Take your own aerial photos with the Swinglet CAM

Over the past year, we’ve shown you a few of the amazing places where Frank has taken aerial photos with his kite, like Petite Tabac, BBQ Island and Manihi. The imagery is certainly stunning, as shown here in this image of Petite Tabac:


However, if flying a kite doesn’t sound appealing to you, a company called senseFly has a product that might interest you — the swinglet CAM. It’s a remote controlled plane that somewhat resembles a B-2 Stealth Bomber, with a 12 megapixel camera attached to the bottom to capture images as you fly!

It also has some innovative features, such as the ability to fly a pre-programmed route based on GPS coordinates.
It’s hard to say what your typical image quality would be with a device like this, but the samples shown on their page are quite impressive, such as the image below:

Detailed pricing information isn’t available on their site, but they told me that the complete system is around $10,600 (USD). I certainly agree with gizmag that it’s not cheap. However, if you’re often needing high-quality aerial imagery, this is certainly a great option to consider.
For more, check out the video below to see it in action or check out their official site.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. I totally agree with this post, up to one point: [quote]It’s hard to say what your typical image quality would be with a device like this[/quote]. The device does not just take nice pictures. With some know-how, it can produce high-resolution, high-quality imagery. Our recent experiences have shown that the whole system is accurate, reliable and is made for for professional usages too. The price just reflects the quality and flexibility of the device.

  2. Francois — I would expect a great image from a device like that, but I simply can’t vouch for it because I haven’t used one. If you have any live samples (ideally a Google Earth image overlay), send them to me and I’ll add them to the post. Thanks!

  3. what are the regulations about using this? Do you have to alert the FAA about when you use it so it won’t collide with airplanes?

  4. Google Earth is great… but its imagery and their old date is a big problem.

  5. Great idea. Not sure it will pass the airspace Regs.
    You can find this on the website regarding regulations.
    Important note: The use of the swinglet CAM must conform to the applicable laws of the country in which it is being operated. It is the sole responsibility of the client to inform himself on applicable restrictions. For example, some countries may have rules that restrict the use of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) to: line‐of‐sight operation only, specific airspaces & maximum altitudes, and/or prior approval from the authorities in charge (e.g. FAA).
    I think you will have a problem operating this in Europe/USA/Canada. Not sure about other countries. For sure for commercial use it’s currently prohibited. For personal use…the rules are fuzzy regarding line of sight and being in “complete control” of the UAV.

  6. @Mickey We have some samples on our website http://www.r-pod.ch Don’t expect breath-taking beaches though. We aim accurate images in order to produce seamless mosaic, DTM and 3D building models. The great thing is that these products /were/ expensive because the raw material /was/ expensive. Now, you can get it anywhere, any time, it is yours and it is brand new (@Mehrdad). And regarding FAA regulations, since it is very light there is virtually no restriction.

  7. @Mickey I just put a sample on our home page (http://www.r-pod.ch > Liens). Nothing revolutionary, except it can be done On Demand…

  8. European rules for unmanned aircrafts, even if they are supposed to be light exist :
    “Note: a revision of the decree of March 21, 2007 is underway. This redesign is intended in particular to define more explicitly and precisely what a model aircraft. A model aircraft shall be considered a priori as unmanned aircraft piloted by hand and used solely for recreational or competitive. An aircraft is considered controlled manually if at any moment, the pilot-operator is able to directly control the trajectory of the aircraft to avoid obstacles and other aircraft, and if the aircraft is in sight at all times Driver-operator…”
    in : http://www.ffam.asso.fr/ffam_documentation.htm

  9. We should be able to give these high res images to Google for use in the imagery. It would be pretty useful to brighten up the rather low-res rural or even urban areas.

  10. Please let me know if there is a job opening to go to tropical locations and fly a kite – sounds great!!

  11. Well this seems pricey but for my use it may work but I wonder how often that thing crashes? Then what you have to shell our another 10 grand. Oh well.

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