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DATAhawk AG with MicaSense

Multispectral Field Monitoring with the QuestUAV DATAhawkAG, MicaSense RedEdge and MicaSense ATLAS

QuestUAV’s All-Round Package for Precision Agriculture Mapping

Multispectral Field Monitoring with the QuestUAV DATAhawkAG, MicaSense RedEdge and MicaSense ATLAS


Simple Mapping Workflow - Quality Data - Better Decisions


Aerial images captured with a drone is a great asset for growers and agronomists. They can monitor the health and vigour and track change over time.

When equipped with the MicaSense RedEdge camera, the Q-100 DATAhawkAG captures images in five discrete spectral bands, designed to detect patterns correlated to crop vigour, plant stress and nutrient content.

 

 

This easily operated fixed wing drone covers hundreds of hectares in a single flight; providing high-quality multispectral data for crop monitoring and analysis in an automated workflow.

This means fewer flights, better information to alter nutrient inputs, actions to address diseases and the ability to monitor progress over time using the analytical map interface.

MicaSense Data Processing and Analysis WorkFlow

MicaSense Data Processing and Analysis WorkFlow

Data processing and analysis has never been easier with the MicaSense ATLAS processing service. QuestUAV users can upload their data to the ATLAS cloud for processing, storage and data management. An intuitive map interface allows access to crop health maps from any internet-connected device.


Soil Analysis with Rugged Equipment


QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawkAG

The Q-100 DATAhawkAG is a compact multispectral mapping drone with an exceptionally easy hand-launch.

The entire UAV is ultra-rugged, can be rapidly deployed and flies an autonomous and stable route even in high winds.

Flight endurance is up to 55 minutes at 18 m/s covering up to 300 hectares per flight at 400ft.

Multiple landing options, including automatic and parachute landing, allow for an easy and safe operation in open and confined environments.

DATAhawk Ag and Tractor

DATAhawkAG

MicaSense RedEdge

The Q-100 DATAhawkAG carries the MicaSense RedEdge sensor, a multispectral unit capturing data in five discrete spectral bands (near-infrared, red-edge, red, green and blue) optimally sensing plant reflectance.

Plants reflect light in a predictable pattern across visible and non-visible wave-lengths. These patterns are correlated to crop vigour and plant stress as well as nutrient content.

Plant Reflectance Spectrum

MicaSense RedEdge optimally sense plant reflectance with narrowband filters delivering the information needed to assess crop status.

Growers and agronomists can alter nutrient inputs and take action based on the images.


8cm Res Data Acquisition


QuestUAV’s intuitive flight planning software allows users to plan a flight mission from autonomous take-off through site surveying at specific height and image overlap until autonomous landing.

Having arrived on site it only takes a pilot 10 minutes of preparation to get airborne. Images are acquired as soon as the Q-100 DATAhawkAG approaches survey height and starts flying the grid lines.

Every second the MicaSense sensor captures five images (one for each spectral band) and writes them to the internal SD card. The Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) at 400ft is 9cm. Geo-coordinates are directly written to the image EXIF.

QuestUAV planning software (L) and (R) Q-100 DATAhawkAG

Data Upload and Processing


After flight images can be directly uploaded from the SD card to MicaSense ATLAS for storage, photogrammetric processing, analysis and presentation.

Datasets are processed as soon as the upload is completed and outputs are available within 24 hours.

MicaSense ATLAS is a cloud-based solution enabling users to automatically process multispectral data and extract multiple outputs such as orthomosaics, vegetation index maps (e.g. NDVI and NDRE) and Digital Surface Models (DSMs).

Each layer is reflectance-calibrated and registered at the sub-pixel level, with the value for each pixel indicative of percent reflectance for that band, providing valuable information on crop health at all stages of growth.

Image Processing Results

Image Processing Results


Data Management, Analysis and Presentation


Once MicaSense has completed the processing, all layers can be viewed in a secure web-based map interface. All data can also be downloaded as GeoTIFF files for advanced analysis in GIS software.

Datasets are organised in a ‘Farms and Fields’ structure. Users can create field boundaries online and ATLAS automatically organises the data into the field boundaries.

The map interface allows users to view RGB orthomosaics, DSM and index maps in a multi-layer stack as well as to scout the field and share information with their farm management team.

MicaSense field analysis

Field analysis is supported by a note function where users can annotate fields with points, lines and polygons and add a description or a photograph to it. Zooming to full resolution is possible without the need to download large files. Layers can be turned on and off by selection.

Watch the video


AG Equipment



Summary


QuestUAV provides farmers and agronomists with a simple workflow to monitor crop status and plant health over time. The QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawkAG autonomously maps hundreds of hectares in a single flight.

Equipped with the MicaSense RedEdge camera, the Q-100 DATAhawkAG captures images in five discrete spectral bands, designed to detect patterns correlated to crop vigour, plant stress and nutrient content.

Datasets can be securely uploaded to MicaSense ATLAS for processing, storage and management.

The intuitive map interface of ATLAS allows users to view and analyse their data from any online device. Datasets can also be downloaded as GeoTiff files for advanced analysis in GIS software.


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Mining Drone Orthomosaic (left) and DSM (right.) of a section of the leach pad. DSM is overlaid with 5m contour lines.

FIXED WING SURVEY DRONES IMPROVE WORKER SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY AT MINING SITES


A QuestUAV Case Study from Kazakhstan


INTRODUCTION

Mine operators know that safety precautions are of utmost importance in the daily routine at a mining site. Conventional surveying methods involved considerable effort and resources on the ground.

Starting with electronic tachometers and later with ground GPS, surveyors have had to enter high-risk areas on the ground and spend considerable time to finish a survey. Some of the most acidic areas cannot even be entered as the risk to health and safety is too high. When compared with conventional ground surveying, it has been proven that the use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveying immensely reduces the exposure to risk for surface workers involved on site.

 

Aerial Survey with QuestUAV 200 Surveyor drone (left) vs. ground survey with a total station (right).

Instead of walking a mining site with ground equipment, areas of whatever risks involved are surveyed by flying over the site. UAV surveys can be done in a fraction of the time of a ground survey and generally provide higher accuracies. Surveying projects that usually take weeks with conventional surveying methods can now be completed in just a few hours. Hence, UAV technology minimizes risks while reducing costs and boosting productivity.


