Land departments now accept drone data for cadastre. More GIS users employ drone data in place of satellite imagery. Frequent quarry surveys are now possible, golf course modeling is common, and the list goes on.
As operators around the world are learning, a drone not only complements existing survey instruments, it also enables you to expand your company’s services into brand new fields.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Drones are ideal for tracking land change over time in great detail, showing updated topographical features, updated surfaces and single object layers. By overlaying a vector cadastre on a drone orthomosaic for example, you can identify missing objects or you can vectorize buildings/objects for upgrading a cadastre into 3D.
With topographic mapping, drone digital terrain models (DTMs) can be used in planning new developments such as building construction or noise barrier designs.
Drone data captured with the eBee X mapping drone can be easily imported into popular land surveying software such as AutoCAD, Trimble Business Center, Virtual Surveyor, etc.
Updated aerial imagery collected by drone is highly useful for planning new construction, monitoring site progress or analyzing how a topography will respond to weather events. A few other uses include:
Residential development: Import drone DTMs into CAD to build virtual models based on elevation data.Land tenure: Use drone orthomosaics to define boundaries when granting land titles.Flood simulation: Generate DTMs to simulate flooding and prepare response/design prevention measures.Waste management: Use drone DTMs and orthomosaics to calculate landfill volumes.
Drone data easily imports into popular civil engineering and land management software such as ArcGIS, QGIS, GeoMedia, GlobalMapper, etc.
When it comes to surveying road construction sites, traditional methods can be slow and dangerous. An increasing number of construction companies are turning to UAVs, such as eBee fixed-wing drones, to cover larger areas with greater efficiency and safety. Some common benefits include:
Engineering design: Speed up project planning with accurate pre-construction surveys.Volume measurement: Use 3D drone outputs to accurately measure cut & fill.In-construction & as-build surveys: Easily monitor progress and document projects via quick routine drone flights.Documentation & reporting: Use drone orthomosaic and images to improve stakeholder communication and ensure compliance.
The eBee has revolutionized the laborious weekly task of measuring our cut and fill. Before, we would use robotic total stations and GPS, which took two to three days. Now, we fly in half a day. The drone is the best money our survey department has ever spent.
Nick Kelly, Chief Land Surveyor, GRAHAM Construction, Ireland
The eBee has revolutionized the laborious weekly task of measuring our cut and fill. Before, we would use robotic total stations and GPS, which took two to three days. Now, we fly in half a day. The drone is the best money our survey department has ever spent.
Drone data easily imports into popular construction and earthworks software such as AutoCAD, Trimble Business Center, NRG Survey, etc.
Read how Woolpert Survey Group’s eBee X with active RTK allows for extended flight times and highly-accurate topographic base maps required on their latest design survey contract – the construction of a new frontage road adjacent to I-25 in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Drone technology is successfully being put to work at open pit mines and quarries across the world. The integration of drones into site workflows deliver increased ROI and safety with less interruption to mine productivity. Some additional applications include:
Reconciliation & valuation: Measure stockpile volumes regularly within the drone’s point cloud.Condition assessment: Assess condition/slopes of haul roads & loading pads.Asset management: Optimize plant item locations in virtual drone model – checking sightlines, assessing disruption, etc.Safe site surveys: conduct surveys from the site’s perimeter – limiting surveyor time-on-site and reducing risk/disruption to operations.
Drone data easily imports into popular mining software such as MineSight 3D, Maptek, Surpac, AutoCAD Civil 3D, etc.
Learn how Falcon Eye Drones (FEDS) recently used their eBee X fleet to map the largest limestone quarry in the world – all within a single day!
Whether your site is small and dynamic or vast and ever-changing, automated drone solutions boast quick data collection times, excellent positional accuracy and a safe operator experience. Adding a drone to your existing toolbox enables you to do more and expand your company’s services into brand new fields. The eBee X series fixed-wing drones are designed as a complete aerial mapping system, capable of producing survey-grade data outputs that you and your clients can rely on.
This is a guest post by Patrick Hogan, CEO of Handle.com, December 30, 2019. It was updated with additional information on November 17, 2020.
According to the United States Drone Market Report 2019, the US commercial drone market is growing rapidly and is expected to quadruple its current size in 2024. As more businesses look to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that drone technology brings, commercial investment in this tech segment will continue to grow.
The many features of drones, including precise controls, computer vision, object avoidance tech flight planning, GPS capabilities, geofencing, huge carrying capacities, and artificial intelligence, make the industrial-grade models capable of fulfilling many commercial construction purposes. When deployed properly, drones can easily perform a wide range of roles that were previously considered labor-intensive and time-consuming.
When deployed properly, drones can easily perform a wide range of roles that were previously considered labor-intensive and time-consuming.
One particular sector that is one of the first to harness the benefits of drone technology is the construction industry. In fact, drones are quickly becoming regarded as vital to improving construction site safety.
Let’s take a look at the role of drones in solving safety issues on construction sites.
Three ways drones are improving safety and efficiency at construction sites:
Site inspections are an important part of all phases of a construction project, starting with the pre-construction phase. This process is crucial to ensuring that everything proceeds smoothly and safely to the next project phase. Site inspectors have the vital job of identifying potential hazards that are present on the site before giving the go-ahead signal to contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers. However, this job can be quite dangerous to humans as some areas are unstable or simply difficult to access.
