Precision Capture and QuestUAV Form Strategic Partnership For Fixed-Wing Sales and Training in USA
QuestUAV are pleased to announce a premiere partnership with Precision Capture, Kentucky-based survey specialists who are now our Sales and Training Reseller for continental USA. Precision Capture have been successfully delivering innovative solutions in 2D and 3D data capture, measurement and imagery for 24 years.
Lead flight team members Scott Shufflebarger and Jack McIntosh have spent the last two weeks taking part in intensive training with Stuart King, QuestUAV’s Flight Team Lead, alongside other members of the training squad. Successful completion of this training led straight to a combined team aircraft demo for a UAV veteran looking to purchase here in the UK.
QuestUAV and Precision Capture are well suited to partnership. PreCap pride themselves on engaging with their clients at every level of service and support. QuestUAV are known for their client-focus and customer-centric delivery of both drone packages, tailored training and survey services.
QuestUAV and PreCap alike believe in a rigorous training regime that tests skills well outside the standard requirements for normal flight. Training facilities at QuestUAV are comprehensive in the UK, with Precision Capture providing their training from their new UAV centre in Louisville, KY.
Support for products and packages post-sale is often overlooked or underdeveloped by suppliers. QuestUAV and Precision Capture have a long track record of backing available systems long term. PreCap is centrally located in the USA – allowing them access to over 60% of the US population within a day’s travel. Site visits can be arranged at clients’ convenience. Both training and support can be provided in the field or directly at PreCap facilities.
PPP - A New Style of Accuracy
The team of researchers from Newcastle University with QuestUAV flight staff and the UAV used for test data collection
Historically, QuestUAV has worked hard to foster and support research outside the direct product areas the company R&D department often focus on. This can mean levels of involvement from working in partnership with other institutions and organisations, to sharing data and equipment with individuals or groups.
One current data-provisioning and equipment-sharing relationship is with a Newcastle University PhD student and one of their supervisors, Dr Nigel Penna. The project is entitled UAS trajectory improvements for ground control and is sponsored by EPSRC. Flight survey data from a suitable QuestUAV drone forms part of the data used by the project. Dr Penna was kind enough to answer some brief questions to give a better understanding of the project aims and requirements.
Tell me about the project
We’re interested in seeing if we can position UAVs to cm level without any ground control or base stations. It’s called PPP: precise point positioning. Usually, a longer time span of GNSS data are needed for this compared with relative post-processed kinematic (PPK) positioning.
What stage of development are you at?
We’re at the early stage, what we want to be able to do is to show is it feasible. We’re collecting data, processing it and comparing it to our base station PPK positioning to assess the PPP positional quality.
How long have you been on this project for?
It’s a PhD student project that started in 2014.
How much time and money would be saved using PPP instead of PPK?
Basically it negates the need for a GNSS base station on the ground, which does not have to be set up (in a secure site) and operated. Hence the user does not need to spend money on their own base station and will save any time spent setting one up. Exactly how much time or money saved is difficult to put a value to – given it will depend on the manufacturer, type and quantity of equipment normally purchased and what the overall end use would be.
How soon could PPP become commercial?
If we can prove that it works, then with the right software there is no reason why it can’t be done soon. We’re currently working on testing and enhancing the scientific software developed by a Chinese University to make it more robust. The problem at the moment however is that there is only one journal paper that hints at the feasibility of PPP for UAV positioning and therefore a lot more research and testing needs to be done in this area before it can be used routinely by industry.
Given that the hardware exists, and that’s what you’re trialling, is it possible for data collected by our hardware today to still be processed in the future should the software become available?
Yes of course, there is nothing wrong with the hardware that we are currently trialling with the PPP software. The main issue in terms of hardware is the length of time in which the aircraft is airborne. But currently there is no need for the hardware itself to change.
What do you see as the scope for Newcastle University and QuestUAV working together to get a solution for PPP?
It’s always very useful for us to have a company like yourself being able to come to us with an industry problem. We’re always aware of academic problems but not always industry and therefore by QuestUAV coming to us asking for a solution, we’re able to keep up to date and get access to data that could lead to new industrial practices and methods, i.e. an instrumental change.
