14 November 2014

Aerial Photography

It isn't just about taking pictures whilst flying! There's plenty more to the job than that, and I've been intrigued to learn about all sorts of post processing applications of the top-down imagery captured whilst on photography operations over the last nine months at my current employer.

I've been given permission to share the following output files from a recent flight over White Island, off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. I flew directly overhead the steaming crater at 6000 feet, whilst the camera operator in the rear of the aircraft shot a line of overlapping images through a special hatch in the floor. After landing, the film roll then got sent away, processed and returned to our head office a few days later ready to be scanned in at an extraordinary high resolution digital format for further analysis. Once on the in house computer system, this allows for the generation of simple .JPEG previews of individual frames if required, scaled down from several gigabytes to just 1 megabyte in this 1000 pixels wide example:

Next is where the real magic happens. I don't understand the process completely, but my novice attempt at an explanation goes as follows: The scale of the aerial photographs get geometrically corrected to remove angular distortions and the vertical variations from the topography underneath. The resulting flattened orthograph can then be used to accurately measure distances, depths and volumes relative to known GPS points on a countrywide database. The clever software it gets fed into reads thousands of X,Y and Z coordinates from the photography data, and is then able to create three dimensional 'point cloud' reconstructions of the terrain that was below the flight path. This quick video that I put together on one of the work computers this morning, showcases the interesting volcanic landscape from the above picture set, comprising of over 12 million separate data points. The accuracy achieved to display each individual contour like this is fascinating to me!

13 November 2014

Rangitoto Airspace Closed

With heads of state from Canada, Chile, and Germany in town, a temporary restricted area around Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island has coincidently been NOTAM'ed for tomorrow. NZR193 is active between 1400 and 1530 hours local on Friday 14 November 2014. No low level buzzes over the crater in the afternoon!

Auckland Airspace Changes 2014

With the latest VNC maps becoming current as of today, I thought it may be beneficial to make a quick post mentioning the numerous changes to airspace in the Auckland region for those local pilots who haven't managed to get their hands on their own copy yet. These are are all detailed further on AIP Supplements Airspace effective 16 October 2014.

Firstly, the explosives storage facility at Waitawa Bay, near Kawakawa Bay (previously D223) has been disestablished. The small peninsular where it was located still remains clear of Low Flying Zone L266 however.

A small new General Aviation Area, G152 titled Moir Hill has been added at the northern edge of the North Shore CFZ, stretching between the Northland railway line and the eastern coastline just north of Puhoi. It is active from 3500 to 4500 feet, with ATC approval during daylight only.

Woodhill Forest GAA, formerly G158 has now become G155 from 2500 to 3500 feet. A new layer has been added on top of that, named Waitoki (G153) and extends from 3500 to 4500 feet, with ATC approval during daylight only. This upper layer also covers all the old G159 (Whenuapai GAA) and the entire portion of the North Shore CFZ that lies over land, exuding the new Moir Hill segment mentioned above.

The old Whenuapai G159 has been changed to G154, still from 2500 to 3500ft with ATC approval.

A new thin triangular slither has been created overhead the circular danger area surrounding the RNZAF base, now known as G156 (Hobsonville) and can also be entered between 2500 and 3500 feet with ATC approval (From Auckland Approach 124.3, not Whenuapai Tower).

Parakai has now been given it's own MBZ (B178), from the surface to 2500 feet on frequency 123.5 MHz.

As seen in the diagram above, North Shore's CFZ now extends well out into the Gulf, encompassing the Whangaparoa Heads, Tiritiri Matangi Island all the way to the 20DME boundary line from NZWP, cutting into what used to be the Hauraki Gulf CFZ.

Danger Area D130 (The defence force live firing area on the Whangaparoa Heads, not shown in the diagram above) and its neighbour D125 (the larger Navy exercise area) are now encompassed within North Shores' CFZ limits from the surface to 1200 feet, and from either the surface or 1200 feet to a higher NOTAMed upper limit respectively. (Page 12 of the AIP supplement explains this with a easy to understand graphic)

The Great Barrier MBZ (B174) now stretches further to the south east to Cuvier Island, formerly well within the (Coromandel) Peninsular CFZ.

Auckland International's control zone has had a kink
chipped away in its northern boundary overhead Onehunga, to facilitate the re-establishment of Pikes Point heliport that falls inside the Auckland City MBZ (aka City Traffic). With the change in the MBZ dimensions, it has changed designation code from B177 to B179.

Ardmore Military Zone, formerly M200 and now labelled M201 that sits close to the downwind leg of both runway directions at NZAR, has had a boundary increased slightly further to the south and east to meet Hunua Road and Ardmore Quarry Road, as well as up from 1700 to 2300 feet. Pilots who are navigating the often flown path between M201 and the Drury D235 danger area should be careful not to breach it, particularly those flying the visual segment of the SY3G instrument departure.

The north eastern fringe of the Ardmore MBZ (B272) has also been stretched out to encompass Clevedon VRP, with the base leg of the 21 circuit often getting pushed out that far during busy traffic periods.The upper limit of the MBZ has changed from an all inclusive 2500 feet to LLCA, with a portion of the MBZ now falling underneath Aucklands CTA with a lower limit of 1500 feet.

Mercer has had it's D222 danger area disestablished, with the removal of parachute landing area P212 from the charts. Commercial skydive operations have not been conducted at the airfield since Part 115 rules came into effect, although caution should still be exercised with a high amount of training aircraft from Ardmore visiting, and large scale model aircraft often flown from the field during weekends.

11 November 2014

Eagle Dropping Routes

A big announcement out of Air NZ HQ today, confirming the following routes are to be dropped by Air NZ Link as of April 2015:
  • Kaitaia - Auckland
  • Whangarei - Wellington
  • Whakatane - Auckland
  • Taupo - Wellington
  • Palmerston North - Nelson
  • Westport - Wellington
Unfortunately this means Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport will no longer be served at all by Eagle, who have reportedly been loosing NZ$1 million per month for the last two years. Today also marks the public confirmation of the circulating rumours that the regional fleet will be consist exclusively of Q300 and ATR-72's types by August 2016 when the last B1900D is forecast to exit service. A significant reduction in outside recruitment from the national carrier is now expected as a result of the provincial restructuring, that will undoubtedly have a knock on effect throughout the general aviation industry nationwide.

As a sweetner, the same media release included details of the planned launch of a new "Regional Gotta Go" fare structure from February 2015. With the idea behind it being flexibility for last minute travel to and from the provinces, costing a flat rate of $169 per single sector, or $249 for a double sector purchased from 90 minutes prior to the first flights departure.

Read the full story here.