Technology to the Rescue - Drones and AR for Tornado Response

Technology to the Rescue - Drones and AR for Tornado Response

In the aftermath of a tornado, drones and AR emerge as important tools for emergency response.



David Geisler demonstrates SmartCam3D View to ERAU student K'Andrew Beckford-France.

SmartCam3D View Offers Industrial Strength Awesome

SmartCam3D View Offers Industrial Strength Awesome

SmartCam3D View now offering trial augmented reality subscription through June 31, 2017. Video and data recording now available.

Drones and Augmented Reality - Help when Disaster Strikes

Drones and Augmented Reality - Help when Disaster Strikes

Small drones enhanced with augmented reality will help save lives and speed recovery efforts when disaster strikes.

Find Me - New Feature for SmartCam3D View

Find Me - New Feature for SmartCam3D View

The Find Me feature in SmartCam3D View is a useful way for app users to share points via email.

Shared points will show in the correct location in video.

SmartCam3D View Now Available on the Apple App Store

Rapid Imaging Software, Inc. announced today that SmartCam3D View, an augmented reality (AR) app for small drones is available on the Apple App store. As an introductory offer SmartCam3D View is free for a limited time. The app uses augmented reality to blend place markers onto video.

SmartCam3D View is easy to use. Before a flight, the pilot adds points of interest to the map view with one touch.  The points may be named and shared via email. During flight, points show as AR overlays in the correct geographic location on the video. 

Augmented reality has recently gained fame and is in found in a variety of cell phone apps from games like Pokemon Go to apps for makeup application. Beyond the phone apps, flying with AR has real benefit for drone pilots, including:

1. Avoid becoming lost - Follow way points in the video and see an icon for home base. 

2. Find things -  AR points show the location of any item added to the map.

3. Visible no-fly zones- Add marks for hazards such as trees, power lines or other areas to avoid.

With SmartCam3D View the pilot can use the video view for most of the flight and maintain location awareness.  AR is a good safety feature it also makes the video more interesting by adding, location names or other information the video becomes more useful and entertaining.

Who needs AR on their drone?

Everyone. This technology is useful for everyone from hobby fliers to public safety officials.  Here are a few examples:

Hobby fliers- add points for flight boundaries, items in the view, trails and other notes.

Filmmakers- place points to show the location and camera direction for a scene.

Search and rescue teams – add a point for last known location of a missing person or add boundaries for a grid search.

Public safety – add points for a residence, command post location or hazardous materials

Growers – Points for field boundaries for crop areas require additional attention.

SmartCam3D View runs on iOS devices and is compatible with the following DJI platforms:  DJI Phantom 3, Phantom 4 and Inspire.





Four Must-Have Features for Aerial Moving Maps

Four Must-Have Features for Aerial Moving Maps

Learn more about the four must-have features for aerial moving maps for manned and unmanned systems.

Beyond the Smartphone - AR from Above

Beyond the Smartphone - AR from Above

Pokemon Go makes augmented reality a household term.  We take a look at augmented reality applications for other users.

Harris Geospatial adds SmartCam3D to Jagwire

Harris Geospatial Solutions now offers SmartCam3D augmented reality overlays.  

New Products At Xponential 2016

New Products At Xponential 2016

Rapid Imaging Software is featuring two new products at Xponential 2016. The products include the AR app for sUAS, SmartCam3D View.

Welcome to the Surveillance Imagery Ecosystem

Steve Jobs introduced us to the idea of an ecosystem.  He envisioned the computer acting as a digital hub for applications, music, movies, and all things digital.  It was a hub and spoke model with the computer at the center, surrounded by phones, music players, video players, and other devices all working happily together.  History shows it to be a very successful model, because it addressed the need for an integrated moving map or augmented reality system.

The same thing is about to happen in the world surveillance video.  Until now, users have been offered point solutions.  Buy a camera here, and buy a moving map there, and analysis software yet elsewhere.  Then you either hire an integrator, or else roll your own.  Sound like fun?  After market solutions often end up working like an afterthought.  The solution will be an ecosystem where parts are designed to work together.

