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Product Name: Macaw (MCAW)

Tetracam's Multiple Camera Array Wireless System


The Tetracam MCA camera series has been popular for researchers for many years. The combination of lightweight, replaceable filters, in addition to ruggedness have led to its being the most widely cited instrument in multi-spectral vegetation studies. Over the years, Tetracam has introduced upgrades to the MCA electronics to keep performance competitive and provide new capabilities.

Accordingly, we are proud to introduce the latest variant of the MCA series: the Macaw (MCAW: Multiple Camera Array Wireless). The Macaw upgrades the MCA electronics to a full-featured Linux computer system, with open source architecture, and a SATA solid state drive (SSD) for computation intensive missions. While images are being taken, the Macaw can align image planes and extract vegetation indices, such as NDVI. It can do this at approximately the rate that the images are acquired, thanks to its 2 GHz quad-core ARM CPU.

The Macaw comes equipped with two interfaces: A serial port Linux console interface that provides a hardwired control interface, and a wireless LAN interface that provides services for a variety of clients used by developers: http, ssh, and ftp.

The Macaw comes with development tools (Eclipse) already installed, and the source code for the camera application resides is in a development directory. A nearby PC, smartphone, or tablet can easily interface with the camera through the camera’s wi-fi hot spot. Using Xming and PuTTY clients with a PC presents a GUI for the camera.

In the field, the Macaw can be controlled from a tablet or smartphone via any commercial web browser. A control tablet computer is included with the product. Using the browser interface, images can be viewed and downloaded, and help documentation can be easily accessed. For fast data transfers, the SATA SSD is configured with an external USB3 controller interface that transfers the disk to desktop PC or laptop for USB3 transfer speed. The browser interface can also be used to show a live video feed from any selected camera in the array. An external ILS module with a 1 meter cable is included with new Macaw purchases for increased accuracy of pictures taken.

Like the Micro-MCA Snap, the Macaw comes with cameras equipped with lightning-quick global snap sensors, specifically designed for gathering distinct, stop-action imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles flying low and fast over forests or farmland. These sensors expose the entire image at the same instant in time. This allows images to be captured free of motion blur and other distortions.

The Macaw is available as an array of six separate cameras. Each down-facing camera in the array is precisely synchronized with the other cameras so that each is able to capture the exact same scene at the exact same instant in time.  Each camera is registered with the other cameras in the array with sub-pixel accuracy so all of the images are in perfect alignment.

Each of the Macaw's cameras contain a customer-specified narrow-band filter that is inserted between the lens and sensor.  With each exposure, six separate bands of visible or near-infrared radiation move through each lens and filter to form a separate monochromatic image on each sensor.  The images are simultaneously transferred from each sensor to the Macaw's image storage directory in the solid state drive. Processing of these images is done using the Macaw itself.

Hardware Improvements

1.        File storage has been changed from multiple micro SD cards to a single large SATA solid state drive. The SATA drive is pluggable, and can be removed for processing

2.        A single multi-core processor replaces the 6 discrete processors in the older design, with an improvement in performance.

3.        WiFi, USB3, and Ethernet interfaces have been added to improve connectivity

4.        Array of FPGA logic elements controls capture and allows real-time video from any channel

5.        Two to five times greater continuous capture speed than the older design

6.        Electrical compatibility has been maintained at the control connectors and serial ports

Software Improvements

1.        The camera control software is implemented as a camera application running in an embedded Linux OS, offering a variety of advantages:

l  Robust File system and IP protocol management

l  A web browser user interface implemented with Apache http server and PHP scripts

l  In-camera documentation and help files (the browser interface offers an informative resident web site)

l  Open system architecture allows users to configure their device in new ways.

l  SSH server for remote connection, control, and failure diagnosis

2.        Live video for Linux browser display interface switchable to any channel

3.        Files saved as multi-page tiffs, with alignment performed in camera.

4.        Tiff files fully tagged with Exif and Exif GPS data structures, as well as Tetracam band processing information

5.        Very large capacity file system

6.        Files can be extracted at very high speed by switching the SATA drive to the USB3 disk bridge.

7.        Files can be extracted at slower speeds using browser download protocols

8.        Traditional Tetracam operating modes are fully supported: continuous capture, triggered, various exposure modes, etc.

9.        Background processing can be used to align images, produce NDVIs, and eliminate unneeded files

10.    Camera Application source files are available, on request, so the system can be customized in the field.


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