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Topcon

Topcon Survey Yanqing District with Fixed Wing Drone – Flythrough


Topcon Survey Yanqing District with Fixed Wing Drone


A QuestUAV's Chinese reseller recently surveyed the Yanqing District, located North West of Beijing, China as part of a UAV demonstration. They were able to create a flythrough to show results.  The team used QuestUAV's Q-100 DATAhawk drone to survey the area and processed their images using the Pix4DMapper software.

About Roctech

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.

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BTBT with QuestUAV's Stuart King and Q-100 DATAhawk 


Watch the flythrough:


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Grande Cote

Grande Cote Complete Manufacturers Training


Grande Cote Complete Manufacturers Training


Grande Cote
Grande Cote

Papa Mamadou came from Senegal on a mission to learn how to operate the QuestUAV Surveyor Pro on his Grand Cote mines. A great character, full of smiles and fun, he braved the roughest of English weather and Storm Doris to complete his training with us.  

Some quotes from him both in English and his native French tongue.  

“Wonderful good great I enjoyed my time"

"Javoue vraiment davoir passer d’excellent monments avec l’equipe QUESTUAV. Cetait une occasion pour moi de decouvrir northumberland et decouvrir aussi lhospitalite anglaise. Du professionalisme et de lexcellence chez Quest UAV et lhistoire ne fait que commencer sachant que nous avons un grand chemin a parcourrir ensemble.”-Papa

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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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Fixed Wing vs Rotary Image 1

Fixed Wing Versus Rotary Wing For UAV Mapping Applications

Fixed Wing Versus Rotary Wing For UAV Mapping Applications

Fixed Wing vs Rotary
UAVs (also known as drones) come in many shapes and sizes. Each of these have their own unique pros and cons. It is these characteristics which ultimately leads to the operator's decision in which platform will best fit the application. It is understanding these key attributes and acting on them will ensure that your mapping mission is a success.

Fixed Wing Or Rotary Wing UAV?
UAV aircraft currently boil down to two categories, fixed wing and rotary wing. As you may have guessed each of these categories can be further broken down, for example a fixed wing UAV can be high wing, mid wing, low wing and flying wing, again each having their own unique characteristic advantages and disadvantages. For the purposes of this article we will be focusing on the “top level” differences between the two.

Fixed Wing UAV
Fixed Wing vs RotaryFixed wing UAVs, such as the Q200 and DATAhawk, consists of a rigid wing that has a predetermined airfoil (again another variable) which make flight capable by generating lift caused by the UAV’s forward airspeed. This airspeed is generated by forward thrust usually by the means of a propeller being turned by an internal combustion engine or electric motor.

Control of the UAV comes from control surfaces built into the wing itself, these traditionally consist of ailerons an elevator and a rudder. They allow the UAV to freely rotate around three axes that are perpendicular to each other and intersect at the UAV’s center of gravity. The elevator controlling the Pitch (Lateral axis), ailerons controlling the Roll (Longitudinal axis) and the rudder controlling the Yaw (Vertical axis).

Fixed Wing vs RotaryThe main advantage of a fixed wing UAV is that it consists of a much simpler structure in comparison to a rotary wing. The simpler structure provides a less complicated maintenance and repair process thus allowing the user more operational time at a lower cost. More importantly the simple structure ensures more efficient aerodynamics that provide the advantage of longer flight durations at higher speeds thus enabling larger survey areas per given flight.

Another advantage of fixed wing UAVs is that the flght characteristics due to their natural gliding capabilities with no power.

Also worth considering is the fact that fixed-wing aircraft are also able to carry greater payloads for longer distances on less power allowing you to carry some of the bigger (more expensive) sensors as well as twin sensor configurations.

The only disadvantages to a fixed wing solution is the need for a runway or launcher for takeoff and landing however VTOL (vertical take off/landing) and STOL (short take off/landing) solutions are very popular to help eradicate this issue. Also fixed wing aircraft require air moving over their wings to generate lift, they must stay in a constant forward motion, which means they can’t stay stationary the same way a rotary wing UAV can. This means fixed wing solutions are not best suited for stationary applications like inspection work.

Rotary Wing UAV
Fixed Wing vs RotaryRotary wing UAVs consist of 2 or 3 rotor blades that revolve around a fixed mast, this is known as a rotor. Rotary wing UAVs also come in wide range of setups consisting of a minimum of one rotor (helicopter), 3 rotors (tricopter), 4 rotors (quadcopter), 6 rotor (hexacopter), 8 rotors (octocopter) as well as more unusual setups like 12 and 16 rotors! Like fixed wing solutions, these setups can be further broken down, for example a Y6 setup consists of a tricopter with twin rotors on each arm, one pointing upwards and one pointing downwards and an X8 consists of a quadcopter with twin motors on each arm. Again each setup has their own unique characteristic advantages and disadvantages.

Rotor blades work exactly the same way as a fixed wing, however constant aircraft forward movement is not needed to produce airflow over the blades, instead the blades themselves are in constant movement which produce the required airflow over their airfoil to generate lift.

Fixed Wing vs RotaryControl of rotary UAVs comes from the variation in thrust and torque from it’s rotors. For example a quadcopter’s downward pitch is generated from the rear rotors producing more thrust than the rotors in the front, this enables the rear of the quadcopter to raise higher than the front thus producing a nose down attitude. Yaw movement uses the rotor’s torque force where diagonal rotors either spool more or less than their counter diagonal rotors thus producing an imbalance in the Yaw axis causing the quadcopter to rotate on the vertical axis.

Tricopters are the only exception to this where their rear rotor requires a servo to physically move the rotor to vector it’s thrust rather than using the rotor’s torque to enable vertical axis control.

The biggest advantage of rotary UAVs is the ability for takeoff and land vertically. This allows the user to operate with in a smaller vicinity with no substantial landing/take off area required. Their capacity to hover and perform agile manoeuvring makes rotary wing UAVs well suited to applications like inspections where precision manoeuvring and the ability to maintain a visual on a single target for extended periods of time is required.

On the flip side rotary wing aircraft involve greater mechanical and electronic complexity which translates generally to more complicated maintenance and repair processes thus meaning the user’s operational time can be decreased, which can occur increases in operational costs.

Finally, due to their lower speeds and shorter flight ranges the operator will require many additional flights to survey any significant areas, another increase in time and operational costs.


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