CEO, Vexcel Imaging
on the present and future
trends in photogrammetry
Could you highlight the strengths of Vexcel Imaging large
and medium format camera’s for our readers.
The strength of Vexcel is outstanding market knowledge,
unparalleled technical experience and the attitude for innovation,
all combined to maximize the customer benefi t of our products.
Vexcel entered the market of digital large format aerial cameras
in 2004, about three years later than the competition with a new
concept, the UltraCam. Since then we have increased our market
share constantly and became the market leader quickly - we
have sold more than 125 UltraCams and additionally quite some
camera upgrades. Obviously the market has decided for frame
cameras and has made the UltraCam the most successful large
format camera series.
The UltraCamXp combines an excellent parallax free image, a pansharpen
ratio of 1:3 with the industry leading collection capacity of
17,310 pixels across the strip. Due to the fast frame rate and the
innovative storage system, large scale mapping can be performed
at reasonable fl ight speed without any mission duration restrictions
due to the camera system. The UltraCamXp reduces the number
of flight lines, saves time, and lowers costs, without sacrifi cing any
In 2009, we transformed this winning concept into the medium
format market with the UltraCamLp; another excellent example of
our strive to maximize customer benefi t. This camera comes in
a medium format pricing package and delivers the same image
quality such as geometric accuracy, radiometric dynamic and matching, and stereo capability as the UltraCamXp. This means,
smaller companies which still operate analogue cameras have the
possibility to go digital. The UltraCamLp utilizes a 92 Megapixel
PAN channel for mapping and in addition RGB and NIR with a pansharpen
ration of 1:2, all motion blur free due to FMC by TDI. This
whole concept is new and unique in the medium format market.
This autumn, we will announce the UltraCamXp w/a (wide angle),
which is offered in parallel to the UltraCamXp. With a new wide
angle lens system, it delivers the same GSD at lower flight altitudes
providing small-scale mapping capabilities for customers with
lower-fl ying airplanes.
How is UltraMap different from other Photogrammetric
UltraMap is another excellent example of how Vexcel customers
benefi t from the acquisition of Vexcel by Microsoft in 2006. UltraMap
introduces a completely new philosophy of image handling that
results in a very high level of automatization and a market leading
image processing effi ciency. The graphical user interface has been
designed by following the huge Microsoft internal experience.
The distributed processing utilizes the latest Microsoft technology
and the integrated workfl ow is based on more than a decade of
experience in photogrammetry.
All this was combined for only one reason: to set a new standard
in image processing and to enable our camera customer to deliver
the highest possible quality in the shortest possible time. A new
stitching methodology which we will implement with UltraMap
version 2.0 improves the “one micron sigma naught accuracy” by
factor of fi ve. UltraMap is fully workfl ow oriented and designed
to process, handle and display projects with several thousand
images. It also fully and seamlessly supports projects which have
been flown with different UltraCam cameras.
“Vexcel Imaging Aerial Mapping products give amazing
results for less.” How do you manage this balance between
quality and price?
Thank you very much for this very important question. The
leading design goal at Vexcel is quality. We are proud that we
understand very well how to develop industry leading high-end
products and still be able to offer them for a reasonable market
price. We achieve this by a balanced combination of proprietary
high-end technology with standard components and the unique
approach to how we look into technology and innovation. We consider Vexcel as an innovation leader in the industry and
constantly undertake signifi cant investments into proprietary
key components such as CCD technology, electronics, shutter
and lens development. We also constantly monitor technology
trends. Once a new development or a new technology has
reached a stage where the customer would benefi t from it,
we integrate it into our product. By that, a Vexcel customer
always benefi ts from the best technology for his business. To
protect the investment of existing customers, we always offer
an upgrade path which is highly appreciated and frequently
used by our wide customer base.
Could you highlight some application areas where Vexcel
Aerial Mapping products have an advantage over other
Vexcel products are serious tools for serious mapping. The
combination of excellent image quality with unparalleled
efficiency makes an UltraCam the tool for all mapping projects.
In each market segment, Vexcel sets the standard - in the large
format market: the UltraCamXp sets the standard with 17,310
pixels across and the pan-sharpen ration of 1:3 is best in class
for the frame cameras in this segment making the UltraCam
also the tool for classification projects. In the medium format
market: 92 Megapixel PAN plus RGB plus NIR, integrated in
one UltraCamLp camera head are unparalleled in this market
Generally, the current Vexcel cameras are designed for large
scale applications, driving the trend of the industry towards
higher resolution. With the UltraCamXp w/a, we now announce
an additional camera which adds small scale mapping capability
to those customers with low-altitude planes.
With the proliferation of geospatial products from a variety
of sources, how do you see the Aerial Mapping products
making an impact in the coming years?
Aerial mapping products have played a dominant role since years
and the importance will continue to grow. Aerial images support
the trend towards higher resolution and can be collected quickly,
flexible and with a high effi ciency, compared to the resolution and
content one gets. Due to camera capabilities and new software
systems such as UltraMap, projects with ten thousands of images
will become a commodity. Data processing of large projects will
take some days only. All this will leverage the usage of aerial
images over other geospatial products.
You have seen this industry grow in the last decade do you
think the technological advances in the products have fully
been utilized by the user community?
My answer depends on which part of the value chain one focuses
on. Digital cameras and the related processing software provide
a lot of benefi t for the user and the transition from analogue to
digital continues. We have customers fl ying 95% to 100% of their
business in the digital world. I am sure that all UltraCam users have
fully utilized the technology advances for their business. However,
I strongly believe that further down the value chain the users of
the images have only explored a fraction of the applications which
could benefi t from aerial imagery. There is still a lot of potential out
and yet undiscovered for the usage of aerial images.
Aerial Mapping products have been used extensively
in some parts of the world, but not so in others – which
upcoming markets do you think have a good potential in the
We believe in a general growth of photogrammetry in all
markets but with different speed and potential. In Europe digital
photogrammetry is already established very well. We see signifi cant
growth potential in the USA, especially for the UltraCamLp,
allowing the smaller companies to go digital. The same potential
we see in Latin America. Asia is still quite underdeveloped and
we are currently investing into sales and support structures there.
We announced our new regional sales representative, Imagemaps
based in Singapore, just recently.
What is your opinion about global sensor market, LIDAR and
photogrammetry? What according to you are key points to
enhance its growth?
We see the global sensor market growing in the coming years and
photogrammetry will continue to gain market share constantly.
When Lidar became available, some said that photogrammetry will
be replaced by Lidar. This did not happen; the opposite happened.
What we currently see is the re-launch of photogrammetry, the
digital multi-ray photogrammetry. Huge mapping projects such as
Microsoft Bing maps (former Virtual Earth) have chosen digital multiray
photogrammetry as the underlying production methodology
because of the outstanding ratio between collection efficiency,
achievable accuracy and processing automatization, and capability
of DSM and DTM generation as well as classifi cation results.
To drive this re-launch of photogrammetry ahead, we continue to
invest into new camera hardware but especially we see a huge
potential in the further development of the processing software.
Looking into the research we are currently undertaking at Microsoft
Vexcel, I can promise that we have just scratched the surface of
what photogrammetry will do for all of us in the future.