Drone technology makes the job of site inspectors safer as they can conduct inspections remotely without entering hazardous areas.
Drone technology makes the job of site inspectors safer as they can conduct inspections remotely without entering hazardous areas. In addition, drone inspections are faster and cost-effective. A human-led site survey can take weeks to complete, especially on large construction sites. Drone inspections can be done by one person offsite in a relatively short time, reducing the cost of additional personnel and other expenses due to delays. With 3D mapping software, near- and far-infrared cameras, and laser range finders, drones can provide precise measurements without the need for repeat inspections.
As construction projects increase in both scope and complexity, so do the sizes of construction sites. In fact, one of the biggest challenges in construction project management is monitoring a large construction site.
There are different key monitoring areas at each stage of a construction project. During the initial stages of a project, project managers need to monitor field workers digging in deep to lay the foundation. During the ground construction stage, project managers focus on monitoring field workers working atop scaffolding. Other monitoring areas include site security surveillance and generating overall project progress reports.
Thanks to drone technology, all of these monitoring functions can be done faster, more efficiently, and most importantly, more safely than ground personnel can. There are plenty of safety hazards on a construction site, especially during the initial stages of a project, and monitoring by ground personnel requires sufficient preparation. With drone technology, humans no longer need to navigate dangerous areas to monitor a site. Construction site personnel can simply deploy drones on-site to send real-time video footage of site conditions to project managers. This video data can be analyzed and transformed further into a 3D-mapped model of the site, which can then be compared to the initial plan forecast to determine if the project is progressing within schedule.
Construction site personnel can simply deploy drones on-site to send real-time video footage of site conditions to project managers.
Aside from these, drones can also track moving elements on construction sites, including people, material supplies, and equipment, giving project managers important information to determine optimal employee schedules, maintenance dates, and material supply levels.
Tall structures such as skyscrapers, towers, and bridges pose a risk of falling from a great height to construction workers, not to mention the arrangements needed to access them can be costly. Drones can replace human inspectors and carry out planned or reactive maintenance inspections of these high structures. The data captured by drones during the construction phase can help plan the maintenance of the structure and help building owners renovate and upgrade certain parts of a structure. With thermal imaging, drones can detect leaks and even identify areas where leaks can happen, giving owners the ability to proactively maintain their facility.
As construction companies continue to incorporate drone technology into their daily operations, they should stay up-to-date on best practices regarding drone safety. According to the CDC, regular consultation of the following can help employers prevent negative safety outcomes:
The construction industry is swiftly embracing technology in its pursuit of efficiency and innovation–from automation in back office functions like accounting, lien filing and management, and marketing to field functions like safety and risk management where drones play a huge part. The role of drone technology in improving construction safety has no sign of diminishing any time soon.
Aside from the benefits of drones in construction safety, UAVs are also helping construction companies connect employees to remote job sites, document jobs, and provide updates to investors.
In just a few years, drones can be as common as forklifts and cranes on the construction site.
Drone technology is a huge leap forward for the construction industry, especially with its reputation for being one of the least digitized sectors in the country. In just a few years, drones can be as common as forklifts and cranes on the construction site. The sky’s the limit for the potential of drone technology in improving safety in the construction industry.
Be sure to check out the many stories behind National Drone Safety Awareness Week by following #DroneWeek on social media and following the FAA channels on YouTube and Twitter.
About the Author:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.
The term ‘advanced drone operations’ may not yet be widely used, but these operations have the potential to bring real, significant commercial value to a wide range of sectors – from agriculture and construction to mining and energy. With unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) becoming increasingly accessible for today’s commercial operators, there is an opportunity to integrate advanced operations into expanded project workflows, to accurately map more areas and gather the data and insights needed to make even better-informed decisions.
But what are advanced drone operations, and what makes them different from standard drone operations? The term encompasses a wide range of flights, including Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), Operations Over People (OOP), fleets, flying at night and flying in restricted airspace. Due to their more advanced nature, these operations often require additional preflight planning and permissions from the relevant authorities to address any safety or logistical considerations. Operators are also usually asked to provide detailed flight plans and complete waiver submissions, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the country.
can reap the rewards of expanding their current drone operations to include
more advanced flights. There is a lot to be gained; here are three main benefits
of advanced drone operations you should know:
Flying BVLOS has been gaining momentum in recent years, as users look to map larger areas quickly and efficiently to expand their project functionality. For sectors like agriculture, mining, or construction, where sites can be expansive, remote and/or complex, flying BVLOS can allow operators to collect data more easily and safely too – without getting close to hazards. Importantly, it avoids the repeated travel, set-up and positioning to ensure the drone is always within the pilot’s line of sight, which saves valuable time.
With advanced drone
operations, like flying OOP, commercial companies can cover larger distances or
previously prohibited areas, enabling more data to be collected in a shorter
amount of time. This is crucial for operators looking to cover urban areas, or in
applications such as mines where uninvolved people are likely to be on-site. Gaining
OOP approval is also essential to fly BVLOS; once OOP and BVLOS flight approval
has been obtained, UAVs can typically be flown everywhere apart from city centers
– creating further commercial opportunities.
