Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

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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33 unmanned systems inside August/September 2017 both before and after snow, enabling them to detect changes. The first f lights were completed in January and the second in June. Deploying a drone rather than relying on the manual method makes the process smoother and much less time consuming. Not only does it typically take days to dig out the cubes necessary for the job, it can be difficult to get the equipment into the area, Mostafa said. That isn't a problem with a drone, which is also able to f ly in harsh conditions, including temperatures that fall well below zero. "There are areas in the national park that are not ac- cessible to people, but a drone f lying up in the air has no boundaries. Every area is accessible," Mostafa said. "And the LiDAR used on our system has enough precision to end up with results of a similar accuracy to those mea- sured on the ground by professional surveyors. The walk- ing speed of a human being is 1 meter per second, so a drone f lies five times faster than a walking human being. The drone has the advantage of speed without the loss of accuracy." Through laser pulses, the LiDAR scanner measures the range from the drone down to the ground, Mostafa said, which makes it possible to extract the topography at a high density of 10 to 100 points per square meter to create the digital surface model. The System The md4-1000 aircraft from Microdrones is stable and features a large payload capacity—making it an ideal sys- tem for LiDAR data collection. Even with the scanner on board, there's also room for an optional RGB sensor that allows the UAS to capture optical imagery to colorize the point cloud. The team experimented with a downward- facing LiDAR to gather elevation points in a field of view that minimizes collection of unecessary data. (Being smart about field of view leads to more efficient post pro- cessing later.) Building on the mdMapper platform means that LiDAR integration performs well in harsh weather conditions, including windy days, which is essential for snow depth measurement. Users receive accurate point cloud data minus the gaps that tend to show up when a UAS is blown off its f light path. The LiDA R integration used features direct geore- ferencing for accuracy and efficiency, while mdCockpit software simplified the team's workf low. Other Applications The avalanche project is just one example of how LiDAR can be used to quickly provide precise measurements, Mostafa said. Flying this technology via drone will ben- efit various industries including the oil and gas sector, the construction sector, the utilities and infrastructure sector and the inspection field in general. "It can be used for corridor mapping, to map roads, railroad networks as well as for high tension power lines and towers," Mostafa said. "It can be used in pipeline in- spection, gas leak inspections and oil spill inspections. LiDAR also can help provide a baseline for the construc- tion process." The uses for systems like an mdMapper integrated with LiDAR will continue to expand as more and more com- panies see the potential benefits, which include creating repeatable digital surface models that make it possible to track changes over time. The Microdrones team will take full advantage of that benefit when they go back to Mount Albert to complete f lights next year, Mostafa said. They plan to analyze the same parameters to identify the snow depth, and from there determine if it is similar from one year to the next or if it changes over time, and if long term weather changes have any impact. This level of analysis is not possible without the in- tegrated LiDAR solution that the Microdrones team is working to perfect for turnkey commercialization. "Cameras and imaging sensors can't provide the same quality, density and coverage as the LiDAR sensor," Mostafa said. "LiDAR is the the next evolution and my team is working diligently to lead that. The drone allows for remote access to areas humans cannot access easily or at all, that's the drone's function, but LiDAR is the right sensor to use for a DSM it's fast, efficient and incredibly accurate. It's going to change the way geospatial pros get work done." Dr. Mohamed M.R. Mostafa Director, mdSOLUTIONS at Microdrones

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