TEAM QUEST IN KAZAKHSTAN


This autumn TEAMQuest was called by KAZ Minerals to help raise safety and efficiency to a higher level than ever before at one of the biggest open-pit mines in eastern Kazakhstan. Two local teams (8 people) went through an extensive two weeks training program on professional flight operations and aerial open-pit surveying with a QuestUAV 200 Surveyor. Following training by QuestUAV, both teams now fly the two Q-200 Surveyors on a daily basis with the following objectives:

View of the mining site (leach pad)

 

  • To monitor mine status
  • To monitor & plan pit and leach pad progress
  • To map & plan infrastructure (roads, buildings)
  • To monitor the perimeter security fence
  • To estimate stock pile volumes
  • To monitor & plan site rehabilitation
KAZ Minerals is focused on copper mining, producing both copper cathode from oxide ore and copper in concentrate. The pit development started in early 2013 supported by extensive surveys on the ground. It is predicted that the mine will become the biggest mining operation in Kazakhstan within the next three years. A crucial part of KAZ Minerals strategy for a safe and efficient pit development is to replace conventional survey methods with latest UAV technology. KAZ Minerals decided to go with QuestUAV as we provide a robust and stable system for difficult environments, high quality sensors and ongoing support for the flight operations.

 


EQUIPMENT AND DATA ACQUISITION


Since September 2016 KAZ Minerals have surveyed their mining sites and expansion areas on a daily basis with two QuestUAV 200 Surveyors. The QuestUAV Surveyor carries a Sony A6000 camera with a 16mm wide-angle lens providing image data down to 2.9cm GSD at 400ft. The images are the basis for 3D models, topographic site maps, infrastructure maps, pit volume estimations as well as maps for security and surveillance. Geospatial accuracy (cm-level) is achieved by combining image data with a combination of permanent and temporal Ground Control Points (GCPs) distributed over the mining site.
Bungee launch of the QuestUAV 200 Surveyor
Generally, the Q-200 Surveyor has been designed to complete high-quality aerial surveys in the quickest way possible in any environments ranging from desert and tropic to glacial and Arctic/Antarctic. The automatic camera trigger and the gimballed camera system allow to take pin sharp pictures even at high wind speeds of up to 55 km/h.

The Q-200 Surveyor is launched with a bungee launch line and is either landed via parachute or belly landing. The latest version of the Q-200 Surveyor comes with a Post-Processing-Kinematic (PPK) option, which provides high mapping accuracies down to 3cm without the need of physical ground control points.

 


APPLICATIONS


Daily flight missions have become an essential part of the KAZ Minerals site planning and mine development. The work of the flight team forms the basis for all further work in developing the mineral resources - distributing information to engineers, planners and geologists. Aerial measurements are used to develop and display the plans, maps and profiles required for mining and exploration. Three of the major applications are explained in the following sections.

 


MINE STATUS


The basic application of the survey results is to provide a general overview of the status of the mine. Orthomosaic, Digital Surface Model (DSM) and 3D point clouds are used to keep the KAZ Minerals management up to date about recent developments in the open-pit and the leach pad. The figure below shows sections of the orthomosaic illustrating the level of detail gained from QuestUAV data.

 

Sections of the orthomosaic of the open pit.

SITE DEVELOPEMENT


Orthomosaic and DSM are the basis for an in-depth topographic analysis of the development of the mining site. Valuable information can be extracted from orthomosaic and DSM, such as infrastructure maps (roads, buildings), water bodies, contour lines, the flow of water, risk maps etc. These datasets in combination with expert knowledge of mining personnel are used for the development of intelligent management plans for the development of the mine.

 

Orthomosaic (left) and DSM (right.) of a section of the leach pad. DSM is overlaid with 5m contour lines.

VOLUME ESTIMATIONS


UAV based measurements are the fastest and easiest way to measure stockpile volumes. Photogrammetric software, such as Pix4Dmapper or Agisoft Photoscan allows to automatically calculate volumes on the basis of aerial imagery. KAZ Minerals has proven that UAV based measurements are not only faster, geodetic accuracies are even higher when measurements are taken from a UAV.

 

3D Model of a stock pile (left) and pile definition for volume calculation (right);red:volume;green:base area.
volume calculations
Volume calculations are performed on the basis of the Digital Surface Model (DSM). The difference between the base elevation of a pile (green) and the pile elevation (red) is the Cut Volume – when the terrain is higher than the base. Fill volume is the volume between the base and the terrain when the terrain is lower than the base. The Total Volume is the sum of Cut Volume and Fill Volume.

 


CLIENT ASSESSMENT


KAZ Minerals stated that the QuestUAV system greatly improved the surveying work at the mining site in terms of:

  • Improved worker safety
  • Higher efficiency
  • Increased site development productivity
  • Higher accuracies of the geodetic work

Nowadays UAV surveys are the basis for all further work related to developing the KAZ Minerals mining site, including engineers, planners and geologists.


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Coastal Imagery

QuestUAV Drones – Reliable and Accurate Tools for Coastal Monitoring


QuestUAV Drones - Reliable and Accurate Tools for Coastal Monitoring


A Case Study on Long-Term Erosion Mapping in Northeast England

The Urgency to Measure Coastal Erosion

Protecting coasts from erosion is a global mission.In the UK alone, the British Geological Survey states that across England and Wales 113 000 residential properties, 9000 commercial properties and 5000 hectares of agricultural land are within areas potentially at risk of coastal erosion.

Mitigating the effects of climate change requires coastal protection studies and coastal protection measures. As every planner knows, though, this increases the burden of allocating ever-reducing financial resources.

Accurate studies of the changes, gleaned from historical studies, combined with best practice from current studies and environmental factors allow the most effective and efficient decisions to be taken in coastal protection anywhere in the world.

Sea Erosion

Left: QuestUAV 100 DATAhawk ready to fly. Right: Flood waves in Amble (13 January 2017).

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are a great asset for monitoring the stability of a coastline and for carrying out a rapid initial survey after a storm event.

UAVs can quickly survey potentially difficult and dangerous large sites with a very high level of detail.

Erosion monitoring, assessing cliff stability, monitoring coastal vegetation and changes in land volume or coastline state are only a few examples of the applications of UAVs in coastal areas.


QuestUAV’s Special Relation to Coastal Applications


QuestUAV has always had a special interest in using drones for coastal applications. Our company is located in a port town in North-East England on the shore of the North Sea.

The conditions in which our UAVs have to perform are challenging, but have greatly helped create one of the most stable fixed-wing UAV platform on the market.

High Spatial Accuracy and Gimballed Sensors

QuestUAV airframe design and sensor gimbals ensure data quality even in turbulent conditions with wind speeds up to 65 km/h.

Latest PPK (Post Processing Kinematic) technology on board QuestUAV drones allows survey mapping of an area down to 2cm spatial accuracy without the need of Ground Control Points (GCPs).

GCPs are normally not easy to place along the cliffs and dunes of a coastline, so the use of our PPK technology makes surveying quicker and less expensive.

Coastal Erosion Comparison 3

Sea colour mapping along Druridge Bay, England. Art project at Elie Beach, Scotland. Rock survey at Hauxley, England.

Our UAVs have been used for a variety of coastal surveys across the world, such as:

 
  • Rapid pre- and post-storm assessment to quantify forecasted storm impacts
  • Large industry environmental monitoring: nuclear power stations / mining sites
  • Coastal property monitoring (insurance)
  • Monitoring coastal sand digging activities (cement)
  • Habitat monitoring / sea colour surveys
  • Breakwater inspections
  • Geological cliff and rock surveys / baseline surveys

QuestUAV is keeping an eye on the local coast

The Northumberland coastline is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and conservation area due to its significant landscape and wildlife values.