Flying drone fleets can be extremely valuable – not only to save time but to also offer the traditional benefits of drones on a much bigger scale. Currently, drones must be flown separately or with multiple pilots, but as the use of UAV fleets and BVLOS becomes more widespread, companies can significantly scale their mission capabilities. For example, instead of taking five flights using traditional Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) methods, operators could use one. By streamlining resources, advanced drone operations can help to save costs and ensure operations are more practical.
There is an exciting opportunity to build on the growing success of drones in commercial settings, by implementing more advanced operations. Not only could they help provide a higher return on investment, but drones can also help companies become more competitive, thanks to the greater level of data and insights these operations provide.
Want to find out
more about incorporating advanced drone operations into your workflow?
Download Advanced Drone Operations: Unlocking the Technology’s Full Potential for everything you need to know.
As a professional surveyor, the equipment you take to the field is just as important as the data you bring back to the office. But how you collect can also make a huge difference in efficiency and data quality.
That’s why thousands of surveyors have turned to fixed-wing drones to help supplement ground-based surveying equipment, such as total stations, GNSS rovers and laser scanners.
Fixed-wing drones have made it safer, faster and less expensive to collect geospatial data. They’ve also made it easier for surveyors to take on more complex jobs and map larger sites, all while maintaining a consistent quality of data captured.
Not only do fixed-wings help you take on more complex projects with fewer resources, but they ultimately increase your firm’s project capabilities in ways that are impractical with ground-based equipment alone.
Because of these advantages, fixed-wings drones make an excellent complement to your existing terrestrial survey equipment, while also allowing you to expand your capabilities in the field and grow your business.
If you’ve ever wanted to expand your surveying capabilities, scale your business or simply complete projects more efficiently, fixed-wing drones can make it happen.
Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons you should add a fixed-wing drone to your toolbox.
Using traditional terrestrial survey methods takes time. From the setup and positioning to the use of multiple stations, much of your time in the field is spent moving between various station points, which can open more opportunities for accumulated error and time lost to rework.
In addition, it’s all too typical that the more area you need to survey, the less data is usually captured due to available resources.
Fixed-wing drones are estimated to be 80% quicker than traditional terrestrial methods—saving you time by collecting the data you need quickly and efficiently from a single point.
For example, the eBee X combined with the eBee series Aeria X sensor can cover 500 acres within 3 hours on site, while achieving an absolute accuracy result of within 2 cm.
This boost in efficiency means that you can capture more data with significantly less manpower and resources. While this may not be the case for every situation, it allows surveying teams, from the office to the field, the flexibility to coordinate wisely and cover more ground.
The eBee X combined with the Aeria X sensor can cover 500 acres within 3 hours on site, while achieving an absolute accuracy result of within 2 cm.
Fixed-wing drones also help you survey and map sites from farther away while avoiding costly disruptions to job site operations and productivity. And due to the more efficient aerodynamics of a fixed-wing design, you’re able to quickly map up to 10 times more ground per flight than multirotor drones.
Missed data coverage is less likely to happen while using a drone. In contrast to multi-rotors, fixed-wings have the unique advantage of covering more area than is required due to the flight path, which allows you to capture more data while at the same time ensuring you don’t miss anything. In short, you don’t need to go back to the field for extra data.
Not only does this help save time, but it also makes surveying and mapping safer. This is especially true for hard-to-reach and even potentially dangerous sites, such as mines, construction zones, landfills, forests and mountainous terrain. Here, advanced flight automation helps you to easily collect datapoints across challenging terrain while maximizing flight paths and data accuracy.
The remote-mapping capabilities of drones like the eBee X mean you don’t have to step foot on-site to map it. And while weather conditions sometimes get in the way, fixed-wing drones map large areas so quickly that weather issues can mostly be avoided with proper planning.
There are only so many hours in the day. Improvements in your ability to easily capture detailed information, track site progress or material inventories will help you work smarter with greater productivity and efficiency.
Drone surveying technology easily pays for itself when considering the amount of rework avoided and conflicts resolved through visual proof—all documented in real-time.
Accuracy is your livelihood. Fixed-wing drones can help you gather data with ease while helping you maintain precision across each step of your workflow from the capture and processing to vectorization, quality control and delivery. For example, the eBee X collects and produces data down to 3 cm, (1.2 in) of absolute accuracy (2-3 cm horizontal and 3-5 cm vertical), without the need for ground control points (GCPs) using its high-precision, on-demand RTK/PPK capabilities. The eBee X is also compatible with the industry’s leading base stations.And before you even set foot on the job site, early preparation will help set you up for success. eBee X’s eMotion flight planning software anticipates this step, making pre-site planning easy while ensuring you’ve selected the flight parameters to maximize data quality.
When airborne, the eBee X captures the GNSS position of each image taken and the exact orientation of the images from its Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). Thanks to the high-precision IMU in the S.O.D.A. 3D and Aeria X cameras, image captures have angular accuracies below two degrees in pitch/roll and four degrees in yaw.
Following each flight, image geotags can be corrected to absolute accuracy using the RTK/PPK workflow as a method of referencing the images eMotion’s Flight Data Manager. These advancements in correction methods enhance GNSS precision and eliminate the need for multiple stations on the ground—reducing the opportunity for human error which can also lead to project creep in delays and additional costs.
