Drone sensors are increasingly used for surveying, mapping and inspections, especially in mining, construction, energy, environmental management, agriculture, infrastructure and waste management. The multifunctionality of drones continues to improve as advancements in sensors enable a wider range of applications. The platforms can be interconnected through cloud-based programs and, when combined with powerful post-processing software, enable a complete drone data solution.
Commercial UAV News has covered five of the most popular sensors used by drone professionals today. While selecting the right sensor for your specific operation comes down to a number of important factors, these platforms are often used by drone professionals today and help define what these technologies can do in space. .
Today, company inspections can be limited to periodic inspections of selected assets in a small geographic area, but they don’t always need to be so restricted. Scaling inspections from tens of assets to thousands of assets requires a streamlined end-to-end, platform-independent workflow. In this way, drone operators can perform inspections over a large area, reducing costs and increasing coverage.
To facilitate these operations, the Phase One P3 payload collects information over as wide a field of view as possible, while maintaining sufficient resolution to easily interpret target characteristics. Containing a BSI sensor with the highest dynamic range, a rangefinder with intelligent focus and a wide range of lenses including 35mm, 80mm and 150mm, the P3 can be configured to satisfy flight plans for activities. inspection. The P3 payload leverages the three main UAV ecosystems – DJI, Auterion and MAVLink – so operators can integrate the best real-time inspection data into their existing applications and workflows.
LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that relies on laser pulses to collect detailed measurements for maps and surveys; it is particularly valuable for micro-topography as it can penetrate through vegetation and forest canopy. Applications abound, including agriculture, forestry planning, building and city management, construction, mining, and environmental assessments.
RIEGL manufactures a complete fleet of LiDAR sensors. The miniVUX and VUX scanner series offer high performance and technical grade accuracy for mapping. They specialize in providing higher laser pulse repetition rates, which increase performance, thereby improving efficiency, accuracy and user-friendliness.
For the drone-based lidar market, RIEGL recently introduced the miniVUX-1LR. This miniaturized, extremely light and compact inline waveform processing lidar sensor can operate flight altitudes up to 820 feet and measurement ranges up to 500m / 1,640 feet. A full 360 ° field of view, 100 kHz laser pulse repetition rate, and optional integration of up to two cameras are additional features that increase efficiency in the field. These capabilities are particularly useful for operating at higher altitudes or when longer range measurements are required.
Although RIEGL LiDAR sensors are among the most reliable lidar sensors for surveying and mapping, determining what is best for your project is the ultimate goal when selecting the right lidar platform. Depending on your project specifications, accuracy needs, budget, and software preferences for data processing and workflows, a number of Lidar companies have established themselves in this space as well and are worth consulting, including (but not limited to):
Thermal imaging: FLIR
Thermal imaging is a key capability for drone pilots for industrial inspection missions. It allows pilots to see through darkness or difficult lighting conditions and detect thermal anomalies that may indicate a fault or a needed repair. In addition to “seeing” heat, thermal cameras with radiometric capabilities allow pilots to measure the surface temperature of objects in a scene. Two common thermal missions involve inspecting large solar panels or industrial roofs, potentially in combination with RGB cameras.
Primary considerations for drone-based thermal inspections include the resolution of the thermal camera’s payload, which impacts how high a drone can fly and capture precise data. The FLIR VUE TZ20-R is a high resolution radiometric gimbal payload with pixel by pixel temperature measurement and digital zoom up to 20 times. Two 640 x 512 resolution FLIR Boson thermal imager modules provide narrow and wide fields of view. Operators can take advantage of post-processing software to create an orthomosaic thermal study that shows locations of interest, such as roof leaks or solar cell problems.
Caption: A drone thermal survey of a commercial roof indicates the extent and location of the water intrusion in white, located at the corners of three skylights in the image.
Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) technology for drones is an advanced tool for the detection of greenhouse gas leaks, including methane, propane and butane. Sierra-Olympic ‘ Ventus OGI is one of the smallest, lightest, and least powerful OGI camera cores on the market today and seamlessly integrates into aerial, stationary and robotic platforms.
The Ventus OGI features a state-of-the-art 15 µm pixel pitch. When integrated with an aerial platform, it quickly scans large areas, enabling operators to meet regulatory and market requirements for the transition to renewable energy resources. The key emissions data collected by this camera can simplify reporting for supply chain partners, company shareholders and industry regulatory agencies. The value of this technology is already visible in commercial applications, for example, the State of Colorado recently added the Ventus OGI to its Approved Instrument Monitoring Method (AIMM).
Multispectral imaging: MicaSense
MicaSense, an AgEagle company, creates efficiencies for its user base through multispectral technologies that use sensors to image multiple regions of the light spectrum at the same time. This is especially critical for agricultural operations to detect types of plants and diseases – depending on the stage of growth, stress level and extent of disease, plants reflect light differently.
RedEdge, a MicaSense brand, recently launched a new sensor called the RedEdge-P which provides full color, calibrated, high resolution multispectral RGB images with an optimized field of view, enabling agricultural professionals to use drone imagery for plant counting and spectral analysis of small plants. With a high-resolution panchromatic imager, RedEdge-P enables higher resolution RGB and multispectral outputs, providing more efficient data collection and a deeper examination of plant health. Additionally, it can enable other scientific research that requires a high-resolution, one-centimeter (and sometimes sub-centimeter) ground sampling distance, as well as multiple flights throughout a planting season.
Moving Forward: Emerging Sensor Technologies and the Future
Applications of drone-based sensors continue to develop as the value of drones for data collection is better understood. For example, Anemoment manufactures a lightweight 3D ultrasonic anemometer for atmospheric monitoring, and Geometry provides a UAS compatible magnetometer, MagArrow, which allows drones to collect geophysical data for magnetic surveys.
As drone makers improve and develop new applications for drones, commercial users will continue to see improved features such as payload interchangeability, AI-based piloting, and smarter, more accurate sensors.