QuestUAV started monitoring the local coast of Northumberland between Alnmouth and Cresswell back in 2008.

Since 2008 the local coast has been hit by two exceptionally strong flood events - one in November 2013 and one recently on the 13th of January 2017.

Immediately after the latest storm a QuestUAV crew flew the local coast, assessing the impact of the floods on the basis of the long-term image series. Our workflow involves a correlation of information from historic sources, satellite imagery and 3d-modelling.

Coastal View

We concentrated our survey on the less protected dune land, especially to see how much property owners have lost from erosion.

Our crew flew the site with a Q-200 PPK drone which has the great advantage of surveying an area with centimetre-level accuracy without the need for GCPs. The UAV provides images with a spatial resolution of 2.9cm at 400ft.

Coastal Erosion Comparison

Left: Orthomosaic of the survey site (January 2017). Right: Zoom sections of orthomosaics of different years.

Time-Series to Detect Storm Impacts

The figure below shows a picture of a dune property before (September 2016) and after the latest flood (January 2017). (Note that we show only a representative section of a much larger survey area).

The time series shows that the latest flood changed the frontline of the dunes by 1 – 2 metres. Rocks and previous coastal erosion measures became exposed. Large volumes of sand and grass were removed and slumps occurred within hours of high tides.

Coastal Erosion Comparison 2

Coastline development 2013-2017 at the Low Hauxley coast: QuestUAV image time series.

Our calculations show that approximately 850 tonnes of dune and dunefoot was lost along an 80 metre stretch of coastline and the high water mark receded by up to 2.2 metres at the most critical point. The expected slumps that will happen as a result of erosion at the toe are expected to carry a further 300 tonne loss within 12 months.

Coastal Erosion Example

Coastal Erosion at Low Hauxley coast.

To see the long-term development of the coastline we also included a flight from January 2013 in our analysis.

The good news is that the coastline recovers over time!

The storm event in November 2013 had comparable impact as the latest flood. Fortunately, sand, stones and organic matter deposits along existing structures and the coastline recovers over the years.

As long as the big storms do not increase in frequency, we do not see the local coast particularly endangered by coastal erosion. We will stay alert though.


Summary


Climate change can cause unpredictable events and it is more important than ever to keep an eye on the development of the coastline.

Drones will continue to take an ever increasing role in the monitoring and assessment of coastal erosion and assist in effective decision making for local planners and environmental bodies.

QuestUAV endeavours to build drones which are able to fly in harsh and difficult environments. The conditions we have to test our UAVs in help us create the most stable fixed-wing UAV platform on the market.

Our drones are flown across the world and clients count on the stability of the system, especially in difficult conditions as it is often the case in coastal regions.

We also provide the workflows that allow accurate mapping and timely interpretation of processed results.


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Survey Drone Sensor Gimbal Inforgraphic

HOW A SENSOR GIMBAL IMPROVES EFFICIENCY OF AN AERIAL MAPPING MISSION


QuestUAV Sensor Gimbals Improve Flight Efficiency By More Than 15 Percent


INTRODUCTION

Demands on fixed wing drones are growing continually. Other than copter drones, fixed wing platforms are generally used to cover large areas (hundreds of hectares) in a short amount of time. Standards on flight endurance and efficient area coverage are growing throughout different industries such as surveying, agriculture, mining or surveillance. To create a high-quality 3D model of a survey area sensor performance and image overlap is essential. Sensor and drone platform have to compensate for the effects of wind and turbulences causing blurred images and low image overlap. From day one QuestUAV has been developing gimballed systems and fine tuning platform stability in order to gain maximum quality and performance from a flight mission. The following sections outline the importance of image quality and overlap and show how a gimballed system can increase efficiency by more than 15 percent

 

QuestUAV Gimballed Drones

DRONE-BASED MAPS AND 3D MODELS


Image overlap is crucial...

When mapping an area with a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the UAV will have to fly and photograph the survey area in a grid-like pattern ensuring that every feature on the ground (e.g. a tree or a building) is “seen” in multiple photographs. For the generation of 3D models, these photographs have to have sufficient overlap in flight direction and between grid lines (side overlap). Photogrammetry software providers like Pix4D or Agisoft Photoscan generally recommend an overlap of 75% frontal and 60% side overlap.

Flight Image Overlap Diagram

Sensor choice and gimbal influence data quality...

Besides image overlap, GSD (Ground Sampling Distance) is crucial for modelling an object in high detail. Hence, a good sensor and a UAV system which enables a stable flight and continuous overlap are essential for the generation of high-quality maps and 3D models, especially in windy and turbulent conditions. Image sharpness and overlap can significantly deteriorate when the UAV is pushed around in moving air. Therefore, a sensor gimbal might become crucial for data quality, spatial accuracies and hence for mission success. Various QuestUAV missions have proven that a gimballed system compensates for effects like blurred or oblique images and lack of overlap.


Stereo Photogrammetry Diagram

Stereo-photogrammetry to extract 3D positions...

Once a feature is photographed from different angles stereo-photogrammetry can be applied after a flight during the post-processing phase. Common points are identified in each image and a line of sight (or ray) can be constructed from the camera location to the point on the object. The intersection of these rays determines the three-dimensional location of the point and in combination a 3D model of the surveyed area.

 


QUESTUAV GIMBALLED SYSTEMS


The sensor is the heart of a UAV and depending on which sensor is flown it will determine what data a UAV is capable of collecting. Ground Sampling Distance (GSD), image sharpness and noise level are all dependent on the sensor chosen for a flight mission. As an example, the QuestUAV 200 Surveyor carries a Sony A6000 camera which captures very high detail with a 24.3 effective megapixel APS-C sensor allowing to acquire data down to 2.9cm GSD at 400ft. The Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor ensures an extremely fast performance, sharp image quality and low noise images, even in low-light conditions.

 

The major advantage of a gimbal is simply to allow the sensor to continuously point directly towards the ground (nadir view), while the aircraft itself is manoeuvring around in yaw, pitch and roll. Especially in high winds, a compensation for the movement is essential to keep the image overlap required for photogrammetry processing. If there is no gimbal the general solution is to increase side overlap. However, increasing the side overlap causes the aircraft to fly more grid lines and turns and hence reduces area coverage and flight efficiency. Overlap recommendations by photogrammetry software providers are generally around 75-80 percent frontal and 60-65 percent side overlap.

 

QuestUAV Gimbals can reduce the image overlap to 40% and still guarantee the data quality.

