Boston Dynamics’ Spot is rapidly adopting a critical role in emergency response and front line operational deployments. That should not come as a surprise. Spot’s mobility and payload options make it the optimal robotics platform for SWAT, Tactical, CBRNe, EOD operations, and beyond. More importantly, its advanced technology prepares operators to face sophisticated and evolving threats.
In matters of connecting to the Spot unit, the standard control link is Wi-Fi. Although this is great for testing in the lab, our clients and the industry alike required a more robust and mission-ready control link.
Recognizing the critical nature of the first responder mission set, the engineers at FLYMOTION devised a new plan to better support the agencies and organizations utilizing this cutting edge robotics platform. We set out to design from the ground up and build a more robust connectivity solution that integrates directly to the robot itself.
Our Ridgeback system consists of a custom-built payload that incorporates an advanced mesh network radio system standard for government and defense operators. These highly-capable mesh radio networks can transmit voice, video, and data. Pairing the mesh radio’s exceptional performance with Spot turns an already-impressive robot into a tool fit for a multitude of real-world operations. Ridgeback is designed to be fully compatible with devices such as Persistent Systems’ MPU5 radio, Silvus Streamcaster series radios, and others that can integrate within a Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET) system.
How is this achieved? By improving four facets of Spot: its range, signal strength, encryption, and control interface.
Our team has easily controlled Spot with a Ridgeback up to 1200m (about three-quarters of a mile) under line-of-sight conditions.
Furthermore, the radios can build a scalable mesh network, with radios acting as repeater nodes—more radios embedded in the chain equal better range and performance. Repeater radios can deploy on personnel, vehicles, drones, and other robotics. Spot can also deploy a radio on its own. When the robot reaches the edge of its range, the Spot operator grabs the spare mesh radio on its back and deploys it. Spot then goes on its way, ensuring that it’s still within range.
Robotic units like Spot are designed to keep humans out of harm’s way. However, there is still an inherent danger if they limit the distance between the operators on the ground and nearby threats. The extended control radius of Ridgeback means responders stay clear of hazards while completing their mission objectives.
Like operating range, strong signal strength is necessary for safe and effective operations. Ridgeback provides that. The FLYMOTION team has seen exceptional signal strength performance from Ridgeback.
While onboard a naval vessel, the FLYMOTION team easily controlled Spot with Ridgeback deep into the ship’s multiple decks from the bridge. Using a repeater node mounted to a vehicle on the dock, the team experienced no signal interference. It’s worth noting that this naval vessel is made of steel. In other words, the RF signal interference of this environment was extremely high. Where the Wi-Fi connection would have failed, Ridgeback kept operators in control.
Finally, Ridgeback provides users flexibility in their control interfaces. Instead of using the proprietary controllers, you can use any Android mobile device of your choice. Ridgeback also enables you to use a Bluetooth controller, like an Xbox or PlayStation style controller.
All of this is to optimize Spot for the user’s workflow. Such an integration guarantees the efficient and effective use of the platform.
Apart from the advantages already discussed, Ridgeback provides:
Ridgeback is fully integrated into the payload ports on top of the Spot robot. By utilizing the power and networking capabilities of the robot, Ridgeback does not require any external data cables or batteries to be operational.
As mentioned earlier, Ridgeback is a custom solution for Spot. The precise specifications ensure that Ridgeback securely mounts to the rails on the back of Spot.
In short, Ridgeback by FLYMOTION elevates the capabilities of Spot to meet the stringent demands of defense operators and first responders. The native integration of a mesh radio elevates Spot’s operational capabilities to meet the demands of real-world operations. To put it briefly, Ridgeback provides the reliability you need to achieve mission success.
FLYMOTION recently completed a MAVERICK series mobile command vehicle build for FirstNet, powered by AT&T. Built on the capable Chevrolet Tahoe PPV chassis, the MAVERICK series command vehicles provide public safety and emergency management agencies with a broad range of abilities in a more agile package than larger command vehicles like vans. Agility is a characteristic integral to FirstNet teams that provide a vital service across the nation.
FirstNet, built by AT&T, provides responders with a dedicated high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network. A response to the communication breakdowns seen on 9/11, the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was created by Congress in 2012. Its mission is to provide first responders with the capability to maintain communications during operations and enable information-sharing between responders and decision-makers.
In addition to their network, FirstNet also operates a fleet of mobile cellular assets known as “deployables.” These assets, including trucks, drones, and a blimp, provide temporary broadband services for first responders. “Deployables” are often called in to support large-scale operations like disaster response and wildfires, establishing a critical communication infrastructure for the impacted area.
