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Publication numberUS20060048845 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/219,271
Publication dateMar 9, 2006
Filing dateSep 2, 2005
Priority dateSep 3, 2004
Publication number11219271, 219271, US 2006/0048845 A1, US 2006/048845 A1, US 20060048845 A1, US 20060048845A1, US 2006048845 A1, US 2006048845A1, US-A1-20060048845, US-A1-2006048845, US2006/0048845A1, US2006/048845A1, US20060048845 A1, US20060048845A1, US2006048845 A1, US2006048845A1
InventorsThomas Slavin, Paul Panehal
Original AssigneeBurke Lakefront Services, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Aircraft remote monitoring system
US 20060048845 A1
Abstract
An assembly is disclosed that facilitates monitoring one or more aircraft that are on the ground at an airport or other facility. The assembly includes a web based camera that can pan, tilt and zoom, as well as a base that can pan independent of the movement of the camera. The assembly can be selectively affixed to any aircraft service vehicle, such as a fuel truck, to monitor one or more the craft during processes such as fueling, baggage or passenger unloading, and the like. The camera can be operated remotely and/or from the service vehicle to provide relatively constant surveillance of the aircraft. The camera is housed within a protective environmental chamber so that the assembly can be utilized outdoors substantially indefinitely.
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Claims(44)
1. An assembly configured for selective mounting to an aircraft service vehicle, comprising:
a camera having one or more of tilt, pan and zoom capabilities;
a base to which the camera is operatively associated, the base having pan capabilities;
means for selectively mounting the assembly to the aircraft service vehicle; and
an environmental chamber operatively associated with the base and enveloping the camera.
2. The assembly of claim 1, wherein the chamber includes one or more sensors to sense environmental conditions within the chamber.
3. The assembly of claim 2, wherein the chamber includes one or more environmental controls operative to adapt environmental conditions within the chamber in response to one or more readings taken by one or more of the sensors.
4. The assembly of claim 3, wherein the one or more sensors comprise at least one of a temperature sensor, pressure sensor and humidity sensor.
5. The assembly of claim 4, wherein the one or more environmental controls comprise at least one of a heater, fan, humidifier, de-humidifier, cooling unit, air conditioner and valve.
6. The assembly of claim 3, further comprising:
a transceiver that facilitates transmitting output data and receiving input data.
7. The assembly of claim 6, wherein the at least one of the camera, base and environmental controls is configured to be controlled remotely.
8. The assembly of claim 7, wherein output data is selectively presented on a display.
9. The assembly of claim 8, wherein the assembly is mounted upon a cab of the service vehicle and the display is located within the cab.
10. The assembly of claim 9, wherein the display comprises a TFT or LCD monitor.
11. The assembly of claim 9, wherein a controller is located within the cab for controlling at least one of the camera and the base.
12. The assembly of claim 11, wherein the controller within the cab comprises a joystick.
13. The assembly of claim 8, wherein output data comprises at least one of video data, environmental sensor data and fueling attribute data.
14. The assembly of claim 13, wherein fueling attributes comprise at least one of an authorization code of a person who initiated a fueling process, a snapshot of an individual who connected fueling equipment, an image of an aircraft before a fueling process is initiated, an image of an aircraft after a fueling process has been completed, a breakdown of fuel additives, sales information, credit card information, credit card validation data, a quantity of fuel administered, one or more flow rates occurring during a fueling process, time stamp data and date stamp data.
15. The assembly of claim 14, wherein data regarding fuel flow is acquired with at least one of optical pulsers, quadrature pulsers and single ended pulsers.
16. The assembly of claim 7, wherein an 802.11 b/g standard is utilized for wireless communications for the assembly.
17. The assembly of claim 7, wherein a 10BaseT TCP/IP connection is utilized for communications for the assembly.
18. The assembly of claim 3, wherein power is provided to the assembly via a vehicle associated therewith.
19. The assembly of claim 18, wherein an extra battery is included within the vehicle for providing power to the assembly.
20. The assembly of claim 3, wherein the camera is operatively associated to the base via a slip ring.
21. The assembly of claim 3, wherein the chamber comprises at least one of plastic and metal.
22. The assembly of claim 3, wherein the means for mounting comprises at least one of bolts, nuts, washers, screws, rivets, welds, snaps, clasps, buckles, tabs, hooks, latches, ropes, chords, lashings, glues, tapes, nails and adhesives.
23. The assembly of claim 3, wherein the camera is a web based camera.
24. The assembly of claim 3, further comprising:
a controller that arbitrates between local and remote commands, where local commands serve to control the camera and/or base from the aircraft service vehicle and remote commands serve to control the camera and/or base from locations remote from the aircraft service vehicle.
25. The assembly of claim 24, wherein the controller allows for remote or local control of the camera or base, respectively, while concurrently allowing for remote or local control of the base or camera, respectively.
26. The assembly of claim 25, further comprising:
a local access point operatively associated with the controller that facilitates transmission of the remote commands and receipt and display of video data from the camera via the controller; and
a remote access point operatively associated with the controller that facilitates transmission of the remote commands and receipt and display of video data from the camera via the controller.
