In my previous article I highlighted the importance of ground control for aerial drone surveying. You really can’t provide a GIS ready product unless it is coordinated by ground control. Or can you? Now I am not going to start advocating not using ground control but what if you can’t acquire ground control for your given area of interest. Are there other options?? Well yes there are. They are not as accurate as supplying surveyed ground control but they will provide a product which can be used in your system if you just need to view a mosaiced image.
In my position I talk to a lot of different clients about their requirements for drones. I hear of clients wanting high resolution aerial photography, elevation models, performing volumetric analysis, outputting point clouds for updating engineering designs, change monitoring and inspection scenarios. Every client has different thoughts and ideas on how they best make use of their investment. In all of these great ideas I often find that there is a great void between the understanding of what a client is looking for and their understanding of what is achievable.
Whether you purchase a helicopter, smaller quad copter or a fixed wing drone, all are delivered a flight control unit and flight management software. You’ll often though have to supply your own Smart Phone or tablet to run the software. However, it is not until you decide on exactly what you want to use the drone for, does the realisation of what is really required to achieved those results become apparent. If you are going to use it for talking single aerial pictures or video then the manual flight controller might be sufficient, however if you want to be able to use the drone for comprehensive orthomosaics or elevation modeling then there are key considerations that are required.
So your organisation has decided it is time to purchase a drone. Drones are now at a price point where the return on investment is such that an organisation can purchase its own drone, invest in a pilot’s license and have imagery turned around at high resolution for small areas of interest in very short time frames. For many organisations a drone is an ideal supplement for the regular aerial imagery. It provides a mechanism to “see” changes almost as they happen.
At the end of September 2016, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations around drones will be further relaxed. Where essentially, organisations will be able to fly drones under 2kg without the requirement to have an RPA Operators Certificate (ReOC). See the announcement for more details.
An example of such a drone is Esri partner – 3DR – Solo quadcopter. When teamed with a Sony high resolution camera, it provides an ideal solution for those who need to capture imagery and elevation data that supplements their regular aerial surveys.
Esri recently released Drone2Map for ArcGIS. An application designed to take advantage of this new imagery from any platform and turn around usable information products for the whole organisation within a day of capture. As a minimum requirement, Drone2Map simply needs the imagery to be georegistered for X,Y,Z and it will do the rest for you.
When the term drone is used it often conjures up images of installations being destroyed by laser guided bombs or unmanned military surveillance aircraft being used to spy on strategic targets. However, the drone of today is more than this. They have come down in price and size. To the extent that we can now purchase a drone or as CASA prefers a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), down at your local electrical store for a reasonable price.
In September CASA is introducing new regulations around the use of RPAS that make it easier for everyone to fly a RPAS. http://bit.ly/1sNxnt4 These consumer type RPAS will become more prevalent not only in the hobbyist field but also in the commercial field.
Esri is strategically placed to take advantage of this growing market. Recently released Drone2Map for ArcGIS (http://www.esri.com/products/drone2map) takes geolocated images from RPAS and creates professional imagery products for visualisation and analysis in ArcGIS.