From there, the data can be turned into a variety of deliverables, including high-density point clouds (millions of points per flight), 3D meshes and georeferenced orthomosaics. And with photogrammetry processing software like PIX4Dmapper, creating survey-grade 2D and 3D maps with the data collected from the drone is simple and efficient while bringing additional value beyond common vectors. The data for a site can then be extracted, finished and quality checked before delivery.
Aerial data needs to be accurate, as we’ve covered earlier, but also easy to integrate into your current workflow for data management, visualization, analysis and distribution to appropriate teams. With PIX4Dsurvey, you can easily extract relevant information from photogrammetry to develop models and engineering-ready CAD files. Data outputs are compatible with popular survey software such as AutoCAD, ArcGIS, Bentley and others for sharing with project stakeholders.
Terrestrial equipment, while extremely precise, has limitations in certain situations where a drone can supplement efforts with greater efficiency. For example, road construction projects can combine total station data to precisely capture the center of the road, while a drone captures the cut and fill quantities extremely fast for accurate and efficient management of earthworks.
Whatever obstacle the site throws your way, it’s easier to overcome when you have a capable drone that can rise to the challenge and deliver accurate data.
Increased accuracy, speed and efficiency is an empowering combination leading to more opportunities for surveyors.
Traditional survey methods take much longer to complete for large projects. By adding fixed-wing drones to your toolkit, you will maximize your data collection and spend less time in the field—freeing you up to take on more projects and knowing you’ll complete them quickly and more cost-effectively than ever before. You’ll also have the added flexibility to service multiple types of projects through the use of additional camera options and data outputs.
Whether you’re working with point-to-point data sets or deep in the detailed layers of environmental information, success is still defined by your ability to deliver results within expected accuracy and deliver on time.
When you add a fixed-wing drone to your surveying toolbox, you’re not just capturing data with another tool. You’ve expanded your field capabilities to take on more complex jobs and grow your business.
While consistent lighting conditions are the best for ensuring radiometric accuracy, there will be times when data collection is necessary under sub-optimal lighting conditions. In this article, we will begin by defining what ideal and adverse lighting conditions are, then provide details on how the DLS and Calibrated Reflectance Panel (CRP) are used to mitigate the impacts of poor lighting conditions.
The ideal conditions for multispectral data capture are a clear sunny day or an overcast day with uniform cloud coverage. In both cases, the lighting is consistent.
The most difficult lighting conditions to work with are partially cloudy days with sharp transitions from shadow to sun. These kinds of conditions will most likely produce anomalies in the multispectral data. These anomalies negatively affect the composites and vegetation indices generated from the dataset, rendering the data sub-optimal in many cases.
When it comes to radiometric calibration, a strong value point for MicaSense series sensors is that they offer options for adaptability in a variety of light conditions. Included in each camera kit are two calibration tools: the Calibrated Reflectance Panel (CRP) and the DLS.
An image of the CRP is taken before and after each flight to capture a baseline reflectance value, whereas the DLS collects data continuously during the flight to capture variations in light intensity. Specifically, the DLS captures downwelling light through 10 different light sensors positioned on different planes to best determine the position of the sun and the effects of light on the images collected. The DLS gathers this information from the 10 sensors and then applies an appropriate value to the metadata of each image collected by the MicaSense series sensor throughout the mission. This gives the DLS a distinct advantage over other light sensors on the market which use only one light sensor on one plane.
By using both the CRP and the DLS when collecting data, you have the ability during processing to experiment and use data from either tool or both tools to create the best possible orthomosaic.
For example, when processing in Agisoft Metashape, Pix4D Mapper, or Simactive Correlator3d, you have the freedom to decide whether to calibrate using the CRP, the DLS, or both.
See an example of choosing the calibration method in the Metashape workflow below:
A good starting point on whether to use CRP and DLS data is to consider the lighting conditions in which the data was collected. We generally follow this guideline when processing data in-house:
To illustrate the differences in using the CRP, DLS, or a combination of the two tools, we have provided the examples below, each captured under different lighting conditions.
Below, in the image on the left is an example showing the data impacts of cloudy conditions where illumination is highly variable. Fortunately, in this instance data from the DLS could be used to correct for shadow-related effects during processing, correction shown on the right.
As evidenced in the images above, the cloud effects aren’t entirely removed but the map quality is greatly improved and perhaps the dataset has been converted from unusable to usable. This is a best-case outcome. It should be noted that sometimes variable illumination is so severe that even the use of DLS data does not remove the anomalies from the clouds, however, having the DLS data offers the best possibility for improvement.
When skies are clear, using only the CRP for calibration is the best decision in most instances. Using the DLS on clear sunny days can sometimes lead to striping in the data on long straight surveys, as shown below:
Another instance where the DLS can improve data quality is in variable overcast conditions, similar to what is shown in the image below. In the image, it is apparent that there are bands of heavier clouds mixed in among clouds, thin enough to allow for sunbreaks.
The DLS’s ability to provide accurate radiometric corrections in variable lighting conditions can be seen in the example below. The DLS is proven to be effective in removing the impact of the localized sunbreak, allowing for a high quality and uniform orthomosaic to be generated.