27. The assembly of claim 26, wherein the local access point comprises:
a control enabling device within the aircraft service vehicle; and
a display within the aircraft service vehicle.
28. The assembly of claim 27, wherein the control enabling device comprises a joystick.
29. The assembly of claim 26, further comprising:
a power conditioning component that facilitates converting power from one or more batteries to respective formats usable by at least one of the camera, base, controller, local access point and remote access point.
30. The assembly of claim 26, wherein the remote access point is wirelessly associated with the controller.
31. The assembly of claim 26, further comprising:
a fueling control system operatively associated with the controller, wherein the fueling control system regulates fueling of an aircraft by the aircraft service vehicle and acquires fueling attribute data and provides the fueling attribute data to a display device via the controller.
32. The assembly of claim 26, wherein the controller is operatively associated with a multi-port hub.
33. The assembly of claim 26, wherein the controller causes the camera to enter an automated state when the vehicle is not active wherein the camera pans back and forth within a predetermined range.
34. The assembly of claim 33, wherein the controller allows a user to over-ride the automated state of the camera.
35. A system adapted to monitor one or more aircraft from an aircraft service vehicle with which the system is operatively associated, the system comprising:
a multi-port hub operatively associated with at least one of a camera and a base, where the camera is operatively associated with the base and the camera is configured to at least one of pan, tilt and zoom, and the base is configured to pan;
a wireless access point operatively associated with the multi-port hub, the wireless access point serving as a point of presence for a wireless network within which the system is operated and allowing one or more remote devices to send data to and receive data from at least one of the camera and base.
36. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
a local camera control operatively associated with at least one of the camera and base and facilitating control over at least one of the camera and base, the local camera control being located in the aircraft service vehicle.
37. The system of claim 36, further comprising:
a local display operatively associated with the camera for displaying camera data to a user within the vehicle.
38. The system of claim 36, further comprising:
a fueling control system operatively associated with the multi-port hub, wherein the fueling control system regulates fueling of an aircraft by the aircraft service vehicle and acquires fueling attribute data, wherein one or more remote devices can at least one of receive the attribute data and control the fueling control system via the wireless access point.
39. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
a diversity antenna operatively associated with the wireless access point.
40. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
a power conditioning component that facilitates converting power from one or more batteries to respective formats usable by at least one of the camera, base, wireless access point and multi-port hub.
41. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
an environmental housing operatively associated with the base and substantially isolating the camera from an external environment.
42. The system of claim 41, further comprising:
one or more sensors operable to sense environmental conditions within the housing; and
one or more environmental controls operative to adapt one or more environmental conditions within the chamber in response to one or more readings taken by one or more of the sensors.
43. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
means for selectively mounting the camera, base and housing to the aircraft service vehicle.
44. The system of claim 43, wherein conflicting commands are arbitrated based upon a first come first serve basis.
Description
FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention's focus is on monitoring aircraft while on the ground, in particular, during processes such as fueling.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Substantial resources go into owning and operating an aircraft. There is the large capital cost associated with purchasing an aircraft, as well as substantial expenses associated with fueling, staffing, and servicing the aircraft. Given so large an investment, it would be highly desirable to be able to monitor what's going on around the aircraft when it is in a static state. Monitoring would include visual security and assurance that those who fuel and/or otherwise service the aircraft do so without effecting damage. Specifically, it would be very desirable to monitor the fueling process that all aircraft require, so as to be able to discern whether fuel loss takes place or damage is caused to the aircraft (otherwise referred to as one type of “hanger rash”) during this type of operation. Similarly, given the cost and stringent requirements of both airline and general aviation fueling operations, it would be desirable to be able to monitor fueling attributes, such as fuel flow rates, what individual(s) are performing or otherwise involved with the fueling operation, etc. Further, given the nefarious intentions of some individuals (e.g., terrorists), it is very important to be able to keep a constant eye on the aircraft, in particular the embarkation or deplaning process, the loading and/or unloading of baggage, and “on-the-ramp” maintenance procedures, all by way of example. Finally, given the fact that aircraft operate at night and during inclement weather, it is desirable to have such monitoring capabilities proximate to the aircraft.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following presents a summary of the invention and its purpose. This summary is not as an extensive overview of the invention, rather, it is intended to simply identify its key or critical elements. A more detailed description is presented later.

