There are a large number of public webcams available on the Internet which, when used carefully and in conjunction with aviation weather forecasts and METARs, can help VFR pilots form an overall weather picture. Some of these cameras are at airports (eg, Taupo) while others such as the Desert Road cameras at centralwaikato.co.nz can provide useful enroute information.
MetService is progressively installing webcams at aerodromes to assist with its aviation forecasting and provides images from some of these on MetFlight Commercial and MetJet only, at this stage.
Webcam image quality and usability varies considerably depending on type of camera and lens used.
Tips and Hints
- Always check imagery times to make sure they are current. Some sites may update infrequently and may display old images for long periods when either the cameras or the communication links have failed.
- Where there are webcams on the routes or aerodromes you use regularly, look at the imagery frequently (even on days you’re not flying) so that you become familiar with the hills and other landmarks you might want to use to assess visibility and cloud base. If you’re unfamiliar with the aerodrome or route the images may also help you build a picture of local terrain and aerodrome layout.
- Be conscious of the effect of different lens types (wide and narrow angle) on your assessment of terrain, cloud amounts, bases and visibility.
- When using airport webcams, always verify cloud bases with those reported in METAR reports (where available)
- Bookmark webcam sites on your mobile device so you can quickly access them during stops (and note that if you keep your MetFlight briefing open you will be able to quickly refresh it without having to log on again).
- Be wary of cameras that only point in one direction. It may look like a beautiful day, but there could be a front approaching from right behind the camera. Websites with cameras pointing in several directions, or with cameras that you can manipulate yourself, are the best.
- The Tekapo Tourism web site not only has multiple cameras each showing views in multiple directions, it also has an interactive live video camera, that allows you to select from 20 preset views and watch while the camera moves to that view.
- Depth of field characteristics sometimes mean that mist, light rain, or low visibility do not show up in the picture.
Personally assess each website on its merits – don’t just rely on the recommendations of others.