Although you may be faced with challenging lighting conditions while collecting multispectral data, if you are using a MicaSense series camera paired with the CRP and DLS you will have the ability to generate high-quality, radiometrically calibrated outputs across a range of conditions. This flexibility in calibration options ensures that you can have consistent and dependable data for analysis and temporal studies.
If your company has gone through the planning, budgeting, and executive decision-making required to bring drones into your organization, then you likely recognize the immense value they can provide. Unfortunately, too many companies fail to properly manage their drone program once it’s up and running and become disappointed when they’re met with disorganization or inaccuracies instead of seeing the results they hoped for.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the essential components for managing a drone service provider. Whether you decide to build an internal drone program or outsource to a third party, effective management will ensure your company leverages its investment in drones (and drone services) in order to achieve optimal results.
Just as no two companies are the same, neither are two given drone service providers. To determine which DSP is best for your company, industry, and desired task, ask these 11 questions as you evaluate your options.
Your evaluation should reflect what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship with the DSP, how those goals align with your broader organizational objectives, and last but not least, what you’ll use for key performance indicators. This way, you’ll be able to determine at the outset whether the DSP can meet your expectations. Some goals, for instance, will require a certain type of equipment, and others might require a certain FAA waiver.
Companies that are new to implementing drones or don’t have an internal drone program should have a project manager serve as the point of contact with the DSP. The project manager should be made aware of the time commitment, attentiveness, and level of understanding they’ll need in order to keep things running smoothly.
Pro tip: Regardless of how familiar your drone operations manager (or other title they might be given) is with drone programs, it’s important they have a direct line of communication with the company’s decision makers. Conveying the value of drones in saving money, keeping workers safe and promoting social good, and expediting work is important for securing necessary resources and further developing the program.
Unless you discussed reporting during the hiring process, you’ll want to work with your DSP at the outset to finalize a reporting format that meets your needs. DSPs should provide you with a typical reporting structure and recommended cadence for reporting, which can then be tailored to your program.
From maps and images to anecdotal data like fight notes, the information captured through your drone program should be stored in a place that is secure and easy for your team to locate.
Ideally, your process for storing and managing data will require little time and energy. While it’s possible to toggle between multiple products, for example flight logging software and data management software, it can also be time consuming and lead to errors. The best type of drone management software will provide drone operations managers with everything they need, prioritizing efficiency and accuracy.
Streamlining your operations through an app like Measure Ground Control will provide the following solutions for common management challenges:
Aside from the reporting structure described earlier, make time for routine “compass checks” to assess progress toward the goals for your drone program, as well as larger organization-wide goals. Because drones and drone software are constantly evolving due to new technology and updated regulations, compass checks can also be a great time to learn about new features and capabilities.
At Measure, we understand more than anyone how challenging it can be to stay on top of the moving parts that make up your drone program — that’s why we created Measure Ground Control.
Want to learn more about how Measure Ground Control can help with your drone operations management? Schedule a demo or try our app for free.
While drone programs serve a wide range of purposes and differ greatly across industries, what they all have in common are the moving parts that must work in unison to ensure a job is done accurately and efficiently.
The coordination of these moving parts — such as flight planning, data and reporting, and more — can mean the difference between a successful job and a failed mission or costly mistake. For this reason, companies often make the case for hiring a drone service provider (DSP).
According to TechTarget, Drone Services — also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services — are the emerging market for solutions that help various industries employ drones for respective services, and subsequently coordinate the execution of specific tasks like imaging or mapping.
Not every drone service provider is the same. To determine which DSP is best for your company, industry, and desired task, ask the following questions as you evaluate your options.
1. What prior experience does the DSP have?
While DSPs with experience related to your industry will make for strong candidates, it’s also important to assess the DSP’s level of experience with the specific task you’d like to carry out through your drone program. Ask the DSP to describe how their previous experience translates to your needs, and make sure they provide you with a list of references who you and your team can speak with.
2. Is the DSP licensed?
The FAA requires any sUAV operator to have a Part 107 certification before flying for any commercial purpose. Ask the DSP to provide proof of their licensure, as well as any related qualifications.
3. Can the DSP perform the specific task or project you’re asking for?
A reputable DSP will provide detail about their capabilities and qualifications related to the task your company is looking to complete. If your company has already determined what they’d like to accomplish and set KPIs, it will be easier to weed out options based on the drone service provider’s answer to this question.
4. What programs and/or processes will the DSP use to carry out desired tasks?
Make sure the type of software, documentation processes, etc. the DSP would bring in are compatible with what you currently have in place. An overhaul in even one area can lead to wasted time and resources.
5. How will the DSP process the data they collect? What will the “final product” look like when your team receives it?
Having a clear expectation for the format in which you’d like to receive the product or data will make it easier to determine whether the DSP can help you meet your needs. Are you looking for a high resolution GeoTiff with a specified accuracy? Or a PDF or JPEG? Do you want a digital surface model (DSM)? Or are you just looking for annotated images? Be as specific as possible to avoid quality issues and disputes.
