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The availability of current aerial imagery is important for many applications. `Current' may mean a few minutes for scenarios such as forest fire tracking, while few-hours might be acceptable for missing person searches over a region or intelligence gathering for military and law enforcement operations. Nevertheless, obtaining minutes to hours-old aerial imagery has typically been a capability out of the reach of the general population, especially those outside of the military branches.

In this project we develop a solution that provides high quality continuous (photo-mosaic) view from an aerial platform to RC hobbyists or projects with small budgets, using a Nokia N95 wireless phone, a personal computer and open source or free software.

We fly an airplane under pilot control from the ground while receiving position, heading and imagery from the phone within seconds from image capture. The results are assembled into a photo-mosaic and geographically linked using a Google Earth KML file. If internet is available on site, a visual overlay of the flight course is immediately viewable.

The idea of using a wireless phone inside an RC airplane to take pictures is not new. The company Pict'Earth: World On Live has a yet unreleased commercial proposal very similar to the one described here, with some very nice results, but the price range may keep it out of reach of the casual RC Hobbyist or typical restricted budget project.


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