Various studies with a QuestUAV 200 Surveyor and QuestUAV 100 DATAhawk have proven that a gimballed system allows reducing the image overlap from 65 to 40 percent and still guaranteeing enough overlap for photogrammetric processing and data quality even in high winds. By reducing the amount of grid lines and aircraft turns the already impressive ground coverage of a QuestUAV system is further increased. As shown in the figure below the amount of grid lines is reduced from 13 to 10 and the total path length from 10.1 km to 8.3km - a decrease of 18 percent!

 

Image Overlap Comparison

When compared to an orthomsaic based on 65 percent overlap the 40 percent overlap orthomosaic is equally good in terms of image matches and data quality. The number of overlapping images was in both cases continuously higher than five for each pixel of the orthomosaic resulting in an excellent 3D model of the surveyed area.

 

Orthomosaic Overlap Comparison

SUMMARY


QuestUAV has proven that a sensor gimbal significantly improves the already outstanding ground coverage of a QuestUAV drone. The QuestUAV sensor gimbal compensates for the effects of wind and turbulences causing blurred images and low image overlap. By using a gimbal an area can be flown with only 40 percent side overlap without a reduction in data quality. Hence, mission efficiency is increased by more than 15 percent.


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Surveying Drone Urban Environment

QuestUAV Addressing Safety Standards in Urban Environments | QuestUAV News


QuestUAV Addressing Safety Standards in Urban Environments


 

Introduction

Drone mapping is growing at a rapid rate in almost every country in the world. Unfortunately, incidents with drones are also growing at the same time. Just like any other aircraft, drones not only need to be flown in a safe manner but flight operations need to fully integrated within a countries civil and/or military regulatory aviation environment.

Authorities such as the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States provide rules and regulations for a safe and legal operation with the aim of minimising dangers to people, property and other aircraft.

In this case study we look at measures and counter measures that QuestUAV have employed to enhance safety when operating in urban environments through the example of our Korean flight team from Hojung Solutions. The team operates QuestUAV drones for a variety of urban applications while they are obliged to follow the strict rules of the South Korean aviation authority. Their advanced in-country training from QuestUAV has allowed new standards to be set for the use of drones for civil applications in South Korea.

Q-100 Surveyor Pro in Flight

Different kinds of UAVs have specific applications. While rotary drones are designed to inspect small areas in highest detail, fixed-wing drones can be operated over long distances and cover large areas in a short amount of time.

QuestUAV has long been a thought leader for safe drone operations and we support the highest standards of safety for fixed wing UAVs.

 


Applications and Safety in Urban Areas


Urban areas have various faces and UAVs can be used for a wide range of applications, starting from mapping urban zoning and expansion through 3D modelling of cities and cadastral surveys to inspecting infrastructure elements such as roads, pipelines and buildings. This study focuses on the experiences of the team from Hojung Solutions in South Korea, presented as an excellent example of the challenges of operating fixed wing UAV in built up and congested areas. Bearing in mind that South Korean safety requirements to UAVs are similar to the UK, QuestUAV drones are setting the standard for fixed wing drones in the country. Most importantly: the Hojung team is well-trained by QuestUAV as manufacturer and 100-percent professional in following safety standards and procedures at any mission.

DATAhawk Survey South Korea
South Korean team in action: pre-takeoff checks of a Q-100 DATAhawk (left) and pilot during flight (right).
 

Primarily the issue of maintaining Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) whilst still retaining full control of the UAV were the highest concerns. However other issues such as higher rate of local interference, loss of visibility from high buildings, poor selection of emergency landing areas, higher risks of unexpected interferences (including unexpected public interactions and unexpected interactions as and when moving on highways) were of concern.


QuestUAV’s first level of consultation took us to examination of the aircraft, its safety functions and how it could fit governmental regulatory requirements. Parachute, manual and auto landings, motor failure and energy dissipation on impact, risk of unlawful interference and poor GPS signal, were all aspects that were considered and blended into the software and hardware setup for the UAV fleet to be used in South Korea.

The second level of consultation required verification of the QuestUAV system in South Korea and a detailed investigation into training sites that could be used where challenges were realistic but real risks were low. A site on the outskirts of a newly developed city was chosen that provided all the elements density and high structure to the East and North, whilst having open and safe spaces for operations to the South and West.

The on-site flight teams needed to be skilled in a larger range of disciplines. Third level of QuestUAV’s consultation was therefore the standard manufacturer training in South Korea. The lead pilot had also received further QuestUAV training in UK.

                                     South Korea  Drones Chasers Ops Order

Ground Image of the Northern sector of the Survey Area (L) Crew brief and mission preparation (R).

The day to day process of briefing and equipment preparation needed to become an artform that raised standards in every area. One example is to use radio communication disciplines to allow remote observers to participate in an effective safety strategy that covered visibility in blind spots and better forecasting of events that might become risks.


Urban Mapping Examples


Aerial Images from Drone SurveyOur South Korean team from Hojung Solutions has been successfully flying in urban areas since autumn 2015. Their list of achievements is incredible. Some of the most impressive examples are already published on our website. The 300km road survey in South Korea was probably the team’s most difficult challenge.

In order to keep Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) the flight team had to follow their Q-200 Surveyor drone on the ground in an open car and never be further away than 500m. The team took advantage of the QuestUAV safety features like dual system, ERP and orbiting options greatly supporting the mobile operations.

Other great achievements are the survey of Madang City in Papua New Guinea as basis to design a municipal storm drainage system and several high accuracy topographic surveys for the South Korean governmental survey agency. The figure below shows several examples of urban features and the general QuestUAV image quality.

QuestUAV image quality: Populated high-rise buildings, road intersection including road markings, river weir, village centre.
 

QuestUAV Safety Features In Deail


A well trained crew is of utmost importance for a safe flight mission. QuestUAV places high priority on training clients on a safe UAV operation, which involves more than just practicing takeoffs and landings. The whole workflow has to be practiced over and over again, starting from mission planning, base checks and crew briefing through to operating a UAV in different scenarios and a safe UAV recovery after landing. QuestUAV has long-term experience in operating UAVs in different conditions and for various applications. Proven workflows are one of our outstanding safety strengths.

Q-100 DATAhawk

An outstanding QuestUAV safety feature: the airdock stick launch.

QuestUAV drones involve great safety features, starting with the material characteristics of the UAV itself. Our drones are light but also very robust, meaning that they can absorb a high amount of energy during any impact. Depending on the system QuestUAV drones are launched via airdock (Q-100 DATAhawk) or launch line (Q-200 systems), which avoids direct contact between launch person and drone. QuestUAV drones are generally flown in automatic mode (including auto-takeoffs and auto-landings), but in case of an emergency the pilot can always take control and fly the UAV in assisted or manual mode. Our drones are dual-systems, meaning that either the pilot can take control with the remote control or the commander can operate the aircraft from the flight laptop. QuestUAV drones have an outstanding redundancy, including commercial avionics, fail-safe, geo-fencing, return-to-home options, battery warnings, ERP (Emergency Rally Point) and orbiting options.


