Case studies

BVLOS and OOP mission with the eBee X to remotely map quarry excavations


Share | 03/15/2023

Project details 

Missions: Excavation mapping over 3 stone quarries Outputs: Orthomosaic and DEM 
Area: 250 ha / 617 ac at 280 m / 918 ft AGL Flights: 1 flight, 60 minutes 
Drone: eBee X Total images: 486 
Sensor: S.O.D.A. Accuracy: 7.67 cm / 3 in GSD 
PPK/RTK: RTK  Processing software: PIX4Dmapper 
Location: Romania Data provided by: Adrian Marina of SysCAD Solutions SRL 

SysCAD Solutions SRL, based in Romania, provides geospatial services as well as surveying solutions to companies. For one of their clients, a cement producer, they fly quarterly mapping missions of three stone quarries to calculate excavated volumes. By Romanian law, the cement company is taxed based on the excavated volume of rock, making the accuracy of this measurement crucial.  

SysCAD Solutions uses AgEagle’s eBee X fixed-wing drone with its optimized S.O.D.A. sensor for these missions, and selected the drone and sensor combination for its accuracy, light weight, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and Operations Over People (OOP) regulatory-compliant design, and its ease of use. 

The three stone quarries they map are situated 1 km / 0.60 mi apart from one another and are a 2.5 to 3 hour-drive from SysCAD Solutions’ offices. It is therefore most efficient and practical to fly and map all three quarries at once with BVLOS missions.  

Challenges: Large area, rocky terrain, unfavorable weather, and air traffic 

The rocky terrain of the sites has made finding a suitable take-off and landing spot for multiple drone flights difficult.  

One solution the company considered using was a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone, but the weight of VTOL drones introduces additional safety risks and operational limitations according to European Union drone regulations, especially when it comes to flying operations over people and buildings. 

Fixed-wing drones such as the eBee X are well suited to large area mapping projects such as mapping the three stone quarries which are situated 1 km / 0.60 mi apart.

SysCAD instead opted to fly BVLOS missions that would enable them to launch and land a drone at a suitable site in the vicinity. BVLOS flights however require special regulatory permission according to European (EASA) drone regulations

Rain and windy weather pose additional challenges, making it difficult to confirm flights more than two days in advance for NOTAMs (notice to air men). It is also too short notice to complete a new BVLOS permission application for each mission. As such, the company sought regulatory permission for repeatable flights from the Romanian Civil Aeronautical Authority. 

There is also a small airport in the vicinity, which requires extra precautions and safety measures for BVLOS missions. The air traffic also limits drone flights to an 8-hour open slot and requires constant awareness of emergency rescue flights. 

Further challenges included homes and roads in the vicinity. To mitigate safety risks the team conducted flights during working hours and used eMotion flight planning software’s contingency lines to avoid flying over roads. 

Solution: A BVLOS-compliant drone for repeatable missions 

The AgEagle eBee X fixed-wing drone proved to be the best solution for SysCAD Solutions’ BVLOS needs. It is a lightweight drone, weighing less than 2 kg / 4 lbs, with the ability to fly up to 90 minutes with an extended endurance battery for large area coverage. 

Most importantly, the eBee X drone has C2 design certification and M2 design verification from EASA for Ground Risk Mitigation. 

The M2 Design Verification Report also allowed SysCad Solutions to conduct BVLOS and Operations Over People (OOP) missions by simplifying the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) process. For SysCAD, it also helps reduce application times to within the time needed to plan missions in changing weather conditions. 

C2 certification allows drone operators such as SysCAD Solutions to fly operations in the “open category” and operate around populated areas without any formal permission or regulatory waiver. The weight of most VTOLs (Vertical Take Off and Landing) or quadcopters limits their application in populated areas.  

The SysCAD Solutions survey team prefers a minimal setup, and rely on durable and trusted equipment such as the eBee X.

Another reason they chose the eBee X was because AgEagle’s in-house drone regulations experts assisted them in completing the SAIL I application and obtaining the necessary authorization.  

There were also less important but convenient practical considerations. Due to the quarries’ remoteness and tough terrain, the survey team prefers a simple setup with minimal, but durable equipment. This is why the company selected the eBee X drone with S.O.D.A sensor. Their ground station equipment includes a laptop for running the eMotion flight planning software, as well as a radio modem, base station, tripod, and generator. For backup they also travel with an extra laptop and extra pair of eBee X wings, which can easily be changed in the field if needed. 

The base station, powered by the generator, was used for RTK positioning to ensure accuracy down to 1.6 cm / 0.6 in GSD. The team raised the radio modem to 5 m / 16 ft to extend its reach and reduce the risk of losing the data link. In doing so they maintained more than 90% signal strength for the entire duration of the mission. They also used a Ping USB accessory which lets the pilot view live air traffic data directly within the eMotion flight planning software and increases situational awareness and safety. 

Results: Reduced time in the field and new business opportunities 

The AgEagle eBee X drone provided SysCAD Solutions an easy way to comply with EU drone regulations for flying BVLOS and OOP missions. 

The ability to fly BVLOS and OOP missions has decreased the company’s time in the field by 2 hours per mission, or six hours per visit to their client’s quarries. The drone’s safety design also provides them with peace of mind that their operations are safe for those on site and the people they fly over. 

The eBee X enabled SysCAD Solutions to apply for permissions to fly repeatable missions, saving them 2 hours on each flight and making the logistics of finding a suitable landing spot much easier. In all, a mission now takes them 3 hours in total, including the time it takes to unpack and set up their equipment. 

The ease of regulatory compliance, while a simplified SORA process brings new business opportunities for the firm’s other projects. The company notes a demand for OOP and BVLOS missions in cities in 2023, with high demand for cadastral work and mapping new highways. 

The success of these missions asserts SysCAD Solutions as early adopters and experts in BVLOS and OOP drone missions. The ability to fly BVLOS missions enhances both SysCAD Solutions and its clients’ workflows and operational efficiency and enables new operations and business opportunities. Crucial to this ability was their choice of the eBee X and sensor payload, with its built-in safety design and regulatory compliance advantages.  

Watch this webinar to find out more about the challenges and the ROI of the project.

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