to improve its production capacities to deliver 30 to 40 high quality lenses a year to IMAO, but also for other markets.

IMAO created a subsidiary specialised in the camera production and sales, Highsee. The participation to fairs during the project allowed to collect several marks of interests from potential buyers all around the world (9 marks of interest in 2019 for instance). Results are published in the form of commercial booklets, in the dedicated website, and through fairs. White papers and newsletter will be published now that our patents' extensions have been accepted in Canada, Japan, Europe.
During the first period, the capacity to fully characterise the lenses and sensors was a key step to go towards the manufacture of 10 cameras a year and 40 185mm lenses. These objects are indeed specifically designed and require careful expertises and attention. A full characterisation is necessary to accelerate testing procédures during manufacturing. The manufacture of the pilot cameras was delayed, however we were able to begin the development of the electronics and internal storage system and the mechanic architecture is completed, which makes us confident in our ability to come up with a 720Mpixels camera (3 times more than the best comeptitive camera), and a 1Gpixel camera after the end of the project.

During the second period, we have been able to assemble the camera with the highest resolution in the world, composed of three lenses, several sensors. We have developed specific image treatment algorithms to calibrate images and improve the resolution. The internal data storage system has been reduced from 30 to 3kg, which makes it able to be internalised within the head of the camera. The B72 has been tested in test flights and has shown to be a success.