I ask this question in the context of people flying their drones much higher than the usual hobby planes. Satellite based GPS navigated Autopilots using photogrammetry and/ or military drones.

What kind of cameras do first-person-view (FPV) pilots use and mount onboard to control the plane, and not for any sensors to collect data/ perform other tasks?


I'll mention two of my favorites.

MQ-9 Reaper MQ-9 Reaper The Reaper has the "Multi Spectral Targeting System", which is an array of visual cameras and sensors - this includes an infrared sensor, color/monochrome daylight TV camera, and an image-intensified TV camera, each of which can be used independently or combined to provide one video stream. Specific details are classified, but the ARGUS system has been equipped to some drones, and that system itself displays 1.8 billion pixels - that's made up of 350+ 5 Megapixel cameras.

RQ-4 Global Hawk RQ-4 Global Hawk The Globalhawk is not so much a weapons platform, as it is a sensor, targeting, and surveillance platform. Details are again classified, but it is known to have an incredibly powerful camera of resolution comparable to the ARGUS pod system. It is even being tested with the camera system from the U-2 spyplane.

"First Person" or "Cockpit Camera"

Regarding the cameras actually used for flying (not surveillance), both aircraft come equipped with a built-in front facing color camera. This is a much lower resolution, but still of high quality, and is primarily used for landing, takeoff, ground operations, and low flight. There is not much need for this camera view when in the air, as you'll either see white or blue! In the below image of a MQ-9 Reaper control station, you can see the pilots having the front-facing screen pulled up. It's important to note that similar to a hobbyist, they also have task based GPS navigation. The pilots flip it to autopilot once they're airborne, and typically manually control it when you're at your area of operations.

MQ-9 Reaper Control Station

  • $\begingroup$ I'll also mention that I quite honestly chose that particular picture of the Global Hawk because the guy looks like he's having a blast on the tug! $\endgroup$ – M28 Oct 26 '18 at 20:04

The Predator drone has an array of optics for various regimes of flight (there is no citation on wiki for this so take it at face value):

The aircraft is equipped with the AN/AAS-52 Multi-spectral Targeting System, a color nose camera (generally used by the pilot for flight control), a variable aperture day-TV camera, and a variable aperture thermographic camera (for low light/night). Previously, Predators were equipped with a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze, but lack of use validated its removal to reduce weight and conserve fuel. The cameras produce full motion video and the synthetic aperture radar produced still frame radar images.

The Predator also has a Raytheon built Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS).


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