Security applications such as management of natural disasters and man-made incidents crucially depend on the rapid availability of a situation picture of the affected area. UAV-based remote sensing systems may constitute an essential tool for capturing aerial imagery in such scenarios. While several commercial UAV solutions already provide acquisition of high quality photos or real-time video transmission via radio link, generating instant high-resolution aerial maps is still an open challenge. For this purpose, the article presents a real-time processing tool chain, enabling generation of interactive aerial maps during flight. Key element of this tool chain is the combination of the Terrain Aware Image Clipping
(TAC) algorithm and 12-bit JPEG compression. As a result, the data size of a common scenery can be reduced to approximately 0.4% of the original size, while preserving full geometric and radiometric resolution. Particular attention was paid to minimize computational costs to reduce hardware requirements. The full workflow was demonstrated using the DLR Modular Airborne Camera System
(MACS) operated on a conventional aircraft. In combination with a commercial radio link, the latency between image acquisition and visualization in the ground station was about 2 s. In addition, the integration of a miniaturized version of the camera system into a small fixed-wing UAV is presented. It is shown that the described workflow is efficient enough to instantly generate image maps even on small UAV hardware. Using a radio link, these maps can be broadcasted to on-site operation centers and are immediately available to the end-users.
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