The present invention relates to the monitoring of an aircraft when the aircraft is in a grounded or static state. The aircraft may be monitored at all times, including: the fueling process, during maintenance operations, when passengers of air freight are being loaded and/or unloaded, as well as when the aircraft is merely residing on a runway or within a hanger, etc. According to one or more aspects of the present invention, an assembly is provided that can be selectively attached to an aircraft service vehicle (called in the industry “ground service equipment (GSE),) such as a fuel truck. Said assembly includes a camera that is housed within a protective environmental chamber. As such, the assembly can be utilized outdoors in all types of weather.

The following description, with annexed drawings set forth and detail certain illustrative aspects and implementations of the invention. These are indicative of but a few of the various ways in which one or more aspects of the present invention may be employed. Other aspects, advantages and novel features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention when considered in conjunction with the annexed drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating an implementation of the present invention at an airport, fixed base or other aircraft related facility.

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of an aircraft monitoring assembly according to one or more aspects of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is another schematic illustration of an aircraft monitoring assembly according to one or more aspects of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration depicting a side view of a truck cab wherein one or more aspects of the present invention may be implemented.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram illustrating of an arrangement of components that provide for the implementation of one or more aspects of the present invention.

FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary distributed computing arrangement over which one or more aspects of the present invention may be practiced.

FIG. 7 is a schematic block diagram illustrating a suitable hardware and software environment wherein one or more aspects of the present invention may be implemented.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention pertains to monitoring an aircraft, particularly where the aircraft is in a grounded or static condition. One or more aspects of the present invention will now be described with reference to drawing figures, wherein like reference numerals are used to refer to like elements throughout. It should be understood that the drawing figures and following descriptions are merely illustrative and that they should not be taken in a limiting sense. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be evident to one skilled in the art, however, that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. Thus, it will be appreciated that variations of the illustrated systems and methods apart from those illustrated and described herein may exist and that such variations are deemed as falling within the scope of the present invention and the appended claims.

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an implementation of the present invention at an airport or other aircraft related facility. An aircraft service vehicle 102 (in this example a fuel truck) is outfitted with a monitoring assembly 104 that can be selectively attached to the vehicle in accordance with one or more aspects of the present invention. The assembly 104 includes a web based camera that has pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. The camera also has a base that has pan capabilities that are independent of the movement capabilities of the camera. The camera thus allows relatively constant monitoring of one or more aircraft 106 that are in a grounded condition at an airport or other facility.

The camera can, for example, be configured to automatically pan left and right within a certain range of motion 110 to provide surveillance of a particular aircraft, for example. Such automated action may occur, for example, when the service vehicle is not active (e.g., the vehicle's engine is turned off). For example, an algorithm can be implemented that causes the base to rotate through a 180 degree range of motion (e.g., 90 degrees left of center and 90 degrees right of center) when the vehicle is turned off. By way of further example, when the vehicle is started, control can automatically revert back to one or more individuals within the vehicle as well as to one or more individuals away from the vehicle so that the camera can be “manually” controlled. There may also be a manual override that allows an individual to have control over the system at any time. The base can, for example, be controlled to pan left and right by someone in the vehicle, such as through the use of a joystick or other type of controller, for example, whereas pan, tilt and zoom functions of the web based camera can be controlled (e.g., wirelessly) and/or from anywhere in the world via a controller or computing device operatively associated with the Internet, for example. It will be appreciated that the base also has the capability of being controlled remotely. Similarly, the camera can be controlled from within the cab. It will be appreciated that the movement capabilities of the base and web based camera provide two degrees of “surveying” freedom.

