Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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34 unmanned systems inside October/November 2016 LAND AUTOMATED MACHINE GUIDANCE "If we have a bare piece of ground such as a quarry site, where there is no grass growing that is tall, then using structure-from-motion tech- nologies, you can get a fairly exact model with a couple of centimeters of vertical accuracy and a 95 percent confidence level," Singh said. "How- ever, you may have grass, say, 8 inches high, and you can't see the ground, so the accuracy of the surface model will be off. Still, if we move to LiDAR and the grass is sparse enough so that the LiDAR can see through the grass to hit the ground, we may get better models." The attraction drones hold for Singh is root- ed in part in his experience in f light. His father was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force and Singh began f lying when he was 14 in gliders pulled down airfields by cables on winches, aircraft that could soar aloft on thermals in Bangalore for long spans of time. Singh is now a private pilot who keeps a hangar behind his house—he built a Rans S12XL Airaile kit plane that he has piloted for 16 years and f lew in air shows for eight years alongside other home- built planes—and he is currently building a Van's RV12 light sport aircraft. "My f lying has always helped me with my survey work at ODOT, since I had to deal with aerial imagery," Singh said. "Now that I'm managing the unmanned aircraft program for ODOT, it helps a lot that I already had good connections with the local FAA people." "If I had not been a pilot, I would not have been as informed about what all the regulations are, and those are the biggest issues with drone work; if I had not been a surveyor, I'd have difficulty re- ally knowing all the things you can and cannot do with drones in surveying," Singh said. "Also, as a pilot, I don't want to be hit by a drone when I'm flying, and I want to make sure my people un- derstand that—I'm trying to get drone pilots to recognize that drone flying is a serious business." 3-D Everything All in all, drone missions are part of "the quest for 3-D everything," Singh said. "We're trying to move from the 2-D design and construction world to a full 3-D world. We want drones to help survey terrain in 3-D, and design on a 3-D map that includes all the underground utilities on a site such as drainage and power lines as well as features on the ground such as trees and walls." The 3-D data that construction projects generate are now increasingly loaded into ma- chines to help automatically build roads. Photos courtesy of Ron Singh Geoff Paull (left) and Mike Brinton of the Oregon Department of Transportation pilot a Aibotix Aibot X6 hexacopter. "FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, a drone is like a tripod for surveying; only you can place it 200 feet in the air over a particular spot. It's a less expensive and quicker way of moving a sensor to the right position compared to a boom truck or a fixed-wing f light, and in many ways safer." Ron Singh, engineering automation manager, chief of surveys and UAS manager, Oregon Department of Transportation