I'm working with an advocacy group in New Zealand to help them survey and record the state of our fresh water systems, specifically, looking at our rivers and lake shores for stock incursions. Sending a fixed-wing UAV on pre-planned flights up rivers to capture still imagery seems an ideal use for the technology.
Some of the desired parameters are:
Collecting photographs at a density to allow a stitched together view of a river, with individual images ideally tagged with GPS data. We'd be focusing on shorelines so the field of view doesn't have to be huge, but capturing enough detail to see cows would be ideal.
The electronics would probably need to be waterproof, given that when the inevitable unplanned descent occurs, it will probably be over water. At least it's not salt water.
Most flights would take the UAV out of visual range of the operator so telemetry would be good to have.
Ideal, but not essential, would be the ability to break down and store the UAV between missions so it was transportable and easily assembled at site.
I'd hope for a flight time of 30-60 minutes or perhaps a 30km round trip range, depending on speed.
Assuming a budget of approx $3000 all-up, I'd greatly appreciate any recommendations for:
As a last thought, how feasible do you think it would be to train volunteers to use a UAV? Does anyone have experience training non-hobbyists they can share?
Thanks in advance for any suggestions. This is my 1st post, but I've been an impressed reader of these forums for a while.
There's this too:
Or maybe this:
Interestingly, I just stumbled on this post. The story was recently covered in the blog here.
It's interesting that RPSS felt they couldn't fly from the terrain. Sounds like it's very similar to where I want to fly. It just has to be VTOL, or amphibious. And frankly, even if it's VTOL, it should still be amphibious.
Thanks Francois, it's a novel idea. We will be launching from grassed areas with road access near the target rivers. The rivers themselves might not always be accessible or safe but it's worth considering.
I'm following your project with interest as I'm attempting later this year to do something similar here in the UK, monitoring the spread of invasive non native plant species that are increasingly taking over many of our riverbanks, we also suffer from excessive silt levels in some rivers from the encroachment of cattle.
After a year of very mixed results and several airframes! and on zero budget I've settled for now on using a Parkzone Radian with camera mounted under one wing inside a home made foam box tight to the fuselage and the battery attached on the other side to balance everything out. I've been operating the shutter manually with a servo triggered by a switch on my transmitter. I'm flying without any form of autopilot, as you pointed out in an earlier post if the river isn't too wide, with sufficient altitude it's easy to capture the target area in each shot without being directly overhead. The Radian seems to handle the weight of my Panasonic LX5 quite well although it really needs some kind of reinforcement/ stiffening as it does tend to creak a little when loaded up, but I've had no disasters yet!
The only problem I have is when trying to land in tight spots, the Radian really does float and doesn't want to come down I should really consider installing stall flaps.
On the subject of camera choice obviously it has to fit in weight wise with your chosen airframe but from my limited experience of cameras lots of megapixels doesn't necessarily equal good quality images as the lens and sensor quality are more important. I'm sure there are plenty on here who can advise.
I've spent a lot of time in the past fishing your rivers in the South Island and know how wild they can be higher up, I'm guessing you are more concerned with the far more open lowland stretches which should be ideal for a fixed wing.
Good luck with your project.
Thanks Luke - all good comments and food for thought.
Depending on funding, we'll be doing a greenfield build, so I'm hoping to take advantage of everyone's previous work. I'll be trying to keep everything as simple and effective as possible, with future models getting flasher as experience (and funding) allow.
The idea of using a remote-activated camera is very attractive, or just finding one that can be programmed to shoot at a frequency aligned to airspeed so we get good coverage without too much overlap. I think this will be important given our long, fairly linear flight missions.
There have been a few comments about landings so I've already resigned myself to manual touchdowns. It's been a few years since I played with RC planes as a kid :-)
You are right about the landscape we'll be surveying. Intensive farming tends to occur on our wide, fertile river flats so that's where we'll be looking for stock incursion and river bank damage.
Thanks for the kind wishes Luke. I'll be documenting everything to do with the project, with a view to making it very easy for other groups to replicate.