Camera mounts for small-format aerial photography (SFAP) vary tremendously depending upon the type of platform, camera, and functional requirements for camera operation. The mount could be as simple as a hand-held camera pointing out the window of a small airplane or helicopter, or as complex as a multi-camera array operating autonomously. The basic methods for mounting SFAP cameras apply to many types of manned and unmanned platforms and can be modified to fit a broad spectrum of flying machines (see Chapter 8). SFAP camera mounting is an undertaking with a great deal of experimentation and innovation during the past decade, particularly for unmanned platforms.

In addition to the primary imaging camera, many mounts include secondary cameras and ancillary equipment and functions, such as an altimeter, GPS unit, video downlink, and data logger. Each extra device adds weight, power, reliability, and integration issues for effective operation of the overall mounting system, and these complications should be taken into account when considering camera mounts to achieve the desired photographic results. SFAP mounting systems may be separate, attachable rigs, suspended from or quick-connected with the platform in various manners, or may be rigidly fixed on the outside surface or within the body of the flying machine. The mounts described in this chapter have been developed by the authors and their collaborators mainly for various types of unmanned platforms—blimp, kite, drone—in which the camera is controlled from the ground via a radio link or is programmed to function automatically.

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