The problem at the moment is the software, the product itself (the hardware) is there and therefore the scope for this research partnership depends on the software being available.
QuestUAV and BGS Work in Partnership to Develop Innovative
Aerial Gas Sensor Platform
A Gas Sensor Project
Simon Holyoake of BGS Launching the Gas Sensor UAV
Gas Sensing Overview
Remote sensing of atmospheric gas concentrations is an important activity, especially the monitoring of greenhouse gas levels on a global level.
This monitoring is currently carried out via satellite sensing and by laborious ground-based measurements. The ability to measure concentrations over a focussed areas (circa 1km2) and over more immediate timescales, is a pressing need.
Satellite time is precious and expensive.
Current techniques require complete studies to be funded, or data to be borrowed from other studies; here the data collection may not be exactly in sync with the requirements of an analysis. There is also a trade-off
between special and spectral resolution in space-based platforms; generally the higher the special resolution, the lower the corresponding spectral resolution must be.
Ground based sampling is used most often in the initial stages of construction and infrastructure projects, although it is also found in use around facilities where gas monitoring is important, such as in the oil and gas industry or for waste landfill sites.
In these arenas, the analyst’s need can’t be overstated to assess the potential release of ground gases and the ability to monitor the movement of that gas following release.
Sampling occurs at either fixed sites (boreholes) or with handheld sensors. The main issue with accuracy is that the atmospheric concentrations are generally inferred from indirect measurement of gas accumulated in a concentrator/borehole or measured instantaneously for only a certain number of times by handheld instruments.
The advantage of aerial measurement is that a wider area can be measured efficiently, with repeat measurements of days, weeks and months possible to get time-series data for a given area.
Methane (CH4) was the gas chosen to run trials against. Historically both a greenhouse gas and a ground gas commonly released by both earthworks projects and pastureland farming, methane is a colourless, odourless compound which is non-toxic but extremely flammable. It can form explosive mixtures in air at the right concentrations.
Gas Sensor Q-200 Surveyor Pro
The sensor incorporated into the BGS/QuestUAV airframe uses an open-path gas mass spectrometer (a fibre-guided laser beam which is passed laterally across open atmosphere on top of the drone to a reflector and then back to the sensor itself.)
The collector is tuned to a particular gas type (for this study two sensors were used – one tuned for CH4 and one for CO2.)
Signals from the sensor are fed into a multi-core processing unit (also onboard the drone.) All readings were stamped with time and location information provided by the standard GPS and flight units in the QuestUAV Q200.
The equipment was built into a custom QuestUAV QPOD – the beauty of this system is the ability to customise sensors and layouts within the QuestUAV Q200 airframe.
Workflow / Trials
Trial flights of the custom Q-200 Gas Sensor drone took place over several months, with initial integration flights consisting of QuestUAV flight crews and later flights including team members from BGS.
The completed drone was commissioned in March 2017, running trial flights over gas releases initiated manually on the ground in locations over the test site.
Each set of flights recorded sensor data which was processed immediately on return to base. The resultant harmonised and raw data were passed to BGS for analysis and appraisal.
The project had a fully successful outcome.
The UAV flies well and the sensors performed their tasks correctly.
There is still work to be done to fine tune the operational workflow and there are maintenance tasks to be designed for regular scheduled missions.
"It's been a very challenging project. It took a lot of work by both team - BGS and QuestUAV working in very close partnership. From beginning to end we've succeeded - we have a brilliant end-game with vehicles that fly well with gas sensors [integrated] in them. A great experience"
BGS - (EPOM)
QuestUAV Aerial Survey Packages
Industrial Grade Survey Drone
Compact Agriculture Drone
Advanced Aerial Survey Drone & Data Analysis
Post Processing Kinematics Drone & Data Analysis
Advanced Agriculture Drone & Data Analysis
Terra Drone’s Innovations take off at Brisbane’s Myriad Festival
Terra Drone Corporation’s ground-breaking innovations captured attention at Queensland’s Myriad Festival, with founder and CEO Toru Tokushige outlining the company’s vision for growth in the Sunshine State.