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of the assembly 104 according to one or more aspects of the present invention. The assembly 104 includes a web based camera 120 that has pan (side to side) 122, tilt (up and down) 124 and zoom (in and out) 126 capabilities. In general, the camera operates by forming an image through a lens section 128 of the camera 120 which is received by some type of sensors within the camera (e.g., photoelectric conversion elements such as charge couple devices (CCDs)). Charge coupled devices, for example, may be located at a focal plane of the camera and facilitate converting light at the focal plane into an electronic image. Such charge coupled devices may, for example, be surface-mounted to a sensor printed circuit board lying within the focal plane. The charge coupled devices may also, for example, be sensitive to both visible, ultraviolet, or infrared light for operation in a variety of lighting conditions. The image signal is converted by an analog-to-digital converter into a digital signal, and the digital signal is supplied to a signal processing section of the camera. The signal processing section generates a video signal which may be composed of brightness and/or color-difference signals, for example. The video signal may be generated by way of signal processing techniques, such as color separation, gamma correction, etc., for example. The signal processing section may then forward the video signal to a compression section which compresses the video signal by a compression process and thereby generates a compressed coded video signal. The coded video signal is buffered in a buffer and then made ready for transmission to an external device via an interface and a network, such as a local area network, for example.

In the illustrated example, the camera 120 is outfitted with a (protocol compliant) transceiver 132 that facilitates the transfer of output data (e.g., image data, sensor data—discussed below, etc.) to an associated computer/controller 134, as well as the receipt of input data (e.g., control signals) from the associated computer/controller 134. Further, the camera 120 is positioned upon a base 136 that can also pan laterally from side to side/left to right 138. Although not illustrated, it will be appreciated that one or more motors, such as servo-motors, for example, are generally responsible for movement of the camera and the base. The base 136 also includes means 140 for selectively mounting the assembly to a service vehicle, such as the roof of a fuel truck, for example. It will be appreciated that the means 140 for mounting the assembly 104 includes, bolts, nuts, washers, screws, rivets, welds, snaps, clasps, buckles, tabs, hooks, latches, ropes, chords, lashings, glues, tapes, nails, adhesives, as well as any other types of items and/or arrangements, either alone or in combination, that can be utilized to selectively position the assembly onto the vehicle in a substantially stable manner. It will be appreciated that a slip ring (not shown) may be juxtaposed between the base 136 and the camera 120. The slip ring may be electrically conductive thereby serving to provide an electrical coupling between the camera 120 and base 136. In this manner, electrical power can be supplied to the camera 120 and electrical signals (e.g., control signals, digital images) can be input to and/or output from the camera 120 via the slip ring. This alleviates wiring needs and thus facilitates unobstructed rotation of the camera 120 on the base 136 (e.g., for a 360 degree pan).

FIG. 3 is another schematic illustration of the assembly 104 showing that the assembly 104, in another example, includes a protective housing or environmental chamber 144 within which the camera 120 is situated. As such, the assembly can remain outdoors with the camera functioning indefinitely. The housing 144 is formed out of an environmentally durable material, such as plastic and/or treated metal, by way of example. In the illustration, the enclosure or environmental housing 144 is situated upon the base 136 and as such generally moves with the base 136. It will be appreciated that while the housing 144 is depicted as having a substantially cube-like configuration, it can have any suitable configuration in accordance with one or more aspects of the present invention, such as an elliptical or dome-like configuration.

According to one or more aspects of the present invention, the housing includes a plurality of environmental sensors with corresponding environmental controls. In the illustrated example, for instance, the housing 144 includes temperature 146, pressure 148 and humidity 150 sensors. These sensors are operative to sense respective environmental conditions within the chamber 144. Readings from these sensors may be transmitted (e.g., wirelessly) to a controller, such as controller 134 or another computer based controller, which then can use them to selectively adjust corresponding controls. For example, a heater 152, cooler/air-conditioner 154 and/or fan 156 can be selectively adjusted to regulate the temperature within the housing 144. Similarly, a humidifier 160 and/or de-humidifier 162 can be selectively controlled to adjust the moisture content within the housing 144. Likewise, a valve 164 can be opened and/or closed to varying degrees in order to control the pressure within the housing 144. Such controls may also be operated in conjunction with one another to achieve a desired goal. For example, the heater 152, de-humidifier 162 and valve 164 may be operated in conjunction with one another to achieve a desired level of moisture within the housing 144. Such combined use of the controls may be based upon some type of optimization algorithm, for example. Further, one or more of the sensed environmental conditions can be relayed back to a user and presented on a display device (e.g., along with video data).

