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NASA - ER-2 Aerial Camera Systems
September 30, 2008

The ER-2 can carry a variety of film camera systems. Most of the cameras and lenses are routinely calibrated for precision photogrammetry, and numerous film types are in use. Cameras employed acquire photography in 9 x 9 inch (22.9 x 22.9 cm) and 9 x 18 inch (22.9 x 45.7 cm) formats. Color infrared, natural color and black and white film may be used with the choice determined by investigator requirements. The scales of photography acquired include two mile, one mile and half-mile to the inch depending on camera lens focal lengths. Multiple camera systems may be flown with a variety of film types acquiring photography at varying scales and resolutions. Photography acquired at high altitudes on the ER-2s on long duration missions can image large areas of the earth's surface in a single flight. Multispectral scanner data and photography acquired coincidentally on ER-2 missions provide unique data sets for earth science research.

Summary of Camera Specifications

Lens Film
RC-10 6"/f4 9" X 9" 30 X 30km
(16x16 nmi)
3-8m 1:130K
RC-10 12"/f4 9" X 9" 15 X 15km
(8x8 nmi)
1.5-4m 1:65K
HR-732 24"/f8 9" X 18" 7.4 X 15km
(4x8 nmi)
0.6-3m 1:32.5K
24"/f3.5 4.5" X 35" 3.7 X 40km
(2.0 x 21.4 nmi)


  • Spatial parameters are for the ER-2 at 19.8km (65,000 feet) altitude.
  • Missions are typically flown with 60% forward frame overlap for stereo coverage.

RC-10 Mapping Cameras

Wild Heerbrugg RC-10 Mapping Cameras with a 9 x 9 inch image format are flown on virtually every ER-2 earth imaging mission. The RC-10s may be employed with six or twelve inch focal length lenses providing image scales of two miles to the inch and one mile to the inch respectively. RC-10 mounting stations include the ER-2 Q-bay, nose pod and the right and left wing pods.

HR-732 Aerial Cameras

Hycon HR-732 cameras are used to acquire high resolution photography in a 9 x 18 inch format. These cameras can be flown in pairs or one camera may be paired with an RC-10 mapping camera. The HR-732s acquire high resolution photography with twenty-four inch focal length lenses providing an image scale of half-mile to the inch. The large scale high resolution photography provided by these cameras is used by agencies such as the Forest Service for timber resource management and by the Fish and Wildlife Service for wetlands inventories and wildlife habitat mapping.

Iris II Panoramic Camera

The Itek Iris II Panoramic Camera has been employed to acquire high resolution land use and land cover data. The Forest Service has used this camera extensively for assessing timber resources and monitoring gypsy moth defoliation in the Appalachian hardwood forests. The Iris II provides a 4.5 x 34.7 inch (11.4 x 88.1 cm) image covering 2.0 x 21.4 miles (3.2 x 34.2 km) on the ground. The high resolution twenty-four inch lens provides a scale at nadir on the panoramic image of half-mile to the inch. With its 10,000 foot film capacity the Iris II allows extended flight duration allowing photography acquisition over very large areas.

Ordering ER-2 Film Products

The majority of photos taken by the ER-2 and other NASA Dryden Flight Research Center aircraft are archived at the United States Geological Survey's EROS Data Center in Souix Falls, South Dakota. NASA Photo Archives at USGS.

After budget cuts in fiscal year 1996, photos taken by the ER-2 after May 1996 are no longer being duplicated and shipped to the EROS Data Center for public distribution and archival. These photos can be requested from the Airborne Science Branch at Dryden Flight Research Center. Please call (805) 258-7588 during normal business hours (8 am to 5 pm Pacific Time).

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Page Last Updated: March 11th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator