Aerial photographs play a major role in current remote sensing applications. Traditionally those photographs were acquired using airplanes or satellites, and later manually processed in order to generate a virtual environment. Recently, Miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MUAVs) equipped with digital cameras have been proposed as inexpensive and more flexible alternative to acquire aerial images. The industrial research project Avionic Digital Service Platform (AVIGLE) explores novel approaches to remote sensing by using a swarm of MUAVs, which are equipped with different sensing and network technologies. The acquired data will be sent in quasi-real time to a flight ground control station, where a virtual environment will be generated automatically. While this approach has the potential to provide an efficient alternative to the traditional remote sensing processes, it opens up numerous research and engineering challenges.
In this paper we describe a virtual reality-based simulation framework, which has been developed in the scope of the AVIGLE project. Since the project involves a lot of risks, the simulation of the entire system in a VR-based environment is essential to create a controlled virtual environment that is independent of hardware, flight permissions and influences like weather and lighting conditions. During the project the use of VR is not limited to presentation purposes, but also serves as testbed to simulate and evaluate different hardware setups and software algorithms.