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Methods - Aircraft

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Methods of Aerial Photography - Aircraft

FIXED-WING AIRCRAFT

Small, fixed-wing aircraft, such as a Cessna, are probably the most common method of taking standard aerial photographs. There are many types of aircraft used, depending on the height requirement, nature of the work and many other factors.

At one end of the spectrum, aerial photographers strapped in a safety harness, hang out of a small light aircraft (with the door removed) at about 1,000 feet using a hand-held camera with a suitable lens pointing earthwards. In addition to a skilled photographer, it is essential to use a pilot with experience in flying photographic missions. Without the ability of the pilot to bank hard and fly tight circles over the target area, the photographer is unlikey to achieve the shots with the best perspectives. At the other end of the spectrum, larger, highly adapted aircraft are used, with port holes and/or pods to accept specially designed, ultra-high resolution cameras, eg for survey and mapping work.

ADVANTAGES: For most routine photography work, small aircraft photography is fairly easily arranged, cost-effective and available at relatively short notice throughout the country. With modern professional digital cameras, different types of photographs can be taken to provide a good choice of shots. When very high resolution imagery is required of large areas of terrain, fixed-wing aircraft can take serial shots along an accurate grid pattern (using GPS), which can later be digitally stitched together to form a single large image (mosaic).

DISADVANTAGES: All aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary) cannot legally fly below (and above) specified heights, particularly in certain locations, unless taking off and landing. All airspace is regulated and there are strict rules as to how low and high an aircraft can fly in specified areas, especially restricted airspace. Therefore, if a particular photograph is needed at a certain height outside these set limits (particularly the lower limits), another method of taking the photographs is required. Also, when a number of photographs are required from the same position and height to form a 360 degree panoramic view, then a fixed-wing aircraft is not a suitable method.

HEIGHT RANGE: 750 - 6,000 feet, depending on the location and requirement. In restricted airspace, including over urban areas, there is often a minimum height of 750 feet and also a maximum height. In certain congested areas, twin-engine aircraft are needed for safety reasons.

Aircraft Height


HELICOPTERS (ROTARY-WING AIRCRAFT)

ADVANTAGES: As with fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are also suitable for basic photography work, as well as complex stills or video shoots. They are fairly easily arranged, quite cost-effective and available at relatively short notice throughout the country. With modern professional digital cameras, different types of photographs can be taken, to provide a good choice of shots, and can hover for short periods to take a series of shots from the same, or very similar, position.

DISADVANTAGES: Like fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters cannot legally fly below and above specified heights, unless taking off and landing. All airspace is regulated and there are strict rules as to how low and high an aircraft can fly in specified areas, especially restricted airspace. Therefore, if a particular photograph is needed at a certain height outside these set limits, another method of taking the shot is required. When a number of photographs are required from the same position and height to form a 360 degree panoramic view (by digitally stitching the shots together afterwards), whilst a helicopter can possible achieve this in certain circumstances, they may not always be the best possible option.


HEIGHT RANGE: 750 feet - several thousand feet, depending on the location and requirement. In restricted airspace, including over urban areas, there is often a minimum height of 750 feet and also a maximum height. In certain areas, twin-engine helicopters are needed for safety reasons and may be restricted to certain pre-defined routes across an urban area.

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