Turning to FIG. 4, a side view of a cab 170 of a maintenance vehicle 102, in our example a fuel truck that is illustrated schematically. The assembly 104 is selectively positioned upon the top of the cab 170 in accordance with one or more aspects of the present invention. In the illustrated example, a joystick type apparatus 172 is included in the cab 170 for selectively controlling movement of one or more parts of the assembly 104. For example the joystick can effect panning capabilities 138 of the base 136. Similarly, a display device 174, such as a thin film transistor (TFT) or liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor, is also present within the cab 170 allowing one or more individuals in the cab to see what the camera is focused on. This, for example, allows the driver of the vehicle to see when and/or if fuel is spilling over when the aircraft is being fueled or if a security breach takes place. An extra battery 176 is also illustrated allowing for the provision of electrical power to the assembly 104 (wiring omitted). The example illustrated shows that multiple extra batteries can be included and that one or more of the batteries can be housed within the cab 170 and/or under the hood of the vehicle or otherwise near the engine of the vehicle 102.

According to one or more aspects of the present invention, attributes associated with a fueling operation and/or transaction can also be logged and included in a data stream and transmitted back to a user and/or presented on any type of display device. Such information may comprise, for example, an authorization code of the individual who initiated the fueling process, a snapshot of who actually connected the fueling equipment, before and after images of the fueling process in order to give an indication of whether hanger rash occurred (or did not occur) and the cause (culprit) of any such hanger rash, a breakdown of fuel additives, sales information (e.g., credit card information/validation), quantity of fuel administered, flow rates and/or other records of the fueling transaction. Such data may also include time and/or date stamps that give a record of when, for example, a sales transaction begins and/or ends, when a fueling process starts and/or stops, when alarms sound and/or fueling is stopped (automatically) due to an insufficient flow of one or more additives. It will be appreciated that data regarding fuel flow (as well as any other fueling attributes) can be acquired and logged in any suitable manner according to one or more aspects of the present invention, such as with optical, quadrature and/or single ended pulsers, for example.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram illustrating of an arrangement 200 of a plurality of components or modules that provide for the implementation of one or more aspects of the present invention. A first block 202 indicates that power is supplied from a vehicle battery, in the illustrated example a 13.6 volt DC battery. This block feeds into block 204 for conditioning/conversion of the power to a form more feasible for use by other components. Block 204 thus feeds out DC/AC power as required to other components. One block, that block 204 feeds out to, is block 206, which is a wireless access point or client. In the illustrated example, this is implemented as 802.11b/g, which is an 11 megabit per second standard. However, it will be appreciated that other standards are contemplated and are intended to fall within the scope of the present invention. The wireless access point feeds out to block 208 that corresponds to a diversity antenna that facilitates data transmission to or from the client 206.

Block 204 also provides power to block 210 which is a multi-port hub/switch. The multi-port hub/switch 210 is also operatively connected to the wireless access point 206, as well as to block 212, which represents a refueling control system. As such, data can be sent between blocks 210 and 206, as well as between blocks 210 and 212. Block 204 is further connected to block 214 which corresponds to a camera (previously referenced as 120) to provide operating power thereto. The multi-port hub/switch 210 is similarly coupled to the camera 214 to provide control signals thereto. In the illustrated example, the multi-port hub/switch 210 is operatively coupled to the refueling control system 212 and the camera 214 via 10BaseT TCP/IP. It will be appreciated, however, that while transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) connections may be utilized, other links, such as RF links and/or off frequency applications are contemplated and are intended to fall within the scope of the present invention.