Held at the Brisbane Powerhouse from March 29-31, the landmark tech and innovation event established for “creators, connectors and collaborators” attracted more than 2,000 attendees, with the support of the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative.
Japan’s leading unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) provider, Terra Drone demonstrated some of its industry-leading UAVs and specialist LiDAR (light detection and ranging) capabilities at its display booth, which attracted a constant stream of visitors eager to interact and test Terra Drone’s technology first-hand.
Brisbane branch chief Tsuyoshi Honda along with Terra Drone Australia’s Jeremy Sofonia fielded a range of queries on the company’s technology and its benefits for Australia’s agricultural, construction and resource sectors.
QuestUAV and Terra Drone
On display at the company’s booth were a range of UAV models, including QuestUAV’s Datahawk, a fixed wing drone offering high-grade data and accuracy.
In January, Terra Drone formed a strategic alliance with the British manufacturer, including aircraft sales and development in Japan.
Ruairi Hardman, General Manager at QuestUAV (L), Toru Tokushige, CEO of Terra Drone (M) and Nigel King, CEO of QuestUAV (R)
“Compared to competitive fixed-wing aircraft, QuestUAV’s drones offer superior performance of the onboard camera and aircraft stability, enabling more accurate surveying. In addition to providing a surveying service and airframe sales, we will undertake joint development to further improve the airframes,”
Speaking at the festival, Mr Tokushige outlined the company’s vision, its reasons for establishing a base in Queensland in early 2017 and its expansion plans.
“My original vision was to establish a ‘mega venture’ from Japan, bigger than Apple or Samsung,” he told a large audience.
“In one year, we became the number one drone company in Japan. So now, we would like to bring our solutions to the Australian market,” he explained.
The Australian market is so important to us as there are so many applications here. In Japan there are mainly construction applications, but Australia has opportunities for applications in construction, mining, utilities, agriculture, and environmental areas,” he added.
Mr Tokushige explained how Terra Drone’s technology could provide both productivity and safety benefits for Australian industry.
“There are many surveyors still doing surveys the traditional way, which is very costly and takes time. By using a drone, you can dramatically reduce the time and cost. For example, 40 hectares would traditionally take two weeks, but our drone can do it in one day, while it also offers improved accuracy with a margin of less than 5 centimetres,” he said.
Terra Drone has already proven its capabilities at more than 300 sites in Japan, working with blue-chip clients including Hitachi, and aims to replicate its Japanese success across Australia.
He applauded the Queensland Government’s efforts to support technology start-ups like Terra Drone to drive innovation.
“Events like tonight highlight the fantastic work being done by the Queensland Government and further demonstrates its commitment to innovation and business growth throughout Queensland. I hope to see more innovative events like Myriad in the near future,” Mr Tokushige concluded.
Welcoming international companies to the festival, Queensland’s Innovation Minister, Leeanne Enoch, said the Palaszczuk Government was committed to diversifying the state’s economy and showcasing innovations to international investors.
“Technology start-ups will help support more than half a million knowledge-based jobs of the future by 2033, which will further enable research and innovation, and drive productivity,” the minister said in a statement.
About Terra Drone Corporation
Based in Tokyo, Japan, Terra Drone Corporation is a provider of innovative UAV solutions to the agricultural, construction and mining and energy sectors, using its cutting-edge technologies. CEO Toru Tokushige has 20 years’ experience in establishing start-ups, including in Silicon Valley, having earned a reputation as the “Elon Musk” of Japan due to his success with disruptive technologies. Terra Drone’s shareholders include the former CEOs of Sony, Apple Japan and Google Japan.
High Altitude Survey Drone Trials Bring Success for South American Company
Ecuador based Pilots Fly QuestUAV DATAhawk at 3700m ASL (12,000ft) for Municipal Tax Calculations
One of QuestUAV's research partners has been running a series of test flights with a 2kg fixed-wing DATAhawk in the Andes, for cadastral mapping and the calculation of municipal taxes. The following case study is the result of trial flights to evaluate the performance of the DATAhawk aircraft at heights above 3000m ASL. Read on to find out about the extreme conditions faced and the challenges of high altitude drone missions.
