They’re on the news, in the stores, and in the skies; but what role do drones play in the mapping world?
As our industry quickly learns to adapt to the newest approach for aerial acquisition, it is important to understand what is the right tool for the job. Data collection is the first step towards developing mapping solutions. At GeoWing, we don’t believe in only offering one mode of geospatial data collection. Whether flying a conventional aircraft, or deploying an FAA-authorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), collection methods should be based on maximizing efficiency while meeting the needs of the individual project.
How to choose aircraft for acquisition?
Just like a carpenter, a trained mapper should never have only one tool in their toolbox. Unfortunately, there is a lot of pressure to incorporate UAS into every mapping project, even when the project specs are begging you not to. However, when approaching any new project, selecting the right tool for acquisition is critical to the overall quality of the product.
Conventional aircraft outfitted with cameras and other sensors have been a mainstay of aerial mapping for over a century. Such platforms continue to play a significant role in acquiring high quality imagery and data for the large areas of interest. Project size plays the largest role in determining if a manned aircraft is the best data collection option. Manned flights can cover upwards of 50x the amount of area that a UAS can. Additionally, manned aircraft can acquire data for a large area in a shorter amount of time, thus allowing for a steady sun angle, making the overall data more consistent. At GeoWing, we incorporate the use of manned aircraft because of its unique ability to collect high resolution data that is able to support detailed feature extraction over large areas of interest.
Drones, or UAS, present a number of advantages for data collection. At GeoWing, we focus on the flexibility of UAS to provide the best mapping solutions. UAS is best used to collect high-resolution data for small to medium sized projects. Along with the low cost to fly, UAS provides the ability to quickly mobilize and acquire data which means you can start processing data the same day. This quick turnaround makes UAS perfect for projects that require ongoing monitoring or repeatability.
The two main types of UAS are fixed wing and multirotor. Both platforms providing their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Fixed Wing UAS
Fixed wing UAS are great for endurance and payload capacity. They use less power than multirotors to stay in the air and therefore can fly a much larger range, making them a good choice for medium to large projects.
Multirotor’s offer the advantage of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and extreme maneuverability. Unlike fixed wing UAS which require a large space for take-off and landing, multirotors have the ability to hover and ascend or descend on any axis. This makes multirotor UAS a perfect option for small to medium projects with more confined spaces.
Within the past few years, UAS developers have been exploring the benefit of a fixed wing and multirotor UAS hybrid. GeoWing recently acquired a hybrid vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) system called the FireFLY6. This system combines the hovering characteristics of a multicopter with the gliding ability of a fixed wing, aiming to give its operators the best of both worlds.
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GeoWing Mapping, Inc. (GeoWing) is fast growing geomatics company, comprised of industry experts, who are providing excellence in geospatial products and services.