Sunday, August 3, 2014

Quantum Acquisition Flight

On Sunday I finally, after 6 years, got to go up for an acquisition flight in one of our company's Cessna Caravan's with our UltraCam Eagle camera.  We were acquiring 3 inch resolution imagery for the entire Portland Metro area and I will be the project lead for the data when it is all acquired.  That, and the fact that it is now the city we live in and our house will be imaged with both LiDAR and hi-res photos, made this flight even more special.

I arrived at the Troutdale airport at 10am and met up with Ben and our pilot Zach.  Shortly after a new trainee showed up as well.  She would ride in back with Ben and learn how to operate our Ultracam software to run the camera and collect GPS location data while I would co-pilot up front.  The weather was beautiful, although a bit hazy from all the fires that had begun to spring up in central Oregon over the dry summer.  Thankfully, we were flying so low for the 3 inch imagery that the haze didn't really affect us enough to cancel the flight.  

I took my DSLR up with us and took a bunch of shots with the long lens of interesting features such as downtown, the Camas GP Mill for Emily and all the bridges but mostly I just helped our pilot look out for other air traffic.  I was surprised that with all the technology we have today we still need to constantly keep an eye out for other planes.  Thankfully, our caravan has an early proximity warning system that sounds in our headsets when planes get close... and this actually happened to us about 4-5 times as we were flying in and out of the Portland International Airport airspace!  

At one point I mentioned to the pilot I thought a jetliner was pretty close... and to my surprise he also looked surprised!  Whoops!  At the end of the flight he did thank me for all my help in spotting planes for him.  Later this became really real for me as a close friend lost her boyfriend of many years due to a mid air plane collision... 

We completely spent a full tank of fuel over about 5 hours of flight time and nearly 3,000 frames of photos!  The operators kept asking me advice on settings and I thought it was great that I, as the image processor, could give them some feedback on what works best for us.  I think it will be super cool when I start processing the data to know that I was actually up in the plane to help collect it as well.  

Unfortunately, they had already acquired our new neighborhood the day before we went up.  And later in the week the entire office went up to the roof to get images of us all with a flyby by the same crew.  We got some great shots of us all goofing off on the roof and a really good one of me pretending to kick Brian Kidd (the Unipiper) off the roof!  ha!  It will be fun when I finally get some time to process all the imagery at work!  It will be a huge project of over 30 terabytes with 20,000+ frames!

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