1. UAV-General

Multirotor drones generally can fly from 15-29 minutes.

Fixed Wing drones (since they are only pushing one motor and have a wing for lift) have a much greater endurance of from 45-59 minutes.

For Multirotor the size of project is u to 100 acres, and the Fixed Wing is 1200 acres. Multirotor is easiest to learn, and Fixed Wing is more complex…

AttributeMultirotorFixed Wing
Size of ProjectUp to 100 acres (~30 ac /flt) 1200 ac + (~400 ac / flt)
Learning CurveEasiest + smaller datasetsMore complex (+ larger datasets)
Landing/takeoff areaVertical (Very small)Larger clear area for takeoff/landing
Altitude / detailLower alt / higher detail / less coverageHigher alt / less detail / greater coverage
Flt times~15-29 mins~45-59+ mins
Cost of entry$2000 – $3000$12,500 – $34,000

The “monkey skills” (as I’ll refer to them for learning how to fly the drone) are not very complicated.  While  you wouldn’t want to just pull our brand new drone out of the box, charge the battery and launch it without learning something about it, around 3-4 hours of learning the basics of the aircraft and its associated software can get you to safely making takeoffs, landings and flying around.

Most of the flight functions for UAV mapping are automated (due to the precise patterns and image capture requirements), so much of the work is monitoring systems rather than hand flying the aircraft.  Still, you’ll want to have some level of proficiency in being able to take over manually if there’s a problem.

2. FAA-Information

To legally fly commercial UAV flights in the United States, either a Section 333 Exemption or FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot’s Certificate is needed. The Sect 333 has largely been superseded by the Part 107 which requires a knowledge test and includes a TSA background check.

Details on the Part 107 can be found at https://www.faa.gov/uas

Expect to spend around 10-25 hours studying for the knowledge test, depending on your background.

Though you can download the study materials from the FAA for free, many people find that an online course, such as the Golden Seal Drones School, is a much more efficient method of studying and passing the test. There is a $150 fee for taking the test (paid to the testing company).

3. Mapping (General)

There are two main methods .  The way we learned I’ll refer to as the (Guess, Buy, Fly, Crash, Fix…  repeat) process.  There are numerous online videos, drone forums, software knowledge bases for those that want to self-teach.  Most professionals and businesses find it much more efficient to hire a consultant to help determine your requirements, make recommendations on hardware and software and provide the training.  We can help you through all of that, or if you prefer, we can provide the mapping as a service…or help you process your data while you’re developing your knowledge.

Check out our slide deck on Mapping on a Budget for further information.

The general components required for UAV Mapping are:

  1. Drone (UAV) – fixed wing or multirotor
  2. Mapping Flight Planning software (controls drone in capturing numerous images with proper overlap)
    • Most multirotors use either as an iOS or Android app (e.g. Pix4D capture app, Map Pilot for DJI (our favorite) or Drone Deploy)
    • Fixed wings tend to use a Windows program through a laptop or tablet
  3. Post-Processing Software  (where the heavy lifting is done – takes the images and provides the various output products)
    • Desktop (e.g. Pix4D or AgiSoft Photoscan) or,
    • Online Processing (Drone Deploy or Maps Made Easy)

Drone mapping is a lot more than just what you’d see in Google Maps.

Check out our blog article on Uses for Drone Mapping to see examples of different products including:

  • Orthomosaics
  • Volume & Calculations
  • Topographic (Contour) maps
  • Real Estate – Management / Marketing / Inspection
  • 3D Models
  • Infrastructure Inspections
  • Asset Documentation / Inventory Management
  • Oil Field Documentation
  • Terrain Analysis & Visualization (ViewShed)
  • Visually Removing Vegetation
  • Accident Reconstruction

4. Mapping (Accuracy)

Yes, you can generate absolute accuracy to within 1/10 of a foot providing you either use Ground Control Points or use an RTK (Real Time Kinematics) equipped aircraft. We have a slide deck on Ground Control Points on our presentations page page that provides additional information.

Yes, you can generate absolute accuracy to within 1/10 of a foot providing you either use Ground Control Points or use an RTK (Real Time Kinematics) equipped aircraft.

We have a slide deck on Ground Control Points on our presentations page that provides additional information.

  1. RTK requires a GNSS base station equipped with a transmitter with a reliable link to a fairly dynamic moving platform.
  2. The rover (on the UAS) itself requires a dedicated receiver for the corrections.

More details can be found in our blog article on RTK

RTK stands for Real Time Kinematics

It’s a technique used to enhance the precision of position data derived from satellite-based positioning systems (global navigation satellite systems, GNSS) such as:

For more information, see our blog article on RTK

They are precisely known fixed points used to:

  • Adjust a mapping project to these known fixed coordinates in order to obtain absolute accuracy in latitude, longitude and altitude.

They will:

  • Correctly locate the project on the earth
  • Correctly scale the project in all three axes
  • Enable better measurements, volume calculations, etc.

Find more on this subject with our blog posting on GCP

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