Because FirstNet often deploys to large operations, their teams often coordinate with multiple responding agencies and command staff. FirstNet teams also remain on location for extended periods of time. With a MAVERICK command vehicle by FLYMOTION, FirstNet operators will be better able to centralize their decision-making and manage the needs of network users.
FLYMOTION is excited to work with an organization that provides such critical capabilities to public safety operators; equally as satisfying is witnessing how MAVERICK command vehicles take part in restoring connectivity services. Like FirstNet, FLYMOTION is proud to contribute solutions for first responders in our mission of ‘Supporting Those Who Serve.’
MAVERICK command vehicles are versatile platforms for first responders. From UAS operations to incident command, FLYMOTION equips its command vehicles for any role. Our in-house engineers create the blueprints that meet the most stringent requirements. Clients can expect to work with FLYMOTION representatives throughout the build process to ensure their MAVERICK vehicle is up to specifications.
DJI just announced two new additions to their DJI Enterprise series, the M30 and the M30 T. Both models bring significant improvements over previous iterations while elevating the Enterprise line to become a more effective and efficient solution for operators. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the series’ new features and the implications they have for public safety operators.
The M30 Series Overview
The DJI Matrice 30 takes its place between the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced (M2EA) and M300. It is second in the lineup in terms of size, capability, and price. Combining the function of the advanced Matrice 300 RTK with the form of the smaller Mavic 2 Enterprise, the M30 offers the best of both models and a true middle-tier option within the Enterprise lineup.
- Max Flight Time: 41 min.
- Max Speed: 23 m/s (~51 mph)
- Range: Up to 15 km. (9.3 miles)
- Service Ceiling: 7000 m (~22,966 ft.)
- IP55 rated
- OcuSync 3 Enterprise transmission system
- TB30 Intelligent Battery system (hot swappable)
The most obvious differences between the new Matrice 30 Series and other Enterprise models lie in its exterior design. Larger than the M2EA, yet smaller than the Matrice 300, the M30 has a profile comparable to DJI’s FPV drone. The lack of landing gear and its folding carbon-fiber arms make for a portable UAV. Furthermore, its payload and gimbal remain within the frame contributing to a compact profile.
Like the larger Matrice 300, the M30 features an FPV camera, providing the pilot with greater situational awareness for improved handling and flight safety. It also has 6 sets of obstacle-avoidance sensors and two RTK modules at the end of two arms for positioning accuracy.
Perhaps the most important feature of the M30 is its payload. A hybrid sensor, the M30’s payload features a wide-angle camera, a 48MP optical zoom camera, and a laser rangefinder that’s effective up to 1200m. The M30T includes all of these plus a 640p thermal imaging camera. The payload is stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal.
The M30’s sensors bring significant improvements in capabilities. One of these improvements includes smart low-light photo, which takes several pictures and creates one final high-resolution image in low light. The laser rangefinder not only displays the distance to the selected target; it provides the coordinates of the target. These coordinates are displayed on the map and shared with other decision-makers.
Also, note that the M30 does not offer interchangeable payloads. So, depending on the demands of your agency, you will have to decide between the M30 and M30T.
DJI RC Plus Enterprise Smart Controller
The second component of the M30 series is the introduction of the new Enterprise-series controller, known as the DJI RC Plus. Tailor-made for the demanding missions of Enterprise users, the RC Plus boasts a wide range of features including:
- An ultra-bright 7-inch touchscreen display;
- IP54 Protection for use in all weather conditions;
- A four-antenna OcuSync 3 transmission system;
- A 6-hour battery life with fast-charging and hot-swappable batteries;
- Customizable function buttons
M30 users have the option to hand off controls to other authorized pilots within range of the aircraft. Built into the controller is an indicator light signaling which controller is in command of the aircraft for a safe and seamless operation.
Also new with the RC Plus is the DJI Pilot 2 App flight interface. Efficient and intuitive, DJI Pilot 2 makes it easy to fly the M30 with a pre-flight checklist, an enhanced navigation display, and alerts that keep pilots aware of changing conditions.
M30 Series and the Future of Public Safety UAS
A compact profile, a powerful payload, and a capable controller all make the M30 and M30T innovative platforms and game-changers for public safety pilots. Agencies no longer must choose between the size of the M2EA and the capability of the Matrice 300 RTK. Now, they have an effective compromise between the two.
The features of the DJI Matrice 30 drone also provide insight into the future of public safety UAS. First, we are seeing that physical size is no longer limiting performance. We can expect to see UAVs with a smaller footprint perform on par with larger counterparts.
Second, the UAS industry is recognizing the value of specialized enterprise solutions. Drones are no longer just the toys of hobbyists; they are essential workhorses across various sectors. Companies like DJI recognize this by designing products like the RC Plus and the DJI Dock (expected Q4 2022, pictured below).
