Footage shot from helicopters is popular with law enforcement and TV stations but, so far, that feed has been directed to a ground station where it is viewed on a PC or re-broadcast to TV sets. A new mobile technology product called HT 4Sight promises to bring live, encrypted video feeds direct from air crews to smartphones on the ground.
â€œUsually aerial images are sent to a command center and then attached to a voice feed,â€ says Ron Magocsi, chief technical officer of Helinet, a company that got its start by offering aerial charter services. â€œBut now everyone has a cellphone and we wanted to find a way to distribute these images easily so you can get it wherever you are.â€
Helinet uses a gyro-stabilized high-definition camera system from Axsys that is mounted on a helicopter. A camera operator can either control the camera system directly or set some co-ordinates for the camera to lock on to.
Once the data stream is received on the ground it is decompressed and then down-converted from HD to standard definition video. The video is also cropped so viewers can see it on their phone without significant distortion. Ultimately, this video is streamed via the internet using the JPEG 2000 compression standard.
â€œFor viewers, what this means is that when they are accessing the video, they are accessing our server through the internet,â€ says Magocsi.
Viewers can use either cellular or Wi-Fi networks to view the video feeds. And they can monitor up to four live video feeds on a single device. They can even tilt, zoom and pan the camera to get different views, similar to what you would do with Google Earth.This kind of multi-casting also allows for hundreds of viewers to log in simultaneously to watch a feed.
Helinet is focusing on offering the technology to security officials so they can respond better to crisis situations because of their ability to access real time intelligence anywhere. But itâ€™s easy to see how the idea can work for sports broadcasts and other specialized events.
The technology is only available for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices at present.