Aerosonde Robotic Aircraft in Arctic and Solomon Islands


  1. Introduction
  2. Aerosonde in Arctic
  3. Communications

    See Also

  4. Aerosonde visit
  5. More technology
  6. About the Author


In 1999 I visited the Aerosonde office and wrote a short report about the aircraft, suggesting a camera could be attached for military peacekeeping operations. This happened in 2003 when the Australian Defence Force deployed four Aerosonde unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the Solomon Islands on Operation Anode:

... This is the first time the ADF will use pilotless aircraft in an operational environment. They will undertake aerial surveillance and reconnaissance missions, providing real-time information to the commander of the Coalition Task Force. ...

The aircraft will be commanded by 131 Surveillance and Target Acquisition (131 STA) Battery which has responsibility for developing Army's UAV procedures. The deployment will also include two scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), imagery specialists, military specialists and Aerosonde staff. ...

From " Pilotless aircraft deploy to Solomon Islands", Defence MEDIA RELEASE, 09/08/2003, CPA 228/03

More details are available from the Aerosonde web site.

Aerosonde in Arctic

Aerosonde had previously fitted both still and motion cameras to the aircraft, initially for scientific purposes, testing over the Arctic Ocean:

The aircraft was prepared for flight again, this time fitting the C3030 digital camera as well as the 555 video camera.

With both cameras fitted the real time video imagery can be used to queue high-resolution digital still images of a subject of interest.

From: "Mission Diary, Barrow", David Wright, Aerosonde 2003-08-13, URL:

The idea of using the lower resolution video to cue high resolution still images is an interesting approach. However, the use of two different cameras appears an expediency to save development time by using off-the-shelf equipment. One camera should be able to provide both low resolution video and high resolution still images.

Commercial high resolution still cameras, provide low quality video images for the small LCD on the back of the camera to preview a shot. This approach has the disadvantage that the operator has to select shots to take in real time. A better approach would be to have a succession of high resolution images, either from the still camera, or video, recorded continuously. These shots would be reduced in resolution for the available bandwidth of the like to provide low resolution video. The operator could then rewind back through the video and choose a previously recorded image to transmit in high resolution.

The "C3030 digital camera" mentioned appears to be an Olympus "C-3030 zoom":

3.34-megapixel CCD for true-to-life colors and 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution. Its all-glass f/2.8 3x zoom with continuous 2.5x digital zoom ... 15 different image-resolution capture modes--including five uncompressed TIFF modes and up to 191 seconds of QuickTime movie capture with sound. Built-in USB connection and serial connection allow users downloading flexibility. ... 32MB SDRAM buffer for rapid shooting at 3.3 frame-per-second burst mode up to 5 photos, and real-time shooting at 1 photo every second....

From: Olympus C3030 Digital Camera, Digital Camera Buyers Guide 2000-2003, URL:

This is confirmed by the NASA report indicating a Olympus C-3030 (also 0.8x lens at times:

Platform: Aerosonde
Temporal Resolution: 50 ms to 1 sec
Spatial Resolution: ~4 m
Direct Products: Atmospheric pressure, temperature, winds, relative humidity
Miscellaneous: Accuracies: ~0.1 hPa pressure, ~0.2 K temperature, and 2-5% RH // Infrared thermometer (pyrometer): Heitronix KT-11.85 at 9.6-11.5 mm atmospheric window and range -60 to 100 C // Camera: Olympus C-3030 (also 0.8x lens at times) // Pressure/Moisture: Vaisala RSS901 // Winds: GPS system //

From: "CAMEX-4 Instruments - Instrument Information -Aerosonde", The Fourth Convention and Moisture Experiment, NASA, undated, URL:

The "555" video camera mentioned may be the Sony XC-555:

Image Device 1/2 type IT CCD
Effective Picture Elements 768 (H) x 494 (V)
Minimum Illumination 3 lx. (F1.2, AGC ON)

Power Requirement 10.5 to 15 V DC
Power Consumption 2.4 W
Operating Temperature 0 to 40° C (32 to 104° F)
Shock Resistance 70 G
Dimensions 22 (H) x 22 (W) x 75 (D) mm / (7/8 x 7/8 x 3 inches)
Mass 60 g (2.1 oz)

From: XC555 COLOR CCD NTSC CAMERA, Sony, 2002, URL:


Communications with the Aerosonde are conducted via UHF radio and low Earth-orbiting satellite and data are relayed in real time to a ground commander. Within UHF line of site (ranges < 150 km), the Aerosonde operator is in constant communication with the UAV. Outside of UHF range, the Aerosonde operator switches the communication mode to satellite communications. The update rate for monitoring the UAV downlink and sending commands is a function of LEO satellite coverage and in practice can vary from minutes to an hour.

From: Application of Aerosondes for CAMEX-4, Judith Curry, University of Colorado, 2001, URL:

Copyright © Tom Worthington 1 March 2006.

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