6. Is the DSP insured? If so, what does their coverage look like?
Drone insurance is becoming increasingly common as companies acknowledge the importance of identifying and mitigating risk. It’s important to determine the type and level of insurance, since coverage needs vary depending on your geographic location, industry, and the type of job at hand.
7. What do the DSP’s safety procedures look like?
How does the DSP factor the surrounding area weather, etc. into flights? What type of risk assessments are they used to conducting, and what types of procedures would they recommend for the type of work they’d be doing for your company?
8. What equipment will you be using?
From the type of drone to the camera lens quality, any and every type of equipment should be considered when choosing a DSP. If the DSP does not have a certain piece of equipment they’ll need to complete your job, can they acquire and familiarize themselves with this equipment?
9. What do your maintenance procedures look like?
Regular maintenance and inspections of machinery and equipment are important for flight safety and can prevent costly repairs down the line.
10. What is the price for the drone services?
Newer DSPs will likely charge low prices as they are eager to gain experience, however the quality might not be up to par with that of a more experienced DSP. Therefore, the decision makers at your company should have an agreed-upon idea as to the experience and budgetary requirements they have in mind.
11. What features set the DSP apart from the competition?
The answer to this question will give you a sense of what the DSP will be like to work with, and will help you weed out candidates whose values may not align with that of your company. For example, Measure prides itself on customer service and fast-paced technology, and has been chosen as a DSP based on these differentiators.
We’ve compiled a list of forums, pilot networks, search sites for employers, and other online resources for those who are looking for drone pilots that meet a particular set of qualifications:
Once you’ve found and hired a DSP who meets your qualifications, you’ll need to tie it all together by managing the fast-moving parts of your drone program. This can be done by choosing a flight planning software that centralizes your operations and eliminates the need for multiple applications.
Our team created Measure Ground Control after realizing the challenges of coordinating across four programs plus manual processes to schedule flights, assign pilots, enforce safety regulations, and more. As an end-to-end solution, Measure Ground Control provides teams with a platform for automating drone operation workflows.
The value of radiometric calibration can be a bit difficult to understand, so we’ve put together this article in an attempt to add clarity to the topic. Hopefully, after reading this you will understand conceptually how changes in day-to-day light conditions can impact the accuracy of multispectral data and what tools are available to improve radiometric accuracy.
Although we generally visualize multispectral imagery as colorful indices or composites, the actual images that come out of the camera are grayscale and are essentially matrices of digital numbers. Below is an example of the grayscale images of raw data captured with the MicaSense series RedEdge-MX:
The images are ordered from left to right as blue, green, red, red edge and near infrared. You’ll notice that as the images move out of the color portion of the spectrum (blue, green, red) and into the near infrared (red edge and near infrared), the plants in the image get lighter. Healthy plants mostly absorb visible light and by comparison, reflect quite a bit of red edge and near infrared light…that’s why you see darker plants in the left images and lighter plants in the right images. We use this light and dark reflectance data at each band to help understand the physiological condition of a plant canopy…for example, if the red band shows extremely dark plants, those plants are absorbing a lot of red light and are photosynthetically active. On the other hand, if the red band shows plants as lighter, they may be experiencing a stressor that’s interfering with photosynthesis.
As mentioned earlier, you can think of images as matrices of digital numbers. Each pixel/cell within an image contains a digital number corresponding to the intensity of radiance within a certain wavelength. Each of the 5 images in this example has dimensions of 1280 x 960, meaning the total number of pixels in each image is 1,228,800. Each of those pixels has a value assigned to it that when combined with all the other pixels. For example in the images above, that allows us to see things like buildings, driveways and grass in the images. If we zoom into part of a tree in the NIR band image, we can see how the image is comprised of square pixels with different digital numbers:
Unfortunately, these pixel values are relative to the conditions in which the data was collected, and are not absolute. This is largely due to changes in light conditions (e.g. sunny vs overcast, sun at different points in the sky during the day, half of a field more heavily overcast than the other half, etc). If we are flying a crop over the duration of a season and are looking for subtle changes from flight to flight like nutrient deficiencies, early pest infestations or early disease identification, it becomes very important to capture as accurate of pixel values as possible and correct for any lighting changes that have impacted the data. In order to detect actual changes in plant-canopy reflectance from multispectral images captured over two or more days (e.g. an early, mid and late season flight), it is necessary to perform a radiometric correction.
Now that you know the ‘what’ and ‘why’, let’s discuss the ‘how.’ To get radiometric accuracy and repeatable results, you need a baseline reflectance measurement–a known reflectance reference point. It can also help to know how the lighting conditions changed during the flight itself.
So how can we get a good quality baseline measurement and therefore accurate radiometric calibration? There are two standard methods, both which are common in remote sensing. The first and most historically used method is using something called a calibration panel. The panel has pre-measured reflectance values and therefore acts as a “control”. Taking a picture of the calibration panel allows you to assign the known reflectance values to the pixels of the panel and adjust the rest of the dataset accordingly.
All MicaSense series camera kits come with the Calibrated Reflectance Panel (CRP) which we encourage our customers to use before and after each flight. If you take a panel picture not only before but also after each flight, you have two baseline measurements to work with and can also discern how the lighting conditions changed during the flight. Most processing softwares allow the user to upload their panel images and thus apply the radiometric correction. Some softwares allow users to upload both the before and after panel pictures as well.
