Local company up in orbit for NASA mission

T5-800 T-Copter

/ AirFoil Aerials

NASA has granted a Tri-State company liftoff to Mars.

AirFoil Aerial Systems out of Loraine, Illinois will help provide information in the Mars Rover Project.

This high tech mini-helicopter takes 360 degree aerial photos of locations and stitches them together to become an interactive picture.

"I didn't even know NASA did stuff like this. I took it for granted they built their own equipment. It was just a call out of the blue. They said, 'would you be interested in it?' and I said definitely. I wouldn't turn that down in a second," said John Ohmenus, the president of AirFoil Aerials.

He's set to ship the device out to NASA experts in Virginia Tuesday. Before leaving earth, this T-copter must go through inspections and flight modifications with both NASA and MIT experts.

"NASA's looking to MIT to create a laser-based flight controller to handle the atmosphere they're going to be in," said Ohmenus.

Ohmenus says this technology is unlike any other in the field of aerial photography.

"It's rotating in 4 seconds, shooting about 4 pictures a second. So we take those pictures it took, and take six pictures and stitch them together, and a program will warp it into a video player and put you in the image and move it around a 360 degree panoramic shot," said Ohmenus.

But it's not your average panoramic photo.

"You pick what you want to see. You move around in the photo. You zoom in or out on the image you like as apposed to me taking pictures at one angle. You can move in any position," said Ohmenus.

And for miles at a time. This won't be the last adventure into space for AirFoil Aerial Systems.

"We're already working on another unit that will handle the Mars Rover Project differently than what any of our other units normally have. We have to make it fly first," said Ohmenus.

There's not a certain date set the T-copter launch, but Ohnemus believes it will be closer to the end of 2012 or early 2013. Ohnemus also says NASA's made an agreement with him to send him photos from time to time during the mission.

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