Experimenting with Low-cost UAVs

A 2014 article on GIS Professional was updated today that summarised a project undertaken by the University of Edinburgh on the feasibility of lowering the entry barriers to creating elevation models using low-cost UAVs and photos from a digital camera.

Drone_in_air_croppedAs we know from experience within the School, this is something that has experienced broad adoption in the last four years, but the areas covered by the summary are topics well worth regular review – as indicated by today’s update of the cited article  🙂

The article also provided a lot of good basic advice if you are thinking about using this method of data capture – the technology changes – the UAV names and specifications, the camera and GPS details etc., but we will always have to make decisions about things like:

  • payload tradeoffs
    The more we can do, the more we want to do!
    What goes on your UAV and where?

    • Oblique vs Nadir mounting for a camera
    • Stills vs Video,
    • Multiband Imaging  vs LiDAR vs Higher Res RGB images
    • Vibration Dampening Gimbal System vs Camera with a faster shutter speed
    • Locked camera settings vs ‘auto’ camera settings mode
    • flight plan vs geo-tagged pictures
    • … and this list goes on.
  • How many people need to make up the field crew?
    The Edinburgh study recommends a four-person groundcrew and gives some solid reasons for this. Your risk assessment may indicate a need for more, your study areas aviation laws may place constraints on your options. Your environment may dictate that your ground control alone requires a minimum amount of people to get it down in time in a safe manner – each data capture project is unique and must be evaluated as such.
  • How we are going to ensure we
    • capture everything we need while in the field
    • store it all safely and get it back to the lab for back up and processing
    • recover all our equipment safely for future use
    • make the best use of the time we have out in the field

If you would like some assistance with working through the Data Capture Field Work Planning the SAL Technical Staff are here to help you out 🙂

Contact us if you want to have a chat, general or specific, about capturing any type of geospatial data in the field – whatever the resources you have available, you can only make each field trip once, so we are keen to help you make it as effective as possible!

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