Summary


UAVs must always be flown in a safe manner both with respect to other aircraft in the air and also to people and properties on the ground, especially when operating in urban areas. QuestUAV drones come with great safety features to reduce mission risk and provide high quality data at the same time. Professional manufacturer training on flight operation, safety and proven workflows is the outstanding safety feature of QuestUAV.


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Extreme Environment Image

Successful UAV Operations In Cold Environments


7 Tips for Successful Drone/UAV Operations in Cold Environments


Whatever the application around the world, be it mining, engineering, research or agriculture, in general terms small mapping UAVs are being increasingly utilized to observe the Earth’s surface in great detail - to monitor change over time. The analysis of this data enables better decision-making, resulting in increased efficiencies and cost savings to its adopters.

To do this efficiently and effectively in many locations, the technology and its users must be capable of operating all year round - effectively in either hot or cold environments. In this article we will look at some of the capabilities and disciplines required to operate in cold environments.

Extreme Environment Image

Cold sub-zero temperatures, wind-chill factor, snow and frozen solid ground are just some of the factors that make UAV operations in cold environments one of the most complicated tasks. Combining cold ops with a demanding flight schedule ? It does not get tougher than this.

To operate in cold environments, there a number of crucial operational factors to consider:


1. A well-trained and disciplined crew is worth their weight in gold:


 

Freezing temperatures and wind chill will significantly reduce the efficiency and performance of the team and equipment.

A well-trained, well-rehearsed and experienced team who understand the effects of low temperatures on both the crew and the equipment is key. Training, crew preparation, cold ops risk assessments, and equipment preparation for cold operations will best prepare the team and develop efficient workflows and procedures to mitigate risks to the mission.

Live mission simulations at the training site will pay dividends in understanding performance of UAV and crew in low temperatures - remember training is the best insurance policy as it focuses on learning new skills in a safe environment where there is the space and opportunity to safely make mistakes.

Live ops has limited scope for learning and focuses on data acquisition rather than UAV team building, cooperation and efficiency.

TIP:

For crews, at zero degrees everything takes twice as long to complete, compared to +10°c operations. At -10°c everything takes at least four times as long. Crew roles and organisation becomes critical in the fight to prevent UAVs becoming cold-soaked during pre-flight preparations.

Remember – a well-trained team, combined with a well-planned mission will result in a safe and successful data collection.


2. Battery Performance


 

QuestUAV Batteries

Small Mapping UAVs, on-board sensors, ground control laptops and transmitters are predominantly powered by Lithium polymer batteries (LiPo). It’s a fact, LiPO batteries are susceptible to performance issues when operating in cold environments. To combat this issue, many UAVs now use temperature sensors to warn the operators when a critical external temperature has been reached, triggering safety mode and disabling flight. Whilst this is a great safety feature, this presents a huge issue for businesses and research institutions that have time critical data requirements in cold environments.

At QuestUAV, we believe that the users must be able to dictate their own flight schedules in all environments. By implementing strict procedures and guidelines, the operators are able to get full performance from their UAVs in cold climates. Understanding the technology, the environment, utilizing a combination of on-board climate monitoring sensors and thorough pre-flight and in-flight checks, flying at sub-zero temperatures is an everyday reality.

Mobile ops vehicles need to prepared for safe transport of crew and equipment - all organized for efficient and rapid deployment. A 300w 12volt inverter is essential as power supply backup. Aircraft set-up/configuration correct for mission - Example: corridor mapping ‘point and click plan’ – use the gimbaled sensor Q-POD for the Q-200. This enables vertical mapping of the target whilst the UAV is in a bank - the UAV will bank on planned turns and in high or gusty winds. For Grid Plans – use the non-gimbaled sensor Q-POD, more robust and simple to use.

Pre-Flights

Keep UAV in Warm controlled environment (out of wind), vehicle or heated ops tent. Use spare LIPO and camera battery for pre-flights, insert fresh pre-warmed fully charged batteries prior to launch. Keeping batteries in coats or near heaters in vehicle can help to keep them warm. Ailerons hinges - Exercise ailerons pre start, ensure free moving and not ridged from severe cold. Remember at high altitudes the temperature will be colder – falling -1 degrees per 400ft)

TIP:

Monitor flight time and battery voltage, if battery drains rapidly due to insufficient pre-warming, recover UAV and solve the issue. For example, replace freezing batteries with pre-warmed batteries and resume mission.


3. Preparation


 

Cold Weather Conditions

Out in the field, transport, mobile ops set-up, crews, efficient workflows, tools and spare equipment, documentation etc. are critical. Experience will continuously inform and advance operational capability, as long as crews adhere to their training.

  • Make sure all spotters are well briefed, including full safety card procedures, locations and telecoms etc.
  • Crew preparation - Trained, fully briefed on all stages of the mission, on-time and kitted out for cold ops.
  • Use all available resources including additional spotters if you can.
  • Re-evaluate risk assessments in cases of crew and spotter changes.

Desk Study, Risk Assessments, 48hr Checks and UAV Base-Checks must be fully understood and systematically completed and documented. All crew fully mission briefed, crew roles and hierarchy firmly established. Remember last minute crew changes carry high risks that require teams to either mitigate the risks or potentially cancel the operation.

TIP:

Remember your operations documentation and video your missions for post flight analysis and crew training – it is very important!


4. Field-serviceable technology.


Spare and repair equipment is essential for all operations. Remember in cold operations the crews will have limited ability to repair on-site, however spare components are required to succeed. Landings are tougher on a cold UAV airframe, most materials become more brittle as temperatures fall - causing increased risk of damage through the fracturing of cold materials. Sustained exposure to the cold whilst handling equipment and fine electronics can lead to rapid crew inefficiency or incapacitation. In cold environments, field repair capability is limited. Normal tapes no longer adhere and glue repairs don't set. Airframe EPP foam will experience shrinkage, wing surface laminates will slightly wrinkle and increased prone to cracking. EPP becomes solid, doesn't compress and therefore transmit increased landing shock through the UAV. Gimbals become tighter in the EPP body.

Remote operations in cold environments require task specific spares. Pack cold ops spares.

TIP:

A good sized vehicle is important for UAV pre-start warmth, crew protection, UAV ops, keeping batteries, laptop and transmitter warm, carry spares. Alternately use a 4m x 4m heated operations tent kept at 10°c (Electric or gas radiator heaters)


5. DATA – what it's all about!


After all the fixation on the array of aerial data collection vehicles available on the market, weeks spent scrutinizing specifications and deciding which one fits your needs, essentially UAVs are there to carry a sensor to capture accurate, quality data. So what about the all-important DATA and how can cold operations affect it?

Usually, there is less light available at all stages, resulting in small flight windows. Also, remember low light will have a negative effect on your image quality.

In addition, unbroken snow can prove problematic when processing your data - similar to difficulties with mapping water bodies.

For the operations team, everything must go right to be safe and successful - make sure they understand and follow all cold-weather procedures.

