GEODATAPOINT CASE STUDY: A Sharper Image Integrating a Leica RCD30 medium format camera with an Applanix POSTrack GNSS/ IMU flight management system allows Tuck Mapping to produce high-quality elevations. By Kevin Corbley ness. The Big Stone Gap, Va., mapping firm was among the first to improve the accuracy of airborne LiDAR by installing the scanner in a helicopter for lower and slower opera-tions. Tuck Mapping also led the industry in co-mounting an aerial camera with a LiDAR in one helicopter for simultaneous capture of imagery and elevation data. T Established as an engineering firm in 1985, Tuck Mapping has grown to a full-service photogrammetric and mapping services company that hasn’t strayed far from its roots. Now with three helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft, the firm engi-neers many technical solutions to achieve the desired integration of multiple systems from different vendors. Its most recent success came with the integration of the Leica RCD30 and the Applanix POSTrack GNSS/IMU flight management system. As company president Bobby Tuck tells it, the integration was a necessity because uck Mapping Solutions enjoys a well-earned reputation as an innovator in the geospatial data collection busi-he already owned four POSTrack systems but knew he had to have the new medium-format RCD30 when Leica introduced it. “The RCD30 appealed to us because it was the first digital metric camera that could replace our film cameras; it has for-ward motion compensation (FMC), and it collects in four bands,” says Tuck. “The size is perfect for my helicopters.” In addition to large-area mapping proj-ects, Tuck Mapping performs numerous cor-ridor mapping projects each year and finds its helicopters offer better maneuverability in these applications than fixed-wing aircraft. Operated at lower altitudes, the helicopters are able to capture sharp images with the RCD30 thanks to the FMC technology. “The metric quality of the RCD30 is outstanding,” says Tuck. “We extract phenomenal elevations from the data we capture with this camera.” Introduced by Leica Geosystems as a digital follow-on to its RC30 film cameras– a favorite of Tuck Mapping–the RCD30 is a medium-format digital imaging system developed for a variety of photogram-18 DECEMBER 2013 : POINT OF BEGINNING [ WWW.POBONLINE.COM ] metric and remote sensing applications. The 60 MP single-camera-head delivers co-registered, multispectral imagery in the red, green, blue and near IR portions of the spectrum. The sleek modular design allows the camera to fit easily in aircraft previously outfitted with film cameras. While the Leica RCD30 is “plug-and-play” compatible with Leica GNSS/IMU and flight management systems, Tuck Mapping had already standardized on the Applanix POSTrack product. POSTrack is an integration of the Applanix POS AV direct georeferencing technology, utilizing GNSS and IMU components, with the XTRACK Flight Management System software from Track’Air. Several years earlier, Tuck had integrated a Riegl LiDAR with POSTrack. Although some operators buy sensor-control interfaces and navigation systems from different vendors, Bobby Tuck saw this as impractical for several reasons. First was the added expense of purchasing redundant components, and second was the poten-tial confusion that could arise from flight crews having to learn and operate multiple systems, sometimes in the same aircraft. And the most significant challenge for a helicopter was the lack of interior space for installation of additional hardware. “We wanted an integrated system that would enable our flight crews to oper-ate the Leica RCD30 and a third-party LiDAR sensor from the single flight man-agement interface,” says Tuck. Tuck approached contacts at Leica Geosystems and Applanix with the idea of modifying both the RCD30 camera and the POSTrack system to function together. In addition to serving as the mission naviga-tion system, the internal flight management software in POSTrack would have to trigger the camera at the appropriate time. And the GNSS/IMU components would have to store location and attitude data to georefer-ence the image data during post processing. Both companies agreed to provide technical support to the integration project. “Bobby Tuck has such a great track record of success integrating technologies [that] it just made sense for us to support him in this,” says Joe Hutton, Applanix director of inertial technology and airborne products.