My friends over on the Virtual Earth 3D Team today wrote a blog entry about a recent article by Stephen Shankland about a Google experiment to capture 3D data with lasers attached to the heads of sharks the Street View cameras used to capture their street level imagery. Actually, they thought it was funny that CNET would use a picture of Virtual Earth 3D in an article about Google. All kidding aside I'm actually curious to to see what kind of models they will generate using data at street level.
The 3D models we create for Virtual Earth use a combination of sources. Primarily though, the data used in our photogrammetric processing that creates our models comes from the UltraCam that we manufacture. Here's what one of these things looks like.
This thing is incredible, 216 mega-pixels with a panchromatic image size of 14,430 x 9,420 pixels, capturing data at over 3 GBits/sec, 13 CCD's - 7 pan and 4 color (RGB + Near IR) and 14 CPU's to process the raw images and data in real-time. The data units for the camera hold 1.7TB, enough for about 4,700 images. Since they are swappable the only limitation to how much imagery you can collect is how big your aircraft is to hold these units.
Think I'll pick up a few as stocking stuffers this Christmas.
EDIT: I forgot to note that I'm flying to Austria in a few weeks. I'm going to interview the scientists that invented this thing. When I get back I'll be sure to post it up on here to check out. Should be cool.