The second tool for calibration is called the Incident Light Sensor or Downwelling Light Sensor (DLS). This is upward facing, mounted on top of the drone, and records data on lighting conditions throughout the flight, writing them into the metadata of each image captured which can later be used during image processing to fine-tune the radiometric correction done by the panel, enhancing its accuracy.
The process of radiometric calibration incorporates many key elements such as the position of the sun and sensor as well as irradiance data from light sensors and/or reflectance panels. The radiometric calibration process can take all this information and core sensor parameters such as camera gain and exposure to enable the process of converting digital numbers from raw multispectral imagery into sensor reflectance/irradiance and then into surface reflectance.
At this point, you know that radiometric calibration changes image pixel values to accurately represent the true reflectance of objects in an image. Two main tools–a reflectance panel and incident light sensor–help us capture the information needed for radiometric calibration, and are necessary components of any multispectral imaging toolset.
Because plant reflectance can be an indicator of health, stress, disease, differing varieties or species and more, accurate reflectance values are key to understanding plant physiology and comparing imagery from day to day or season to season. Time-based analysis is not possible without accounting for lighting conditions, and is therefore not possible without quality radiometric calibration.
As businesses continue to rely on drones for safety, efficacy, and data collection, it’s important to stay consistent with those values when planning drone flights. Drone flight planning consists of determining flight schedule, pattern, altitude, and image or video capture specifications, as well as any weather-related requirements (e.g. temperature, light, or irradiance limitations), to meet the data goals of your particular job or mission.Failing to create the right flight plan can not only lead to wasted time and resources, but in some cases can lead to consequences as severe as damaging your drone or threatening the safety of others.
A quick note on terminology: the drone industry suffers from confusion around terminology, and we often see the same terms used to describe very different things. Sometimes “flight planning” is used to describe everything that goes into a successful mission: equipment, personnel, logistics, processes and procedures, airspace checks and authorizations, etc. At Measure we distinguish between what we call “Mission Planning,” which covers all of that, and “Flight Planning,” specific instructions for how the drone should be operated to capture data.
A drone flight plan is a predetermined combination of instructions, including coordinates, speed, altitude, direction, heading, gimbal actions, camera actions, and more that serve the purpose of guiding a drone in accomplishing a flight, and carrying out a particular mission:
A drone flight plan can be created ad hoc in the field using mobile software or from a browser using web-based flight planning software. Through web-based flight planning, flight paths can be set in advance and reviewed by all members of the team to account for inefficiencies or safety issues. For example, a data analyst can review the flight path to ensure the flight will capture sufficient data. Flight planning, and flight paths in particular, help pilots and other drone overseers cut down on the time they spend in the field.
Drone grid paths follow a grid pattern. They are best used for mapping missions designed to collect imagery for processing into 2D and 3D data products. For 3D data products, you may want to consider a ‘cross-hatch’ pattern, a gimbal angle of 70-80 degrees, and even adding an orbit pattern around the grid flight.
Drone waypoint paths follow an irregular pattern based on the unique characteristics of the flight area/space of interest, and are best used for linear missions designed for inspections, project progress tracking, surveillance and security, etc. In the Measure Ground Control app, Waypoint Mode allows a pilot to pre-program a sequence of actions for a drone to perform, then press start and watch as the drone executes the sequence autonomously. You can also record a manual flight as a future repeatable waypoint flight.
Regardless of which flight planning software you’re using, you’ll want to follow these steps as you program a drone flight path.
As a first step, make sure your existing software is compatible with the drone(s) you or your company plan to use. If you’re still deciding which drone flight planning software you’d like to employ, these six factors can help you narrow down your options.
Practice logging flight information, checking for compliance, collecting data, and other important functions ahead of time, so you and your team aren’t scrambling on the day of the mission.
If you’re using Measure Ground Control to program and execute your web-based flight plan, visit How to Fly Your First Flight with Ground Control and Web-based Flight Planning on measure.com.
Make sure your drone software provides access to local rules and advisories for the area in which you wish to fly.
For example, if the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, also known as LAANC is required in your area, you’ll want to make sure your software assists you in taking the appropriate pre-flight steps. You also may want to check to see if the area is geofenced, which will prevent your aircraft from taking off without requesting an ‘unlock’ – Measure Ground Control includes in app DJI unlock, as well as LAANC authorization via our partner AirMap.
What will the weather look like during your flight? What obstructions — birds, telephone poles, trees, etc. — might interfere with the flight, and how will these obstructions be avoided? These logistics could mean the difference between a successful mission or a drone collision.
Interested in applying these steps as you carry out your own drone missions? Learn more about creating and executing drone flight plans using Measure Ground Control, and how Measure Ground Control can help your company streamline operations and manage your drone program.
As the demand for commercial drones continues to increase across industries, so does the need for drone insurance. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require insurance to operate commercially in the U.S., most companies require that drone operators provide proof of coverage through a valid Certificate of Insurance (COI) to demonstrate that the pilot has coverage that protects both them and their clients.With insurance becoming standard among commercial UAV pilots and the companies that employ them, it’s vital to get a sense of the risks you, your company, or your drone program might face – and how to mitigate them.
