The companion computer is a fully integrated solution for streamlining the mapping and geotagging process on the E384 and E386. It allows users to completely bypass the normal geotagging post-processing step. This relieves a burden on operators running frequent missions, and improves the geotag accuracy of those missions at the same time. That can lead to faster and more accurate orthomosaic stitching, too.
Here’s how it works. The Companion Computer connects directly to both your Sony QX1 camera and the Pixhawk autopilot. When you power on the aircraft, the camera automatically powers up and connects to the Companion Computer. When ready, it displays a green LED.
In flight, the Companion Computer verifies directly with the camera that each picture was taken as expected. As each picture is taken, the Companion Computer transfers the image from the QX1 in real time to its own, easily accessible thumb drive. As each picture is saved, its geotags are added directly into its EXIF data as part of the same file and also written to a text log. The images with EXIF data can be imported directly into almost any post-processing software without further handling, but the logs are always there for reference.
If the camera is taking images too quickly for each one to be transferred in real time, Companion Computer will attempt to catch up when the camera is less busy. For large, low altitude missions especially, images may still be processing after the aircraft lands. In this case, the solid red LED will let you know to wait until the process is complete before powering down the aircraft or removing the thumb drive.
When you leave the field, just pull out the thumb drive from the Companion Computer and bring it back to the office to upload or process your imagery. It’s as simple as that!