Green light for the aerial camera
A vision, heavy involvement, at least one project course and a number of degree projects are the foundation for LEAD company Intuitive Aerial, which is developing an aerial camera called ‘Tripod in the Sky’.
Imagine a flying camera that can follow skiers over the moguls, the hero in an action film or even a rider and horse during trials. Close, graceful screen shots. The technology exists and works, and by the end of this summer the Tripod in the Sky will be released to the market.
The aerial photography work is the result of several degree projects at Linköping University and one from Umeå, as well as a project course and, naturally, it is the result of a vision and plenty of dedication to the task at hand.
The idea and vision have existed for several years originally when Jonas Lindqvist, was working on his degree project as a student in the civil engineering programme at Medieteknik. Now he’s a serial entrepreneur and business coach at the LEAD business incubator.
Lindqvist explains, “I’ve always been interested in both photography and radio-controlled helicopters, and I started looking at what was on the market, but I found nothing good so I decided to build one.”
He wanted something that was simple, with an intuitive interface, and right from the start he intended for it to become a commercial product.
“And I wanted the degree work to be fun.”
Lindqvist’s degree work laid the foundations; the next step was taken by Mårten Svanfeldt, who had been working as a programmer for several years when he started studying physics and electronics design at Linköping. The controlling electronics were developed in Mårten’s degree work, and it has continued on from there.
Svanfeldt and Lindqvist today form two thirds of the controlling triumvirate behind Intuitive Aerial, a LEAD company. The third man, Torkel Danielsson, was recruited as the CEO.
With experience from both ABB (power and automation technology company), developing unmanned aircraft at Saab, and with 12 patents of his own, he was tailor-made for the task.
The degree work keeps coming, one after the other. However Intuitive Aerial has also received help from project courses at Linköping University.
For one project, the students worked on manufacturing technology, choice of materials, what the attachments would look like, and so on.
“We got a lot of positive feedback from the students; they appreciated that it was a strong project and that we had regular project meetings.”
The company now employs one of the students in the project course, Andreas Engström, part-time.
Another part-timer was brought in through a degree project at the Umeå Institute of Design: Norrköping’s John Lindén, who developed the design for the interface. For anyone who’s flown a radio-controlled helicopter, they know that you have to switch the left and right orientation when it’s flying straight towards you, but he’s also found a solution to this problem.
“It’s cool to have a designer in the group, everything we do has to be really good,” Danielsson says.
This way it’s possible to introduce flight technology, visualisation, mechanical construction, artificial intelligence, goal tracking, and aerodynamics into the otherwise quite traditional film industry. They do not develop the actual camera technology; the cameras are purchased as needed.
“We see this as a technological advancement that makes aerial photography accessible and simple. User friendliness is important; no special training should be required. This should function as a replacement for tripods, booms, and helicopters,” Danielsson says.
“Our system won’t be the cheapest, but absolutely the best.”
Presently, Intuitive Aerial offer services, however, following the summer, the first systems will be available for purchase. Four students working on their degrees are fully occupied with different parts of its further development. Many are being sought, in areas such as electronics construction.
Due to security reasons, strict regulations exist for aerial vehicles. In the EU, the US, and the Swedish Transport Agency, work is under way to change the regulations. Swedish regulations have come farthest in the world. The agency issued a best practice regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft back in 2009. Commercial use is permitted if the vehicle weighs less than 7 kg (15.4 lbs), is kept in sight and does not exceed more than 120 metres.
The regulations, however, put a stop to most of the military technology used in unmanned flying vehicles; so-called drones, for example, may not be used commercially.
Local news video report on the aerial camera (in Swedish)
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Last updated: 2013-05-07