Mapping Image
Mapping Image

6. Flight Planning.


DATAhawk Training
DATAhawk Training

Assess target area and weather. Visit site if possible, carry out full desk study and 48hr checks. Calculate flight time, factor in potential loss of endurance due to flight plan altitude, temperature and weather.

TIP:

Avoid planning a downwind position of UAV at end of flight, batteries will be low and fighting against wind will not help.

Equipment Preparation - Full base checks. Use a shadow board.

Remote operations in cold environments require task specific spares. Pack cold ops spares and UAV in one vehicle.

Send planning documents to QuestUAV or your technology partner for pre-ops analysis.


7. Technology Partner


Finding the right equipment for the job is crucial. Understanding the equipment and your roles in deploying it are equally important. Harsh environment proven systems and accompanying workflows are a basic requirement and a technology partner that will support you directly is often overlooked and plays a pivotal role in successful application of the technology.


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QuestUAV Survey Drone South Korea

Still Flying After 3000km – The Incredible Story of Mango Six | QuestUAV News

AN INDESTRUCTIBLE QUESTUAV “SURVEYOR” THAT FLIES WEEKLY MISSIONS THROUGHOUT SOUTH KOREA AND ASIA

After 3,000 kilometers and 200 hours in the sky, Q-200 Surveyor “Mango Six” is still far away from retirement


 

MANGO SIX - AN AMAZING DRONE

Mango Six is a Flagship of the QuestUAV fleet and commercial drone world. It continues to perform faultlessly, under highly demanding survey conditions with its commercial owner in South Korea, in different countries, different weather conditions, managing rough environments and whatever life throws at it day after day. It goes on and on. So what makes the difference that creates another legend like Mango Six? Is it luck? Or Divine Intervention? Or are there other factors involved? Read on to discover some of its history and the reasons behind its success.


 

CHAPTER 1 – SOUTH KOREA WANTED A WORLD CLASS LEADER


 

A two year search by the major government-based South Korean land survey department to find a suitable fixed wing drone for their survey needs resulted in an invitation to UAV suppliers from all over the world. Their request was simple: Be the best and the most accurate at surveying a large test site in the heart of Korea, where engineers had prepared millimetre accuracy targets. The submitted result had to be a computer based map of similar accuracy but in a jaw dropping size - covering over 1 square kilometre. Inaccuracies of any note would not be costly to entrants.

Incredible Mango Six

Survey team and jury after a successful demonstration of our Q-200 Surveyor

The agency, LX, Korea Land and Geospacial InformatiX Corporation, (similar to Ordnance Survey in UK) wanted to find out how accurate each competitor was and how usable design was in order to roll out to each of its twenty six regions in South Korea. The QuestUAV partner in South Korea, HOJUNG Solutions Co. Ltd, were keen to display the capabilities of the QuestUAV 2m wingspan drone, with its gimballed camera.

Though QuestUAV were last to present from the global lineup of competitors, it soon became evident that QuestUAV held the winning design and what was then to become MANGO SIX was ordered. Training was conducted both in UK and in South Korea for a series of complex surveys.

Details of the performance demonstration for LX are here.

CHAPTER 2 – TRAINING, CREW AND MANGO SHAKES


 

After passing LX’s accuracy test, the QuestUAV trainer team spend two weeks in South Korea to prepare the new flight crew of Hojung Solutions for their upcoming surveys. The team, led by Munseok Lee (second from right) received special training on mobile operations and corridor surveys.

After long hard training days, QuestUAV trainer Nigel and the crew rewarded the daily progress in the famous coffee bar - Mango Six. Mango Six became the team's relaxing oasis, briefing room and training headquarters in one. Ten mango shakes later, the crew decided to title their Q-200 Surveyor “Mango Six”. Who would have thought at that time that Mango Six would become one of the most famous UAVs in Asia?

Nowadays, the highly motivated team of Hojung Solutions consists of 3 pilots and 2 commanders accepting the most challenging survey requests.

Incredible Mango Six

QuestUAV Flight Team "Mango Six" from Hojung Solutions Co.


 

CHAPTER 3 – 300 KM ROAD CORRIDOR


 

As a result of the great performance during at the flight demonstration, QuestUAV and Hojung Solutions were awarded a contract for a 300 km road and corridor survey for LX. The project had already been given to an Australian contractor, but when it became apparent that Hojung/QuestUAV partnership could do a much better job with a Q-200 Surveyor, the contract was reassigned.

The survey was conducted in the Jeollabuk-do province, in the southwest of South Korea, in October 2015. The 300 km road corridor, including routes in mountains and through tunnels, was flown with Mango Six, equipped with a Sony A6000 camera, over a period of one month. While Mango Six was taking high-resolution imagery from 400ft, the flight crew followed the route on the roads being surveyed in their vehicles. In order to also cover the road-sides, Mango Six flew a few extra lags for a combined mission length of 1,280 km. One intended purpose of the collected data is to allow government departments to determine illegal land use along road-sides.


 

CHAPTER 4 – UAV STANDARD VERIFICATION

Incredible Mango Six

QuestUAV's successful entry into South Korea in the news

South Korean authorities are very strict in their UAV verification standards - much higher than the European CE standards. On average, it takes six months for equipment to pass the equivalent verification in South Korea. Once verified, products can be released for general use.

LX clearly required verification, and to the credit of Munseok Lee and QuestUAV collaboration, Hojung managed to pass South Korean verification in a record breaking one week. Prior certification to operate QuestUAV models in UK, Europe, America, Canada, and Australia helped speed up the process.

Since verification, the South Korean authorities were so impressed by our technology and safety standards that QuestUAV is now the reference standard for fixed wing drones in the country.


 

CHAPTER 5 – OUR RÉSUMÉ AFTER ONE YEAR


 

From maiden flight up until today, Mango Six has spent more than 200 hours in the sky and covered a distance of 2,929
kilometers.

The Q-200 Surveyor has been used for a vast variety of applications, ranging from cadastral surveys, to inspection missions, to archaeological site mapping through to flying over festivals (Muan-gun Lotus festival) and stadiums (Yeongam-gun F1 Formula Stadium).

The teams at Hojung Solutions are now busier than ever, currently conducting a large survey mission with a Q-100 DATAhawk in Tanzania. Mango Six, in the meantime, is joined by three other Q-200 Surveyor drones and two Q-100 DATAhawks, all producing great results for the clients of Hojung So.

Incredible Mango Six

Mango Six's survey history after one year operation

CONCLUSIONS

So what do we think has elevated MANGO SIX into its Flagship category? There are a number of reasons, but the most important are:

Incredible Mango Siz

The QuestUAV fleet at Hojung Solutions

DESIGN.

Mango Six is a standard QuestUAV Q-200 Surveyor that has been proven to be efficient, rugged and reliable on all continents of the world. Its design has been improved through thousands of tuning elements to become an incredibly efficient and capable survey tool.

