Suggestion for drones for surveying very large areas

We need to survey about 23,000+ Hectares of agriculture land and wondering what drone options we got given

(a) We have to survey really large area and small amount of time.

(b) We need to scan whole area say 3-4 times in a 8 months, over the season of crop to record growth.

(c) RGB + NDVI camera is good enough for now.

(d) Drone which is easy to repair, as I am sure there will be many crashes during operations..

Would it make more sense for to assemble it our own given we would need bunch of them, and we would need quick turn around time in case of repair/crash...

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  • I tried to compute an estimate for your spec, at 5cm/pixel, using the GoPro camera, (1440x960, 12MP), assuming down-facing camera with drone flying at 30m altitude, is 60m x 48m of ground per photo, so at 20m/s flight speed, one picture every 40m to get overlap, one picture every 2 seconds.  Aprox 1200 sq/m per second, so 8 seconds per hectare,  approx 450 hectares per hour.

    This is just a rough guess, so about 52 hours of flight time assuming perfect conditions.  Accounting for unknowns, crashes, etc... double it to 100 hours flight time. 

    • @Patrick,

      5cm x 5 cm /pixel means 10cm x 10 cm /pixel in overlap mode.

      Better resolution is offered by Google Maps imaginery for many regions on free basis

      100 hours flight time doubles to 200 hours ( battery replacement, SD card replacement,

      lens cleaning)

      5 hours flight/ day, so job is done in 40 days

      If insolation level matters, early morning images don't match late afternoon images.

      If your drone crashes you need to order spare parts, wait 2-3-7-30 days (India)

      Amazon delivery per drone not offered for India yet.

      Get faulty, damaged parts replaced.

      So job can be done within 3 months time limit.

      Manned aircraft + cameras array can cut costs by half vs.

      2 drone operators/ pilots + 1 service man, hired at T$5/ month x 3 months

      T$50 + drone + service shop + parts

      You can spend the same money to buy/ hire small manned aircraft to do that job within 1 week's time

    • Sounds like you are exagerating to make your own service sound better. He already doubled up the time to account for downtime. And also you keep ignoring the fact that operators can fly multiple drones at the same time and swap batteries/sd cards staggered. So 100 hours of flight time could be actually 5 days with 5 hours per day, 2 guys four drones with 1 spare. No downtime for parts, etc. and way cheaper than hiring a fullsize plane.

    • @Ben, excuse me, but I don´t agree that Darius Jack is exaggerating. I am not in favour of manned vs. unmanned, but I think his estimation is pretty accurate given the little information we have about this project.

      It surprises me reading everyone throw logistic options without knowing the details of the project: Which is the purpose of the mission? Is there a single set of images or a series needed? what exactly is that he/they want to see from the imagery?, and most important: which is the adequate resolution? This last factor makes a huge difference in terms of acquisition times, manpower and computer horsepower when processing.

    • Thanks Jose (and others) for raising very valuable questions, helping us fine tune our thinking for executing this very large project. At this stage we would like to showcase that we can handle/survey large areas and effectively categorize a single crop (likely wheat) into three categories good, sick/stressed and dead, geo-tagged so that we can pin-point farm location. Any other information gathered would be nice but not required at this point.

      We plan to create time series over the season to show how things are progressing, say 3 full surveys over the season (~6 month for wheat). 

      Hope this helps. Would love further feedback/suggestions from community.

  • @RG,

    to survey about 23,000+ Hectares of agriculture land

    or 23 km x 10 km

    you need real budget

    and manned aircraft

    You get TBs of imaginery saved to process by a powerfull server.

    Since video camera can offer low-resolution imaging (full HD , 4K next year)

    thermal camera - VGA / HD resolution only

    You need to build flying camers array made of low-resolution, middle-resolution and high-resolution cameras, infrared cameras, multispectral cameras - worth about T$100

    (video camera systems by Google's Street Team).

    Your agriculture project is large, very large and deserves funding and support by Indian gov.

    and local Indian universities.

    Business drone has a very milited flight range and time ( 10-20 min)

    so is not fit for your project.

    If you are interested to get professional technology adopted and promoted by UN Agencies (FAO), World Bank, presented at R&D conferences

    just email me.



    • Developer

      Definitely do not need manned aircraft for a survey of this size. Easter Island is about 70% of this size of your project and they did it in less than a week. 

    • I would go with the SenseFly.  I saw a demo, they're easier to fly and estimated flight time is 1.5 hours.  A crash isn't going to do much damage to it and you don't need a big take off/landing area like the other fixed wings.  

      I've seen the precision hawk too...let's just say I'd go with the ebee.  

      Otherwise, I'd agree on an airplane.  The whole purpose of using a drone is to lower the cost of using a plane.  Honestly, at this point in the game a plane is still the way to go for these large areas. 

  • I use the Skywalker X8 with a high-res camera for FPV and a GoPro for surveying. The GoPro can be controlled through a Raspberry PI connected to the APM flight controller.  With 10,000mAh battery, 1 hr flight time at a 50mph cruise speed. For GoPro survey, the Raspberry Pi is connected to the GoPro through a small WiFi dongle, and the APM then triggers the camera via the camera relay pin connected to the PI. and the PI monitors the GPIO pins with a Python script, and sends commands to the GoPro. Here is a picture:


    3702151713?profile=originalThis rig cost around $1000, with the GoPro camera. 

    • Thats cool. How many acres per hour you think this can cover, assuming 5cm/pixel accuracy.

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