At the heart is cloud based video storage, fed by surveillance assets like drones, aerial cameras on manned aircraft, and other cameras.  Video with geographic metadata, like STANAG 4609, is most valuable here, because it keeps time, geographic information and other valuable data right with the video file and stream.  Tools for planning and communication running primarily on mobile devices facilitate all of this.  Finally, video and metadata analysis is done on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Rapid Imaging Software's decades of experience working with data and video sources has put them at the leading edge of cloud based situational awareness for both real time and post collection analysis.  ISR, Search and Rescue, Emergency Management, Wildlife Management, and commercial drone operations will all benefit from this ecosystem.  It is our goal at Rapid Imaging Software to make that a reality.



Obstacles to Progress: SmarTopo Harvest and a Safe Zone for Drones

Rapid Imaging Software, Inc. is introducing SmarTopo Harvest on March 30, 2015.  This new technology is integrated into the SmarTopo Obstacle Management System.  SmarTopo delivers obstacle survey and detection technology plus powerful data management tools for a complete obstacle management system.  SmarTopo is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a level 1B.

SmarTopo Harvest is the latest obstacle detection technology from Rapid Imaging Software.  The software provides a fast and efficient method to detect undocumented obstacles and add new obstacles to a database. 

SmarTopo Harvest:

  • Searches for obstacles – the height for the search is set by the analyst
  • Detects objects or structures may be compared to the FAA obstacle database
  • Estimates height of the objects or structures
  • Creates new obstacle for a proprietary database      

The issue of undocumented obstacles is extensive.  A recent study conducted using SmarTopo Harvest indicates there are a substantial number of undocumented obstacles in the national airspace.  An analyst using SmarTopo Harvest identified 52 undocumented obstacles of 200 feet or more in a study area of six square miles around the Los Angeles International Airport.

Mike Abernathy, Direct of Development notes, "SmarTopo Harvest is the key for small commercial drones to operate safely in urban areas.  This technology allows companies to create and maintain an obstacle database for their drone operations."


Process Hundreds of Trail Cam Images an Hour with PhotoGoFer

Rapid Imaging Software announced PhotoGoFer for sale on March 11, 2015.  PhotoGoFer image management software was developed for wildlife biologists to efficiently process and add data to thousands of images from trail cameras. The software creates a database to organize data and offers many features for error-free image and data management. Users can add data to any size image set with a few mouse clicks.

Key features:

  • Add Geo tags for camera GPS location plus .Exif data such as date and time

  • Add data tags to one or more images such as: species, sex, predation, comments and more

  • Search for image and data with flexible database queries and image search options

  • Export data from a small or large search set, compatible with most statistic or GIS programs

  • Camera grid mapping with species kernel density display (US only)

  • Networked application allows only authenticated users to access data

PhotoGoFer has been in use by wildlife biologists in the United States and South Africa since 2012.  Mike Abernathy Director of Development notes, “We developed PhotoGoFer to help wildlife biologists to spend their time analyzing data instead of processing images in spreadsheets.  Several of our users report they are able to process over 300 images an hour.” 

SmartCam3D 7 Delivers Critical Tools for Unmanned ISR Ops

ALBUQUERQUE, NM February 9, 2015- Rapid Imaging Software, Inc. is releasing SmartCam3D version 7 on February 16, 2015. SmartCam3D 7 includes significant developments to improve the quality of intelligence collection and analysis for unmanned ISR missions.   Mike Abernathy, Director of Technology, notes, “We have added 16 million km of roads, airports, railways, water bodies, state/province and national borders, park boundaries, plus landmark icons.  The new map data fuses seamlessly with the video.  Sensor operators using this software know exactly where they are looking.”

SmartCam3D 7 offers must-have features for sensor operators and intelligence analysts:

  • 3D map overlays, landmarks and MIL-STD-2525 symbols
  • Moving Map with vehicle display and sensor footprint
  • Picture-in-Picture a synthetic 3D terrain wrapped around sensor video for an expanded field of view
  • Head’s Up Displays
  • Includes a Full Motion Video player or may be accessed via an API within another player for live or recorded video
  • May be deployed on ground control station, via remote video terminal or on a desktop        

SmartCam3D 7 enhances situational awareness, a critical factor in unmanned ISR operations.  A loss of situational awareness endangers mission results and may lead to damage of the unmanned vehicle.  

