NHK currently uses this system to give instructions to news helicopters, and it was used in the aftermath of the tsunami last year to guide helicopter pilots around areas left visually unidentifiable.
"With an NHK helicopter, data on the helicopter's altitude and position, and which way the camera is pointing, is sent to the broadcasting station with the aerial pictures. Using this data, it's possible to make digital maps with the same field of view, without looking at the aerial shots. Text can be cut from these digital maps and pasted onto the aerial pictures, making it possible to show that: "This building is in this place."
Because the processing uses only the helicopter and camera positioning data, without image analysis, this system isn't suitable for applications that require extremely high levels of precision, but it can continue to be used even if a district has changed.
"We announced this system last year at a broadcasting technology show, and a month later, the Tohoku earthquake occurred. Due to the tsunami, surface features changed quite a lot, buildings were swept away, and it was hard to recognize things from images. But using data from helicopters, it's possible to tell that "There used to be a station here," and "The railway was here." So NHK's coverage was based on that."
NHK is collaborating with a map company, enabling aerial pictures of everywhere in Japan to be used. The system can also show the positions of moving objects such as broadcasting vans, so it helps enable the rapid coverage of events.
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