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New aerial camera systems for sports arenas inspection (ILX-LR1)

New aerial camera systems for sports arenas inspection (ILX-LR1)

3D cable camera systems based on Sony image sensing solutions are being used to prepare flawless playing surfaces in professional sports arenas

Cable-mounted camera systems have become commonplace in sporting arenas, providing a bird's-eye view of the action on the field below. These systems typically comprise long lengths of cabling joined to specialized towers located around the perimeter of the ground. The cables are attached to a central camera platform, with power and control units that can adjust the camera's position, speed, and direction in real-time. Such installations give the audience a unique perspective as the action unfolds.

Now, cable camera systems are finding additional applications, with Sony panchromatic cameras being used as top-of-the-line multispectral sensors to scan turf to keep it in optimum condition. This equipment can provide ultra-high-resolution multispectral scanning of the pitch from multiple elevations – sometimes just a couple of metres above the grass – through autonomous operation a few times a week. The videos and stills give grounds teams crucial insight into areas such as turf damage, pitch moisture and even the evidence of specific pests and diseases. It also avoids the need for physical entry on to the pitch.


Most recently, Sony equipment has been specified by Agrowing, a world-leading provider of high-resolution, high-quality multispectral sensing solutions for sporting environments, to ensure pitches remain in the best possible condition. The system will have its world debut by the Bundesliga’s 3D Cable-Camera solutions partner, Birds-Cam, at the SportsInnovation event in Dusseldorf, Germany, March 20024

"Aerial camera systems for sports such as soccer and NFL represent an area of rapid innovation, as the condition of the grass is often critical to the quality of the game," says  Arnaud Destruels, European Product Marketing Manager at Sony Image Sensing Solutions. "Since 2015, Sony and Agrowing have been developing a collaborative cooperation, with Sony cameras forming an integral part of Agrowing's UAV-mounted multispectral sensors. The relationship with Agrowing is now resulting in some fascinating new sporting use-cases worldwide."


Multispectral images ''better than physically holding the blades of grass in your hand”

The Agrowing imaging system – built in tandem with aerial cable specialist Birds Camera Solutions - uses panchromatic Sony ILX-LR1, a light and compact interchangeable lens camera designed for industrial use with an approximately 61-megapixel 35 mm full-frame image sensor. Combined with Agrowing’s Quad lens the solution achieves 10 spectral bands of 12-megapixel each during inspection activities. The images from the sensor are uploaded to a temporary directory, with cloud computing utilizing GPU cores running an analysis application developed by the Fraunhofer Research Institute in Germany. Analysis results are then stored in client-dedicated folders, with each scan saved separately for up to 12 or 24 months. The client can access the images and videos via a web service, displaying results of turf condition to the ground staff over a PC or mobile device.

"The Sony ILX-LR1 camera is the best possible panchromatic vehicle for multispectral sensing: it provides incredible insight into turf condition, and that information is crucially important for greenkeepers," says Ira Dvir, Co-Founder at Agrowing. "By using a panchromatic ILX-LR1, we get the best dynamic range and resolution against any comparable sensor – at a very competitive price. Pilot projects show that it can achieve autonomous 4mm per pixel per band scanning and sub 1mm per pixel per band of points of interest. Frankly, it is a jewel of a camera – it is unique. The multispectral performance is so good it is better than physically holding the blades of grass in your hand."

The images from the 3D camera system reveals valuable information for ground staff, says Ira Dvir. "The pitches look fantastic on the television, but they can be severely damaged during games. Often, the player's studs or spikes tear out sizeable pieces of grass, and they are put back in place and trodden down as the action continues. But the images from the Sony ILX-LR1-based sensor are so good that they can be used to see when such incidents have actually ripped out the roots, and therefore, the turf needs replacing. Turf maintenance is significantly enhanced with the use of the 3D camera cable system, and that feeds through to greater audience enjoyment. The technology could also be supplied with an option for pitch spraying, which brings other opportunities for turf maintenance."


High-resolution camera use extends to agricultural applications

Following the success of the sporting system, Sony and Agrowing continue to partner on other use cases. Small, lightweight, yet rugged camera systems are well suited for integration onto drone platforms for mapping and surveying crops. Onboard sensors and imagery acquisition can analyze extremely high-resolution multispectral data collected from outlying and suspicious areas of interest in fields and forests, complementing information gathered by traditional Normalized Difference Vegetation Index maps. In many cases, such places are inaccessible, and Agrowing enables accurate AI leaf-level analysis in-the-field by automatic machine-learning identification of agricultural hazards like pests, diseases, and irregularities like stress and nutrient deficiencies.


"We are in continuous discussions with Sony around the use of its cameras in other applications," says Ira Dvir. "In modern agriculture, some farms growing crops such as cotton and corn are hundreds of thousands of hectares in size. It is impossible to cover those sorts of areas on foot, and vehicles can cause damage. Utilizing the latest Sony mirrorless cameras, we offer a wide range of sensors with 5 to 14 narrow bands 7.5 to 12 megapixels each and 30nm to 40nm each. We offer them to growers and service providers for an affordable and competitive price."


From a Sony perspective, agricultural applications represent another example of where high-tech sensing can be a force for good. "Food shortages and security concerns have ushered in an era of precision agriculture, where modern technologies increase crop yield," adds Arnaud Destruels, European Product Marketing Manager from Sony ISS. "Drones offer numerous advantages over traditional field measurement techniques, as they are faster, more flexible, and can map more extensive areas. We are excited to be working with Agrowing and its partners to realize the potential of this technology."


For more information on the Sony ILX-LR1, please visit ILX-LR1 (