In August 2017, northern Nevada-based Strix Imaging used drone technology to map an 18,000-acre mine exploration site, south of Elko, for Contact Gold LLC — about 28 square miles — in the largest commercial drone mapping project ever completed in the United States. Strix provided Contact Gold with topographic products at 6-inch accuracy over the entire site, along with high-resolution orthophotos. The entire project required three full days of flying, sun up to sundown, by two fixed-wing long-endurance drones. While the pilots flew, ground crews working under the responsible charge of mine engineers used ATVs to set over 45 checkpoint panels, and keep visual sight of the drone. In total, over 50 Gigabytes of raw data was amassed, which kept Strix’s servers whirring for well over a week processing the data.
When Strix’s CEO, Brian Blair, was asked how the company managed to map such a large area in so short a time with drones, he responded: “We use long endurance, fixed-wing aircraft, which allows our drones to stay airborne for up to three hours at a time. At speeds of around 35mph, our system can quickly cover large areas of land.” Blair explained that Strix doesn’t use the quadcopters most people think about when they hear the word “drone,” because quadcopters cannot cover large areas efficiently. Instead, Strix relies on larger fixed-wing systems, which Blair indicated he believes are the future of drone mapping precisely because they can cover a much broader area much more efficiently than quadcopters.
With this vision in mind, Blair is planning to upgrade Strix’s UAS fleet in the near future to include an even larger fixed-wing drone — a 50-pound VTOL UAS — to enable Strix to fly large areas, such as an entire mine site or long linear feature, in a single day instead of two or three.
About Strix Imaging: Strix Imaging is a Douglas County based aerial imaging and mapping company. Strix uses fixed-wing drones to provide high accuracy topographic maps, orthophotos, full planimetrics, volumetrics and change detection to industry. By utilizing unmanned aerial mapping technology, Strix is often able to significantly discount its aerial mapping deliverables for its customers, as compared to traditional methods of manned aerial mapping.