Arrowhawk Imaging, based in Morgantown, West Virginia, specializes in aerial image data collection, primarily conducting medium to large projects in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast regions for both government and commercial customers.
The founders are affiliated with other aviation companies, such as a charter flight service and aircraft maintenance, so Arrowhawk benefits from access to additional resources and operational know-how from the employees of these related entities. Arrowhawk also partners with The Thrasher Group, a well-established architecture, engineering, and field service provider with expertise in image processing and value-added products.
Entering the market
In 2019, Arrowhawk recognized the growing demand and multiple uses for aerial imagery and wanted to enter the aerial imaging market as a service provider. They decided a large format sensor would be the most efficient for fulfilling medium to large projects, as drones are more often deployed for smaller sites. After garnering advice from partners and other experienced aviation professionals, Arrowhawk selected an UltraCam Eagle Mark 3 with a 100mm lens as its first airborne imaging system.
“From our perspective, purchasing the market’s most advanced large format sensor ensured our company a reliable revenue stream,” said Lance McKeever, director of finance & enterprise operations at Arrowhawk. “Vexcel’s technology offers us a competitive advantage because the Eagle Mark 3 has a very large footprint and fast frame rate, which leads to more efficient flying.”
Arrowhawk points to two key reasons for purchasing an UltraCam Eagle Mark 3. First, more efficient collection by flying higher while maintaining excellent ground resolution makes Arrowhawk an attractive partner on larger projects. At a higher elevation, the 450-Megapixel footprint collects more data in less time, shortening the hours needed for collection and optimizing flying windows. The Eagle is the only large format sensor capable of capturing 10 centimeter (cm) GSD at 5,000 meters (m) above the ground.
Second, the level of service Vexcel provides is far superior to any other company in the marketplace. “Given that we were contemplating making a significant investment in not only an aircraft, but also a sensor, we wanted to make sure someone would respond quickly if we needed help,” explained McKeever. “The stories we heard from other vendors across the country validated that Vexcel will do whatever it takes to keep our company operational with as little down time as possible. To us, being down means not being able to generate revenue, and we did not want to take that risk.”
Equipped with the Interface Panel Touch (IPT V3) of the camera and the Pilot Display of the flight management system (UltraNav).
In addition to the advanced sensor technology, the UltraNav software provides integrated flight management and geo-referencing to optimize UltraCam missions. “On days that wind or turbulence isn’t conducive to image collection, UltraNav is an advantage because of the leeway it allows the pilot and the ability of the IMU to address drift through the mount,” says McKeever. “We have flown quite a few missions that we thought might have to be re-flown; however, with the abilities of the camera and the software, the data collected was great and we didn’t have to incur added expenses.”
The Thrasher Group handles data processing for Arrowhawk using UltraMap, Vexcel’s photogrammetric post-processing software that rapidly generates quality data products from an UltraCam flight. The highly automated processing capabilities expedite the workflow, and UltraMap is scalable to meet short deadlines by processing data in parallel across thousands of cores. “We hope to gain a name for ourselves by partnering on large projects, since we know the sensor and software we have allow us to complete missions and deliver products in minimal time,” McKeever stated. “We are confident that we can do exactly what our clients want by providing quality service and exceptional imagery at a high level of efficiency.”