The camera 214 is further coupled to blocks 216 and 218 which correspond to a local camera screen and a local camera control respectively. The local camera screen 216 receives data from the camera 214 (e.g., of images taken by the camera), while the camera 214 receives data from the control 218 (e.g., pan, tilt, zoom commands). It will be appreciated that the camera screen 216 may correspond to the display device previously referenced as 174 in FIG. 4, for example. Similarly, local camera control 218 may correspond to the joystick device referenced as 172 in FIG. 4.

Finally, block 222, which corresponds to an optional network based mobile controller, is operatively associated with the hub 210 for sending and receiving data therefrom. Block 222 may be part of an Ethernet network, for example, that can be included on the aircraft service vehicle that facilitates a gateway (e.g., Ethernet to Bluetooth gateway) to the assembly that allows a remote device (e.g., a PDA having a Visual Basic and/or Visual C application running thereon) to control the camera and/or base and/or to view data from the camera, fueling system, etc. Also, the controller 222 facilitates resolving conflicting commands. In one example, conflicting instructions are arbitrated on a first come first serve basis. Accordingly, a local command would be carried out in a situation where it is received just before a contrary remote command. For example, an instruction coming from the cab of the vehicle to point the camera northeast would be carried out in lieu of a command coming from a remote device located away from the vehicle to point the camera southwest, where the remote command is receive just after the local command. It will be appreciated that multiple local commands, multiple remote commands and/or a mixture of conflicting local and remote commands may be resolved in a similar manner.

It should be understood that the implementations described herein can, at least in part, be realized on a wide variety of hardware and software platforms (e.g. specialized apparatus, dedicated computer systems with hardwired logic or programs stored in memory, discrete logic devices, large scale integrated circuits (LSIs), application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), combinations of computer components with other non-computer components). It is also to be understood that the examples provided herein may be implemented in various environments (e.g. networked architectures utilizing clients and servers, public and private computer networks, computer networks of commercial on-line services, internal corporate local area networks (LANs), intranets).

FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary distributed computing arrangement over which one or more aspects of the present invention may be practiced. The arrangement includes multiple computing devices that can be utilized to access pictures from the camera and/or to control operation(s) of the camera, for example. More particularly, a plurality of computing devices (e.g. personal computers (PCs) 310 a, minicomputers 310 b, personal digital assistants (PDAs) 310 c, workstations 310 d, laptops 310 e, etc) are directly or indirectly interconnected via a network to a computer or server 314 operatively associated with the monitoring assembly 104 (e.g., through wireless RF techniques). It will be appreciated that the computers may be linked over different topologies or zones as the network may comprise numerous configurations (e.g. Internet 316 a, intranets 316 b, wide area networks (WANs), LANs, SNA networks, extranets) supported by any of a variety of connection types or mediums (e.g. telephone line and modem, integrated services digital network (ISDN), T1, T2, T3, T4, DS1 or other high speed telecommunications connections and appropriate connection device, television cable and modem, satellite link, optical fiber link, Ethernet or other local area network technology wire and adapter card, wireless link, radio or optical transmission devices).

A CPU 320 is shown operatively coupled to read only memory (ROM) 322 and main memory 324 in client computer 310 a. ROM 322 is operative to store static information and instructions utilized during CPU processing, while main memory 324 stores information and instructions executable by the CPU 320 as well as temporary variables or other intermediate processing information. Main memory 324 may include, for example, random access memory (RAM) and/or other volatile storage medium. Also coupled to the CPU 320 are one or more input devices 326 (e.g. alphanumeric keyboard, pointer device, mouse, joystick, trackball, stylus, motion pad, cursor direction keys, voice activated control device, wireless input device, and/or other equipment or peripherals that facilitate user interaction with the computers). Similarly, one or more output devices 328 (e.g. cathode ray tube (CRT), liquid crystal display (LCD), speakers, headphones) for presenting audio and/or video information to a user are also operatively coupled to the CPU 320. Software 330 (e.g. HTML browser software, application programs, application program interfaces (APIs), operating systems) stored in main memory 324 of the device 310 a is executable via the CPU 320 to provide much of the functionality associated with the client computer 310 a. It will be appreciated that generally all of the distributed computing devices and computer 314 may possess similar arrangements.