The world of drone insurance is full of nuances and can be difficult to navigate, which is why we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions on the topic. Before you set out to do your own research, be sure to read the following tips surrounding drone insurance for commercial pilots, small businesses, large enterprises, and everything in between.
“As the tactics and purposes behind commercial drone operations and personal drone use differ, so does the level and type of risks you could encounter,” says Will Newton, EVP of Product at REIN Connected Insurance Agency, LLC, which provides drone insurance services via DroneInsurance.com.
Both commercial and personal drone insurance policies need to be assessed for areas of overlap; for example, some homeowner insurance policies provide sufficient liability coverage for personal or hobby drone use.
Another difference between commercial and personal drone use lies in the need to distinguish between insurance coverage for the pilots versus coverage for the drones themselves. Once you are able to assess your needs, you’ll have a much better understanding of the level and type of insurance policies to pursue.
“Aside from enabling your pilots to fly with peace of mind, commercial drone insurance is a great way to protect and scale your business,” said Newton. “Most clients require drone operators to provide a valid Certificate of Insurance (COI) to demonstrate that the pilot has coverage that protects both them and their clients. The more quickly a pilot can provide this insurance information to a client, the more likely they are to land new jobs.”
If the above reasons weren’t enough to sell you on the benefits of drone insurance, consider this factor: as drone technology continues to evolve, so do the various laws and regulations that govern them. While it’s smart to stay on top of the regulations in your area (this handy global directory from UAV coach makes it easy with a list of drone laws, organized by state and by country), it’s much safer to assume you need commercial drone insurance than it is to be caught without it.
“While use of drones is exploding within commercial agriculture, telecommunications, energy production, government services, construction, and film, every day more industries are employing drones to carry out key functions,” says Newton. “If your company is flying a drone, drone insurance can help protect your business.”
The recommended level of insurance depends on the specific job at hand. Flight liability limits of $1M, for example, may be sufficient for jobs with a low level of risk, whereas higher risk jobs such as drone surveys around cell phone towers, power plants and utility lines often require higher liability limits ($5 – $10M).
“Those of us at DroneInsurance.com find it’s beneficial to use a tiered approach, says Newton. “A tiered approach enables you to protect your inventory even when you’re not flying, while providing the option to add flight coverage as needed.”
For example, Droneinsurance.com Base Coverage (billed monthly) protects businesses from ground-based risks such as:
On-demand flight coverage can then be added when you’re ready to fly, for as little as a day, or in customizable periods up to a year. Learn more about DroneInsurance.com products and availability here.
When assessing options for insurance coverage, be sure to consider the size of your company as well.
“While we’ve designed DroneInsurance.com to suit small to medium-sized drone businesses, we also work closely with drone businesses of all sizes to create the right drone insurance solution that fits their unique needs,” says Newton. “Similarly, we understand high upfront costs can be a dealbreaker for smaller teams of drone service providers. To help address that, we’ve designed DroneInsurance.com with flexibility in mind — including monthly payments for 24/7 base/hull coverage and on-demand flight liability coverage, allowing you to protect your business without hurting your bottom line.”
Check with the individual that handles the company’s current insurance needs and/or risk management program.
“It’s common that businesses with traditional Commercial General Liability or Business Owner policies will have exclusions for losses involving drones,” says Newton. “Your risk manager should conduct an in-depth review of the company’s current policies. This includes potentially consulting the company’s agent or broker where appropriate, in order to determine whether the company’s current policies cover its drone operations.”
According to Newton, your risk manager will also need to consider what drone risks you need coverage for.
“Will you just need flight liability coverage? What about physical damage coverage for the drone itself, or any expensive sensors you may have attached? What about the ground equipment used with the drone? Answers to the above questions will be key in ensuring you are setting up the right coverage tailored for your business’ unique needs.”
While the reasons will depend on various factors, such as your insurance policy and provider, there are instances where your commercial drone insurance provider can refuse to provide coverage. UAV Coach has compiled a list of reasons why you might lose drone insurance coverage. Below is a list of what they’ve observed based on their experience in the field.
“As soon as you have an accident, if you have insurance for your drone, you should call your insurance company. The insurance company should have 24-hour loss reporting capabilities,” says Newton. “In addition, they should provide you with a dedicated claim representative to work with you through the process.”
The FAA provides several resources for reporting incidents and accidents involving drones, however the general rule of thumb for incident reporting is “the more information, the better.” For drone operators and overseers who want to save time on such reports and avoid the headache of tracking down every last detail involving the incident, programs such as Measure Ground Control make incident reporting as easy as the click of a button. Features including detailed flight logs, screen shots, flight playback, and incident flagging provide reliable and accurate accounts, leading to swifter resolutions.
“Insurance policies differ in their coverage types, exclusions, limits, terms and conditions, so we recommend always reviewing your policy with a fine-tooth comb,” says Newton.
According to Newton, a few key items to focus on include:
At the end of the day, it’s imperative to ensure that your drone insurance coverage protects your business’ unique risks and aligns with your core operational workflow. If you’d like to learn more about DroneInsurance.com, visit their website, or schedule time to chat with their customer support team about your drone needs and the best coverage for your business.