I’ve just ordered a Quanum Nova, an inexpensive ArduCopter-based drone, with a view to attaching a GoPro to it and capturing photos of a building from various viewpoints, eventually feeding them into Autodesk ReCap Photo to generate a 3D mesh.

Ideally I’d like to automate the navigation using an existing or custom-built autopilot. The ‘copter would navigate around the building it’s placed in front of, taking photos at regular vertical and lateral intervals until it finds itself close to its starting point having captured a dataset that’s well-suited to 3D reconstruction. I don't want the navigation to depend on GPS waypoints, ideally: it should only really use GPS to determine whether it's done a full loop of the building's perimeter.

I have some questions. As I’m new to drones in general (I’ve just completed these two MOOCs, https://www.edx.org/course/ethx/ethx-amrx-autonomous-mobile-robots-1342 & https://www.edx.org/course/tumx/tumx-autonavx-autonomous-navigation-1658, but that’s about it) it’s likely people will find my questions very basic.

  1. Does anyone know whether this particular drone has built-in distance sensors that would allow it to stay (say) 3-5m from the building, as well as to provide some data to help avoid obstacles?
  2. What’s the best platform/protocol to use for this: ROS, MAVLink, an existing autopilot or something else?
  3. Do such autopilots typically run onboard or remotely? I guess I'll need to add telemetry if running remotely, right?
  4. Any other guidance on how best to attack this problem?

I expect the answers to a number of these questions will be specific to the Quanum Nova ‘copter. Hopefully someone has some experience with it and doesn’t mind spelling it out for a newbie such as myself.

Thanks in advance,


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