A user working at the client computer 310 a can utilize an input device 326, in association with a graphical user interface (GUI), for example, to submit a request for images from the camera and/or to submit movement commands to the camera. A user can, for example, enter a uniform resource locator (URL) or web address corresponding to computer 314 into browser software running on the client computer with a keyboard or engage a link with a mouse. The computer 314 receives the signal(s) from the client computer 310 a and transmits the same to the assembly 304 in order to control the camera and/or extract images there-from. In this manner, an individual can “keep an eye on” a grounded or static aircraft irrespective of the relative location of the individual to said aircraft. The individual can watch streaming video, for example, of the aircraft, as a fuel truck approaches the aircraft and fuels the aircraft. Further, the user can zoom in and/or otherwise adjust the camera to see areas of interest, such as the name tag(s) of the individual(s) performing the (re)fueling operation or any other security related visually determinable function.

It is to be appreciated that any types, combinations and/or suites of protocols, working alone or in combination, in order to support network communications, are suitable for use in accordance with one or more aspects of the present invention (e.g. HTTP, HTTP 1.1, transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP), remote procedure call (RPC), remote method invocation (RMI), Java database connectivity (JDBC), open database connectivity (ODBC), secure sockets layer (SSL), network file system (NFS), FTP, telnet, simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), point-of-presence 3 (POP3), serial line Internet protocol (SLIP), point-to-point protocol (PPP), user datagram protocol (UDP), Internet control message protocol (ICMP), interior gateway protocol (IGP), exterior gateway protocol (EGP), border gateway protocol (BGP), handheld device transfer protocol (HDTP), wireless application protocol (WAP), cellular digital packet data (CDPD), code division multiple access (CDMA), global system for mobile communications (GSM), time division multiple access (TDMA), personal digital communications (PDC), personal handy-phone system (PHS), personal handy-phone system-wireless local loop (PHS-WLL), FLEX, integrated digital enhanced network, (IDEN), digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT)).

FIG. 7 is a schematic block diagram illustrating a suitable computing environment wherein one or more aspects of the present invention may be implemented. It is to be appreciated that the environment is but one possible computing environment and is not intended to limit the present invention. Further, inventive aspects described herein may be practiced with any of a variety of computer system configurations (e.g. single-processor or multiprocessor computer systems, minicomputers, PCs, workstations, laptops, PDAs, palmtops, mainframe computers, personal computers, hand-held computing devices, microprocessor-based or programmable consumer electronics, each of which may be operatively coupled to one or more associated devices of similar or different types). Illustrated aspects of the invention may also be practiced in distributed computing environments where certain tasks are performed by remote processing devices that are linked through a communications network. In such an environment, program modules may be located in a memory storage device of both local and remote devices.

The environment includes a computer 420, including a processing unit or CPU 422, a system memory 424, and a system bus 426 that couples various system components including the system memory to the processing unit 422. The processing unit 422 may be any of various commercially available processors. It is to be appreciated that dual microprocessors and other multi-processor architectures also may be employed as the processing unit 422. The system bus may be any of several types of bus structure including a memory bus or memory controller, a peripheral bus, and a local bus using any of a variety of commercially available bus architectures (e.g. PCI, VESA, Microchannel, ISA, EISA). The system memory may include read only memory (ROM) 428 and random access memory (RAM) 430. A basic input/output system (BIOS), containing the basic routines that help to transfer information between elements within the computer 420, such as during start-up, is stored in ROM 428.

The computer 420 also may include, for example, a hard disk drive 432, a magnetic disk drive 434, e.g. to read from or write to a removable disk 436, and an optical disk drive 438, e.g. for reading from or writing to a CD-ROM disk 440 or other optical media. The hard disk drive 432, magnetic disk drive 434, and optical disk drive 438 are connected to the system bus 426 by a hard disk drive interface 442, a magnetic disk drive interface 444, and an optical drive interface 446, respectively. Computer-readable media associated with the drives can be any available media that can be accessed by the computer 420. By way of example, and not limitation, computer readable media may comprise computer storage media and communication media. Computer storage media includes volatile and nonvolatile, removable and non-removable media (e.g. hard disk, removable magnetic disk, compact disk (CD), magnetic cassettes, flash memory cards, Bernoulli cartridges, RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD), other medium which can be used to store desired information) implemented in any method or technology for storage of information such as computer readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data which can be accessed by the computer 420, including components and/or computer-executable instructions that are to be installed in accordance with one or more aspects of the present invention. Communication media typically embodies computer readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data in a modulated data signal such as a carrier wave or other transport mechanism and includes any information delivery media. The term modulated data signal means a signal that has one or more of its characteristics set or changed in such a manner as to encode information in the signal. By way of example, and not limitation, communication media includes wired media such as a wired network or direct-wired connection, and wireless media such as acoustic, RF, infrared and other wireless media.