TRAINING.

The team had proper training, with two distinct phases spread over three months. They learned to use the aircraft properly and with correct procedures in the first weeks, then moved on to advanced training with a QuestUAV instructor only after those basic skills had been proven.

 

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Pafos World Heritage Site mapped by QuestUAV team with Q-100 DATAhawk |  2

QuestUAV Images Make UNESCO World Heritage Sites Perceptible For Visually Impaired People | QuestUAV News


QuestUAV Images Make UNESCO World Heritage Sites Perceptible For Visually Impaired People

An Image-Based Model of an Amphitheater Amazes Visitors at Ancient Kourion, Cyprus


The ancient city-kingdom of Kourion is an impressive archaeological park on the southwestern coast of Cyprus and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paphos. The park has a pretty visitor center, where interested people can experience history in a lively way.

In 2014, the British drone manufacturer QuestUAV, in cooperation with the Cyprus University of Technology, flew the archaeological park with one of their Q-200 Surveyor drones. Pix4Dmapper Pro was used to translate the acquired high resolution aerial images into a virtual 3D model. Sections of this virtual model were printed in 3D and can now be discovered by visually impaired people at the visitor centre.

Amphitheatre Cyprus

Original QuestUAV image (left) and 3d model of the Amphitheatre at the visitor centre (right).


About the Survey


The QuestUAV team flew the archaeological park with one of their Q-200 Surveyor drones, equipped with a Sony A6000 camera and a 16mm wide angle lens. A total area of 100 ha was flown at 400 ft. A team of two was used for the survey – a pilot and a laptop commander.

330 aerial photographs were taken during a 20 minutes fully autonomous flight. The automatic camera trigger and the gimballed camera system allowed us to take pin sharp pictures even at high wind speeds of up to 40 km/h.

Q-200 Surveyor Pro Pre-Flight Checks

Pre-takeoff checks of the Q-200 Agri-Pro.

Q-200 Surveyor Pro Launch

Getting ready for takeoff.

The images have a ground sampling distance (GSD) of 2.5cm with an overlap of 80% in-flight direction and 65% sidelap. At the same time, the Q-200 Surveyor recorded the GPS coordinates of each camera position in a log file, allowing for geo-locating the images on the earth. The entire survey from flight planning, through autonomous flight and culminating in parachute landing took no longer than an afternoon.


Image Processing and 3D Print


UAV images and log file were the basis for creating a high resolution geo-referenced orthomosaic and a virtual 3D model of the entire archaeological park. The image products were generated in Pix4Dmapper Pro, a professional photogrammetry software for processing aerial imagery.

The survey results have been primarily used to create archaeological site maps of the ancient city of Kourion with a never seen level of detail. The team around the Cyprus University of Technology and the Cyprus Department of Antiquities was impressed by the quality of the 3D model and the performance our Q-200 Surveyor drone.

Pix4D Software

3D view of the archaeological park (with the amphitheatre in front) in Pix4Dmapper Pro. 

In summer 2015, the park administration came up with the fantastic idea to use sections of the virtual 3D model, like the amphitheatre, as template for physical exhibition models in the visitors’ centre. The exhibition models are printed in 3D on the basis of the virtual dataset. Nowadays the models are surrounded with Braille annotations and explanations allowing those who are visually impaired to interactively experience the history of Kourion.

 UAV-based orthomosaic and digital elevation model

UAV-based orthomosaic (left) and digital elevation model (right) of the archaeological park. The amphitheatre (yellow circle) is only a small part of the whole virtual model.


Technology Advantages

Over the last few years, UAV surveys became an important method to analyse archaeological sites and to help keeping cultural heritage. UAV-based 3D models allow archaeological experts and other interested people to virtually visit and analyse ancient places. 3D print-outs are a wonderful way present mapping results and to educate the public at exhibitions or visitor centres. Combined with Braille explanations, printed 3D models make historical places perceptible for visually impaired people.

Amphitheatre.

View from the upper tiers of the Amphitheatre.


About the Ancient City of Kourion

Kourion was an ancient city-kingdom on the southwestern coast of Cyprus and an urban center of considerable importance. The most ancient remains in the area are connected with settlements and tombs of the Ceramic Neolithic period (circa 5500-4000 BCE). The majority of the archaeological remains within the Kourion Archaeological Area date to the Roman and Early Byzantine periods. They include several buildings with well conserved floor mosaics. All archaeological remains within the area are managed and administered by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.

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GIS Services |  DATAhawk GIS

Multispectral imaging with QuestUAV, Micasense and Pix4Dmapper | QuestUAV News


A Breakthrough in Precision Farming

Multispectral imaging with QuestUAV, Micasense and Pix4D Mapper Pro


Key Achievements

Multispectral crop monitoring has proven to be a vital aspect of successful agricultural operations. QuestUAV’s new industrial grade compact mapper Q-100 DATAhawk, combined with the multi-spectral MicaSense RedEdge sensor, opens up new doors to maximize agricultural productivity. The QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawk is rugged, reliable and allows easy and safe operation in open and confined environments. In combination with the five-band MicaSense RedEdge sensor, farm maps of unprecedented quality can be generated by means of the intuitive Pix4D Mapper Pro software. The following study reveals that our system provides a turnkey monitoring solution for the agricultural industry.

GIS Services | DATAhawk GIS


Technical Background


QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawk

The QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawk Ag is a compact sub 2kg mapping drone with an exceptionally easy hand-launch. The entire UAV is ultra-rugged, can be rapidly deployed and flies fully autonomous. Flight endurance is up to 1 hour at 18m/s with coverage of up to 300 hectares per flight at 400ft altitude. Multiple landing options, automatic and parachute, allow for an easy and safe operation in open and confined environments.

MicaSense RedEdge

The agricultural edition of the Q-100 DATAhawk, the Q-100 DATAhawk Ag, carries the MicaSense RedEdge multispectral unit. This advanced, lightweight camera is optimised for use in UAVs of our type.

The MicaSense captures data in five discrete spectral bands (near-infrared, red-edge, red, green and blue with a Ground Sample Distance of 8.2cm/pixel at 400ft), enabling the creation of crop health indices and orthomosaics. High-grade optical filters deliver precise information specially targeted to agricultural applications.

MicaSense RedEdge Bands

Spectral bands of MicaSense RedEdge

Image Processing (Pix4D Mapper Pro or MicaSense ATLAS)


There are several options to process MicaSense data and to generate orthomosaics and crop health indices. We found the following two options as the most practical solutions for farmers:

  1. MicaSense ATLAS offers a powerful cloud-based data service for storage, processing, analysis, and presentation of multispectral data.
  2. Pix4D Mapper Pro allows to convert multispectral images into accurate index maps and orthomosaics via intuitive software control.