Finally, the public safety operators can expect more collaborative cloud-based features integrations in UAS platforms. In addition to providing actionable intelligence, UAVs are now extensions of a broader information-sharing network. DJI’s FlightHub 2 is a prime example of this. Information gathered by the DJI Matrice 30T drone is easily shared with commanders, ground teams, and decision-makers offsite, so that everyone has efficient access to the capability of the UAS platform.
The announcement of DJI’s M30 Enterprise UAV provides exciting capabilities for enterprise operators and is another step towards the integration of UAS in public safety. Are you interested in obtaining an M30 for your agency? Check out our website or contact us here.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise (M2E) is an incredibly versatile aircraft. From search-and-rescue to inspections, the Enterprise finds itself used in a variety of roles. One of those roles is mapping. Powerful photogrammetry software, like Pix4D, turn aircraft like the M2E into a rapid mapping platform for response and investigations. In this article, we look at Pix4D applications that make the Mavic 2 Enterprise a useful mapping solution.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
Based on the popular Mavic 2, the M2E is tailor-made for enterprise use. A selection of specialized accessories, including a speaker, beacon, and spotlight, adapts the aircraft to a variety of mission profiles. The Enterprise Dual takes this specialization to a new level by providing a stabilized RGB and thermal camera payload. Dual sensors combine the capabilities of two aircraft into one—a flexible and economic solution for public safety agencies and organizations alike.
Photogrammetry software like Pix4D requires an RGB camera to build any kind of map. The Enterprise Dual’s RGB camera does the job, making the model compatible with the iOS version of Pix4D software. To ensure compatibility, check Pix4D’s complete list of supported drones here.
Pix4DReact is Pix4D’s rapid mapping solution made specifically for public safety applications. First responders arriving at a large-scale incident need an aerial overview to make informed decisions. Enter Pix4Dreact. Using Pix4Dcapture, a Mavic 2 Enterprise automatically takes pictures while flying over the area of operations.
Pix4Dreact then processes those pictures on-site to create a 2D map. Commanders can annotate and measure points on the map and then share them with other decision-makers and ground teams. The entire process occurs rapidly, ensuring all responders have actionable intel before committing to a decision.
While Pix4DReact only renders 2D maps, Pix4Dmapper provides full-scaled 3D mapping capabilities. The data-capture process is the same for both, but Mapper requires longer off-site processing time. Images gathered in Pix4Dcapture import into Pix4Dmapper, which creates survey-grade 3D maps, including orthomosiac maps and digital surface models. Users can measure distance and volume in the maps, making any annotations on points-of-interests.
As a side note, Pix4Dmapper is capable of creating thermal maps. You will not be able to create any with the Mavic 2 Enterprise. The 3D mapping software is only compatible with the RGB camera and not the thermal camera.
Interested in knowing more about Pix4D or other drone mapping software? Check out our blog article comparing Pix4D and DroneDeploy. We look into the features and pricing of both software platforms, so you decide what the best mapping solution is for you.
We have discussed in great detail why public safety agencies should develop a UAS program. It is clear that successful programs save money and resources for the agency while reducing risks for first responders. You probably are aware of this by the plethora of justification studies and hypothetical situations that exist.
The core mission of public safety is the protection of life and property. So, any innovation that supports this mission should ideally be accepted. But, in the game of facts and figures, it is easy to lose sight of this when considering new technology.
When used properly, UAS platforms take on a direct role in saving lives, often responding faster than rescuers on the ground. Their growing effectiveness has garnered the attention of media and made them headline stories around the world. Let’s take a look at some of these stories to see how drones save lives.
The Missing Hiker
Backcountry search and rescue is an arduous process. The size of the search area, combined with the dangers of the environment, makes these situations incredibly difficult. Add limited visibility to the mix and these missions become extreme. Search and rescue operators walk a fine line between responding quickly and working within the parameters of safe operations.
These are the kind of challenges the Weber County Sheriff’s Office SAR team in Ogden, Utah, faces. On April 3, 2020, Barbara Garrett and her partner, David Burgin, found themselves stranded on a trail in the Wasatch Mountains. They quickly started to worry and a call to 911 did not do much to alleviate their anxiety. The dispatcher couldn’t locate their position from the cell phone or promise a rapid rescue.
The volunteer SAR team deployed along with their drone pilot, Kyle Nordfors, to the trailhead. By this time, night had fallen. Launching the drone, Nordfors began to fly along the trail, towards the last know position of the missing hikers. On the screen, a flashing light appeared in the distance. When Nordfors flew closer to investigate, he found Garrett and Burgin, illuminating their position with drone lights. (Photo Credit: Will Saunders)
From the launch to contact, the search lasted four minutes. Four minutes.