Prepping for the Flight
There are a wealth of diverse applications for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the high resolution, information-rich data they provide. One of the various disciplines supported is the registration of properties through municipal cadaster - storing information that is used for calculation of taxes according to the surface and characteristics of the property. Whilst the data collected can be used directly for these calculations - it can often inform and direct policies that the controlling agencies implement.
Due to the importance of these type of activities, the manner in which the property measurements and characteristics are taken are of the utmost importance. Controlling agencies need to take into account that there are places and regions that are difficult to access to carry out the cadastral survey, as is the case for areas with steep features. Risk to the survey personnel attempting access is also important and it is here where the usage of UAVs is important. UAVs are used to obtain territorial information through photogrammetry, leading to the production of orthophotos that allow the technicians to evaluate the territory remotely with an acceptable precision, with a correspondingly short time until the required information is available.
Land use is rarely arranged in a straightforward manner across flat areas, near populated, low-lying centres - instead being rather distributed throught the region of any particular territorial district. In the case of the town of Quero, which is part of the Tungurahua province in Ecuador, the terrain characteristics are typcial of Andean territories. The common features of these areas are:
- Ground heights of 3000 to 4000m ASL and higher.
- Mostly mountainous or steeply graded landscapes.
- Almost no purely flat areas.
- Areas of interest of mainly populated with agricultural activites embedded alongside.
To evaluate the performance of the DATAhawk aircraft at heights above 3000m ASL, in order to use the aircraft in cadastral updating missions.
Identification of the test site
Any suitable test site must take into account the reality of the landscape in which any future work is to be carried out. In addition, considerations included documentation from QuestUAV, locating a site with good visibility and minimum obstructions found when performing flight operations - especially for landing. In view of the small availability of sites with all of these characterstics in range to be visited physically for evaluation, sites were initially selected with the help of Google Earth. Two test sites were then chosen:
Image 1, Testing site locations (Ecuador, South America)
Image 2, Testing site locations (Ecuadorian Central Andes)
|SITE NAME||12 DE OCTUBRE||SAN ANTONIO|
|LOCATION (LAT/LNG)||-1.462387°, -78.700757°||-1.419822°, -78.610576°|
|TEMPERATURE||5 °C||15 °C|
|WIND SPEED||20 km/h||5 km/h|
|FLIGHT TIME||7 min||11 min|
|COVERAGE||54 Has||24 Has|
In order to carry out the Flight Plan, it was necessary to carry out a site evaluation to determine the location of the ERP and the landing site - all whilst also taking into account the planning and operational recommendations proposed by QuestUAV.
San Antonio Community Case
Aside from taking into account the flight considerations already stipulated by the company, there has also been an emphasis on the physical landscape of the area. In the case of San Antonio, there are no completely flat areas, but rather they present differences in levels over relatively short distance. This makes it necessary to have detailed analysis of the different terrain heights, in order to ensure the aircraft will fly at 400 feet altitude from the initial point and that it won't encounter any obstacles within the safety area. A graphic displaying the heights that would be under the safety radius was made which was used to verify the heights of the land and the obstacles that could put the flight at risk, like trees or houses.
Image 3, Site verification of the polling place and to determine the heights within the security radius.
Image 4, Diagram showing the locations of obstacles under consideration
The flight plan was with the planning software included with the DATAhawk. All previously mentioned requirements were taken into consideration. In addition the safety radius was extended to 800m, due to the terrain conditions and the lack of regulations for UAV flights in our country, which allows for a better range of possibilities when maneuvering the aircraft to fly the course required to collect the overlapping ground images. Care was taken to ensure that a suitable distance was maintained so as not to lose sight of the aircraft.
Image 5, Flight plan created with standard DATAhawk planning software (included)
Each takeoff was performed with the Short Launch Line, due to the height conditions. The launch line allows for greater safety at the time of takeoff, in addition to the providing the initial thrust so that the aircraft could enter in normal flight envelope.