A number of program modules may be stored in the drives and RAM 430, including an operating system 448, one or more application programs 450, other program modules 452, and program data 454. The operating system 448 may be any suitable operating system or a combination of operating systems. A user may enter commands and information into the computer 420 through one or more user input devices (e.g. keyboard 456, mouse/pointing device 458, microphone, joystick, game pad, satellite dish, scanner (all not shown)). These are often connected to the processing unit 422 through a serial port interface 460 that is coupled to the system bus 426, but may be connected by other interfaces (e.g. parallel port, game port, universal serial bus (USB), IR interface). A display device (e.g. monitor 462) is also connected to the system bus 426 via an interface (e.g. video adapter 464). In addition to the monitor 462, the computer 420 may include other peripheral output devices (e.g. speakers, printers (not shown)).

The computer 420 may operate in a networked environment using one or more logical and/or physical connections to one or more remote computers 466. The remote computer 466 may be a workstation, a server computer, a router, a peer device or other common network node, and typically includes many or all of the elements described relative to the computer 420, although, for purposes of brevity, only a memory storage device 468 is illustrated. The logical connections depicted in FIG. 4 may include any of a variety of networks (e.g. local area network (LAN) 470, wide area network (WAN) 472). Such networking environments are commonplace in offices, enterprise-wide computer networks, intranets and the Internet.

When employed in a LAN networking environment, the computer 420 is connected to the local network 470 through a network interface or adapter 474. When used in a WAN networking environment, the computer 420 typically includes a modem 476, or is connected to a communications server on the LAN, or has other means for establishing communications over the WAN 472, such as the Internet. The modem 476, which may be internal or external, is connected to the system bus 426 via the serial port interface 460. In a networked environment, program modules depicted relative to the computer 420, or portions thereof, may be stored in the remote memory storage device 468. It will be appreciated that the network connections shown are exemplary and other means of establishing a communications link between the computers 420 and 466 may be used.

A component, as used herein, may refer to a computer-related entity (e.g. hardware, a combination of hardware and software, software, software in execution, a process running on a processor, a processor, an object, an executable, a thread of execution, a program, a computer, an application running on a server, a server). Additionally, a system may comprise a structure having one or more modules, where a module may include computer hardware and/or software (e.g. computer readable memory encoded with software instructions, computer configuration to carry out specified tasks, application program stored in computer readable memory, server on which an application runs, software object). Also, various aspects of the present invention may employ technologies associated with facilitating unconstrained optimization (e.g. back-propagation, Bayesian, Fuzzy Set, Non Linear regression, or other neural network paradigms including mixture of experts, cerebellar model arithmetic computer (CMACS), Radial Basis Functions, directed search networks, and functional link nets).

Although the invention has been illustrated and described with respect to one or more implementations, equivalent alterations and modifications will occur to others skilled in the art upon the reading and understanding of this specification and the annexed drawings. In particular regard to the various functions performed by the above described components (assemblies, devices, circuits, systems, etc.), the terms (including a reference to a “means”) used to describe such components are intended to correspond, unless otherwise indicated, to any component which performs the specified function of the described component (e.g., that is functionally equivalent), even though not structurally equivalent to the disclosed structure which performs the function in the herein illustrated exemplary implementations of the invention. In addition, while a particular feature of the invention may have been disclosed with respect to only one of several implementations, such feature may be combined with one or more other features of the other implementations as may be desired and advantageous for any given or particular application. Furthermore, to the extent that the terms “including”, “includes”, “having”, “has”, “with”, or variants thereof are used in either the detailed description and the claims, such terms are intended to be inclusive in a manner similar to the term “comprising.” Also, the term “exemplary” as used herein is merely meant to mean an example, rather than the best.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification141/94, 348/E07.088
International ClassificationB65B31/00
Cooperative ClassificationG07C5/008, H04N7/185
European ClassificationH04N7/18D2
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