During a mission, the sensor operator may choose one or more of the following as  video overlays:  roads, landmark icons and MIL-STD-2525 symbols. These overlays insure that the operator is always oriented correctly in the view.

Points of interest may be marked during the mission. When a point is of interest for analysis, the location is marked with a flag including an operator note.

The Picture-in-Picture feature creates a synthetic 3D terrain that wraps around the video and expands the field of view.  When Picture in Picture is used with the moving map and Head’s Up Displays situational awareness is assured.

 Intelligence analysts reviewing recorded video are able to turn on and off all overlays and see the flags inserted by the operator.  The overlays add data critical for timely, accurate intelligence.

“A few years ago we demonstrated that SmartCam3D improves target acquisition, our new developments promise even greater impact on sensor operator performance,”   Mike Abernathy.

SmartCam3D 7 may be deployed with a Full Motion Video player or integrated into a video player via an Application Programming Interface (SmartCam3D-i).   This product is scalable and may be deployed on large or small UAS platforms.  For more information call 608-824-1131 ext 101 ask for Dave Geisler.

A First Look at the DJI Inspire 1

This is one of the first small drones that might be really interesting to the aerial camera community.  It is true that it has a limited range, and limited airtime.  But for under $3k it’s a powerful tool for certain applications.  We are interfacing our SmartCam3D software to it, so I got my hands on one and have begun flying it.  As a long time RC helicopter pilot, I found it easy to fly – after updating the firmware.  We had a lot of fun doing this first test.

There are a couple of out of the box things to be wary of.  First, we flew the aircraft with the firmware as it came from the factory.  The crash that followed on the first flight out of the box was not bad, but we recognized a stability issue, and we immediately updated the firmware and all subsequent flights were noticeably more stable.  I would recommend not flying the factory firmware.  Even after this update, the aircraft was not quite as stable as my Phantom Vision.  We flew several other flights – some approaching 15 minutes, and found it to be generally pleasant to fly.

One other factor is that the aircraft has retractable gear, and this gear changes the center of lift with respect to the center of mass.  In other words, from a physics perspective, the aircraft is less stable with the landing gear lowered, because the center of lift moves below the center of mass.  Yikes!  That means the autopilot has to work a lot harder with the gear down.  It also indicates that you should retract the gear for all filming since the stability will be better.

It has automatic gear extension sensors so if you forget to lower the gear, and get near the ground (say about a meter or so) the aircraft will do it for you.  We deliberately tried this, and it works well.  It also has a return to base mode.  We tried this and it appears to first ascend to about 100 or more feet before returning to the launch point and descending.  We started to test this facility three times but were not completely comfortable with automatic landings with lots of trees and cactus around us, but it has a lot of promise.

The video capabilities are very impressive - this drone has a 4k camera stabilized in 3 axes producing 30 frames per second.  It comes with a 16GB SD card, which is good given how big these 4k video files become.  The video looks beautiful to my eye, and has some definite cinematic potential.  My colleague, Matthew Murray, who has a great videographers eye, noticed some “jello roll” in some of the video.  We expect carefully balancing of the props on the aircraft can cure this.

Some oddities.  The aircraft has 3 modes gear down, gear up (flight mode), and travel mode.  To get the aircraft into travel mode you have set it on a hard smooth floor with gear down, and then put it into travel mode using the DJI Pilot App.  The instructions are short, and also somewhat incomplete.  Another oddity is that DJI cannot seem to decide if there is or is not an Apple version of the Pilot App.  Hopefully they will get this figured out shortly.

One last thought.  This thing is very heavy and would be instantly dangerous if either control or thrust is lost.  That shouldn’t happen given the built-in safeguards and prudent piloting, but don’t bet your life, or anyone’s life, on that.  Think safety when you plan your flights.  It may be helpful to imagine that every person in the vicinity of the aircraft is an accident tort lawyer.

In upcoming articles, we will look at some applications for this new class of drone, as well as practical considerations in trying to use them effectively in mission critical applications.