All takeoffs were successful.
Image 6, Verification of the flight plan on-site
Image 7, Pre-flight checks on the DATAhawk
Image 9, Aircraft in flight at 400ft (3135m ASL)
Image 10, Orthomosaic created from data collected during San Antonio trials
Image 11, Orthomosaic created from data collected during San Antonio trials (zoomed)
Image 12, Digital Surface Model created from data collected during San Antonio trials
October 12th Case
The conditions nencountered during the tests carried out in the community on the 12th October were a little different. The selected trial location presented the characteristics of a predominantly flat terrain, however the overall height of the exercise had a base of 3600m ASL. As a result, it was determined to follow the recommended steps during the development of the Flight Plan:
Image 13, Flight Plan created with standard DATAhawk planning software (included)
Image 14, Verifying the flying area and the climate conditions.
Image 15, Pre-flight checks on the DATAhawk
Image 17, Post landing procedures
Image 19, Orthomosaic created from data collected during 12th October trials
Image 20, Orthomosaic created from data collected during 12 de Octubre trials (zoomed)
Image 21, Digital Surface Model created from data collected during 12th October trials
Treatment of images
The results obtained in the two test flights performed are of good quality. This is due to the capability of the aircraft and the design of the flight plans, since the objective was mainly to get an orthophoto of the sector and to verify the performance of the aircraft at high altitude.
The data processed with Pix4Dmapper Pro photogrammetry software is shown below:
Image 22, Data processing performed in Pix4Dmapper Pro
- It is necessary to carry out base and flight checks in addition to the consideration of the terrain at the time of flying. This will help ensure the safety of personnel and the aircraft.
- The aircraft is launched using the added safety feature of a launch line. The use of this feature enables the aircraft to be launched safely in environments with high altitudes.
- The aircraft takeoffs normally and safely for personnel, since the short launch line is a good alternative in places where greater aircraft performance is needed as with high altitude.
- Landing the aircraft safely is the most crucial part of a UAV flight. It is therefore important to have a clear landing site due to the level of care and attention that is required to land the aircraft safely. Should the situation arise where there may not be a sufficient place to land, parachute landing is available as a safe alternative.
- QuestUAV recommend carrying out many test flights until "you lose the fear of control" after which, will make the flights more natural.
- The Q100 DATAhawk drone has fulfilled our levels of expectations of performing in altitudes that are above sea level. The aircraft and sensor captures clear and sharp imagery proving outstanding processed othomosaics and flythroughs. Therefore it is our recommendation that the Q100 DATAhawk drone be used to perform flights in harsh terrains.
Topcon Survey Yanqing District with Fixed Wing Drone
Roctech- Topcon, QuestUAV's Chinese reseller recently surveyed the Yanqing District, located North West of Beijing, China as part of a UAV demonstration. The team used QuestUAV's Q-100 DATAhawk drone to survey the area and processed their images using the Pix4DMapper software.
Beijing Topcon Business & Trade (BTBT) are a Positioning Business, which uses high-precision GNSS positing technology to achieve the automation of civil engineering construction and farming. Topcon supply a range of survey technologies globally including QuestUAV's Q-100 DATAhawk drone.
BTBT with QuestUAV's Stuart King and Q-100 DATAhawk
Watch the flythrough:
Precision UAV Showcase the Q-100 DATAhawk at the 49th Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors Conference
Precision UAV (formally Your Precision) attended the 49th annual Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors (TAPS) Conference. The company showcased QuestUAV's Q-100 DATAhawk over a two day period.
Visitors at the conference were keen to see the fixed wing drone with Precision UAV reporting a great response to the Q-100 DATAhawk with many responding positively to the design and price compared to competitors.
Precision UAV Logo
Precision UAV Conference Stand
Q-100 DATAhawk on Show at TAPS
Overall I thought the TAPS event was a great success. We were able to talk to many customers about UAV technology and introduce them to the QuestUAV DATAhawk option.