Some of you may have heard about SmartPlanes in Sweden. We have been quietly working with survey and mapping from UAV's for about 5 years now and keeping a bit of a low profile. I have just been putting a bit more information on our homepage about the kind of work we do and wanted to share it with you guys here at DiYDrones. I know a lot of you have ambitions of doing something commercial with UAV's in civilian applications and I'd be glad to share our experience.
Our plane was designed to be a portable system for aerial photography that can handle professional use in the field. We use a flying wing made out of covered EPP with vacuum formed polycarbonate fuselage that can be disassembled into 3 pieces for transport. It has an aft mounted electric motor and weighs about 1.1kg with camera and flys for about 35min on a 2500mAH flight pack. Our first version of this plane used a MicroPilot 2028g, now we use paparazzi autopilot. ask me why. It is hand-launch and manual landing. Flight planning is done by defining a single rotated rectangular block with dimensions and one waypoint. The actual navigation path is calculated in the autopilot code.
I think that aerial photography over small areas and single objects is a very good first civilian application for UAV's. We have seen a lot of interest in the technology, but the market is really undeveloped. For most mapping applications though, it is not enough to just take pictures from the air- you have to be able to generate a georeferenced photomosaic that you can use in a geographic information system. This is an area we have put a lot of effort into, within smartplanes and through some partners. We now have some software that allows you to create a good georeferenced mosaic already in the field on a laptop. For the more demanding applications that require true orthophotos and surface height models, we send the data in for processing.
We have found a lot of interest especially in making surface height measurements over small areas, because you can then measure volumes of things like gravel piles, sawdust, peat, rock aggregate, garbage, compost. Whatever people scoop up into big piles, they usually need to measure it and it is expensive to do it with conventional ground survey or aerial photography.
We normally cover an area of about 500x500m in a single flight because aviation regulations in most places require flying within line-of-sight. We can however join several flights into a large block for mapping larger areas. I think the largest block we have done to date had 30 blocks and almost 8000 photos. Very interesting to know it can be done, but at this size, laser scanning becomes more competetive.
Anyway I just want to tell you a little about our work and invite you to have a look at our homepage. Leave a comment here if you have any questions.