Project Objectives and Scope


Our study took place at a representative precision farm in the Northeast of England in February 2016. The farm has a total size of 172 hectares and was planted with winter wheat, one of the most common crops of the region. The whole farm was covered by a single 32 minute Q-100 DATAhawk flight at 400 ft altitude. During the flight, 945 multispectral MicaSense RedEdge images were taken and processed in Pix4D Mapper Pro and with MicaSense ATLAS.

The key objectives of our study are:

  1. to prove the ease of use and reliability of the QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawk
  2. to assess the quality of the MicaSense images
  3. to find the best way for a farmer to process and make use of the imagery.

Our study focuses on the technical parameters of the system and excludes farm-related analyses, such as an assessment of plant stresses, characterization vegetative cover or yield estimations. A separate report will cover the farm analysis with the progressing growing season in 2016.


Results and Conclusions


QuestUAV Q-100 DATAhawk – Safe and Reliable

Q-200 Surveyor Pro Launch
Even in high winds (up to 25mph), the Q-100 DATAhawk flew a stable autonomous route and still achieved a comparable data quality to the QuestUAV Q-200.

Only 10 minutes of preparation were required from arriving at the site and getting airborne. Hand-launch, auto-pilot and parachute landing guaranteed a safe and reliable operation at any stage of the flight.

MicaSense RedEdge – Multispectral Imagery for Farm Index Maps

Multispectral ImageryEvery second, MicaSense captures data in five discrete spectral bands. At 400ft flight altitude, a spatial resolution of 8cm is achieved. Fully processed MicaSense products are reflectance-calibrated image mosaics of single bands or combinations of bands. Each layer of the reflectance-calibrated file (GeoTiff) is normalized so that a pixel intensity of 32768 corresponds to 100% reflectance for each band. All GeoTiff-Layers are registered to other layers at the pixel level. Through spectral calibration, images taken at different dates and light conditions become comparable.

 

Image Processing- Pix4D Mapper Pro and MicaSense ATLAS

Pix4D Mapper SoftwareThe images were processed with Pix4D Mapper Pro and through the MicaSense ATLAS service. Both processing options provided comparable results in terms of image quality and variety of image products (orthomosaic, NDVI, NDRE, digital elevation model). However, the concept of Pix4D and ATLAS to produce farm-relevant image products is different.

MicaSense ATLAS offers a cloud-based processing service. Source images are uploaded to the cloud and are processed by MicaSense. The output is visible on a website (password-protected) or can be downloaded as GeoTiffs. The service requires no knowledge on image processing and is charged per hectare.

 
 
Pix4D Mapper Pro is a professional photogrammetry software and runs locally on any Mac or Windows PC. Multispectral source images can be easily converted into accurate farm index maps via intuitive software control. Once a Pix4D licence is purchased, the user can process various datasets without additional costs.

Summary


QuestUAV’s new compact mapper Q-100 DATAhawk, with the MicaSense RedEdge sensor on board, is a reliable platform to capture high-quality multi-spectral data for agricultural applications. The Q-100 DATAhawk allows an easy and safe operation in high winds and confined environments. Different processing options, like the professional photogrammetry software Pix4D, allow to easily process the MicaSense data and to create reflectance-calibrated image products. Overall, the tripartite system, Q-100 DATAhawk – MicaSense – Pix4D, has proven to be a reliable turnkey solution for agricultural monitoring.


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Fruit Plantations Image

Maximizing a Fruit Plantations Yield using UAV Imagery | QuestUAV News


Maximizing a Fruit Plantations Yield using UAV Imagery


Plant Counting and Gap Filling Techniques

Determining plant density and identifying canopy gaps is crucial for good plantation management; this helps predict yields and to maximize the yield by refilling planting gaps. Scientific photographs taken from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) allow accurate plant counts and the identification of plant mortality for several hundreds of hectares per day. Studies over different crops show that QuestUAV images are a powerful tool for a plantation management to develop replanting plans and to compare actual vs. target plant density.

                         Q-200 Surveyor Pro in FlightPlant CountingCrop Survey using the Q-200 Surveyor Pro


Healthy Plantation vs High Mortality


Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of plant density on growth and yield of tropical crops. Plant densities are an important and limiting factor for growth, nutritional status, fruiting and hence for a plantation’s yield. Optimal plant densities depend on different factors, such as cultivars, climate, soil characteristics, land preparation etc.

                                                       Banana Crop Oil Palm with Good Density

QuestUAV images of banana (left) and oil palm with good plant density


Low-quality planting material, wrong plant treatment or climatic anomalies can lead to high mortality. The result can be a huge reduction of yield rates. Further, actual plant densities can differ from target densities for several reasons, such as wrong distances between planting rows or a lack of planting material. Therefore, the refilling of canopy gaps and correction of non-optimal plant densities are of high priority for a good plantation management.

                                                         High Morality Banana Crop High Morality Palm Oil

QuestUAV images of banana and oil palm with high mortality

Case Study: Developing Management Plans on the Basis of UAV Images


Several flights were conducted with the QuestUAV Surveyor-Pro over different tropical crops in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. More than 1,000 ha of pineapple, banana and oil palm were mapped by our crew. All images were processed with Pix4Dmapper Pro and analyzed by plantation management with the open-source software QGIS. The software allows plant counting, density calculations and the generation of mortality maps by visual inspection of the image products. More advanced approaches, like image classification and pattern detection algorithms, allow to map canopy gaps and determine plant densities in an automatic or semi-automatic way.

Identifying and Refilling Canopy Gaps

The figure below shows a study with the objective to map canopy gaps and mortality at a banana plantation in Indonesia. The analysis was done by the plantation management in QGIS. Yellow circles represent missing or dead banana plants, digitally marked by visual inspection of the image products. The map is the basis for the plantation management to: Assess the yield reduction due to plant loss Determine the amount of plants which require replacement Define the replanting locations

Crop Density ProcessingThe total study area had a size of 120ha. The image analysis revealed that over the whole area more than 12,000 banana plants require replanting. In the worst sections of the plantation up to 320 plants per hectare need to be replaced.


Comparing Actual vs. Target Plant density

Instead of mapping gaps and mortality, vital plants can be digitally detected by image inspection and plant densities can be derived. Single plants can be easily identified in an UAV image. Once digitally mapped, they can be automatically counted and plant densities can be calculated.

Pineapple Plants

The fields were flown 2 months after planting. Single plants can be easily identified. Each yellow circle represents a pineapple plant. The average plant density was found to be 28,700 plants/ha. Compared to the target density of 31,000 plants/ha, the actual density is too low.

The plantation management measured the distance between the plants and found that the target plant distance has not been implemented correctly in the field and they were often planted too far away from each other. In effect, the planting crew was either not skilled enough or was not following management instructions: in reality both are prevalent risks in plantation management.


Summary


What UAV surveys can give to a plantation management is the full picture, in great detail, of their plantation and control methods that allow intervention and potential for improved profitability, at an early stage of growth. This study shows how both mortality and improved canopy coverage can be detected on a large scale and effective, preventative measures be taken.


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