Difficult terrain and nighttime conditions would have made a search by foot a long process. And after considering the scale of the search area, it becomes very clear that the chances of finding the missing hikers were very low. The importance of these factors however, diminished significantly because of the team’s UAS platform.
You can read about more about this incident in the original article by Outside.
The Stranded Swimmers
On May 31st, 2018, a mother and her daughter found themselves stranded below the Lake Whitney dam in Hill County, Texas. According to this KWTX10 report, rising water levels trapped the pair, who didn’t know how to swim, out in the middle of the Brazos River. Before a rescue boat launched, a drone flown by Hill County Emergency Management carried life jackets and delivered them to the two individuals. Kept afloat by the life vests, they were rescued by a West Shore Police Department airboat.
The pilot later noticed on his screen two kayakers stranded downriver. These individuals were also assisted to safety.
Response time is, in many cases, a matter of life or death for victims. Despite having water rescue resources (e.g. an airboat), first responders couldn’t deploy it in time.
Unlike boats, drones are capable of launching rapidly. This allows responders to assess the situation more accurately or, as seen in this case, drop life jackets. Who knows how much more critical the situation would’ve become without an initial UAS response.
Drones as Crimefighters
Drones don’t just save lives by dropping life jackets. They are also on the lookout for criminals. A Wired article describes how police in Ensenada, Mexico use a DJI Inspire 1 aircraft to respond to 911 calls. As a result, the police force claims 500 arrests and a 30 percent drop in home invasions over the span of four months.
A small team flies the aircraft from a command post, using Cape software, a segment of Motorola Solutions, to automate takeoffs and landings. The software also enables live streaming, meaning officers on the ground can receive a feed directly from the drone.
The reality is that a drone typically arrives on the scene far quicker than ground units. Intel from the aircraft prepares responding officers so they can anticipate an escape and apprehend them. And while there isn’t a physical presence, the appearance of a drone is, in some cases, enough to deter criminals. Thieves account for police response time in their plans to break in. They have an approximation of how long they have to rob a house before police arrive. According to Cape CEO, Chris Rittler, drones “dramatically decrease that time window.”
The constant aerial presence of UAS platforms enables quicker apprehension, better evidence collection, and deterrence of criminal behavior. Fortunately, Ensenada is not the only city implementing a drone response program. Chula Vista PD (CA) and Brookhaven PD (GA) have also started Drone as First Responders (DFR) programs. Both departments are already seeing a decrease in response times and more efficient operations.
If you’re interested in developing a Law Enforcement UAS program, be sure to check out the blog articles we have written on the topic. We cover procedures, regulations, and equipment required for these initiatives.
Drones aren’t designed to replace human first responders. Rather, they are force multipliers, valuable tools in the arsenal of fire and law enforcement departments.
Are there limitations to drones? Of course. But when these platforms are used properly, their potential in public safety operations is enormous, seen in these cases.
An aerial perspective is an asset. The ability to see on a larger scale and in different contexts provides better data which leads to better decisions. Environmental organizations are one beneficiary of aerial data. The areas they monitor are vast and often inaccessible. Traditional aerial platforms like airplanes and helicopters, however, come with a significant price tag.
Fortunately, an alternative solution has recently emerged—drones. Drones provide the same advantage as manned aircraft, but at a fraction of the price. As UAS platforms increase in capabilities, they have found themselves on the frontline of environmental efforts. Lower acquisition, operating, and training costs put these powerful tools in the hands of more researchers. The resulting data is building a better understanding of our complex environment.
Collecting biological samples from whales has been a difficult venture. In the past, researchers have used a crossbow to gather health data on the whale. It was an invasive and inconsistent process.
One researcher with Ocean Alliance came up with a better albeit rudimentary alternative. Attaching several Petri dishes to a DJI Inspire drone, Dr. Iain Kerr flew into the whale spout as it breached the surface. In doing so, some of the snot droplets landed in the dishes. These snot samples provide important information about the health of the whale and the environment around it. With this data, along with photos, researchers have a complete picture of the whales.
Dubbed “Snotbot,” the sample-collecting drone is the centerpiece of the researchers’ efforts to accurately monitor the health of the local whale population. The greater frequency of sample collections leads to more detailed models of the predictions of this fragile population. What was once a difficult effort, is now an efficient and routine practice.
The challenging logistics of monitoring wildlife are not limited to whales; researchers keeping tabs on penguin populations in Antarctica face similar issues. Researcher Annie Schmidt was finding it difficult to conduct studies with traditional methods. Helicopters, were intrusive, their noise footprint often driving penguins away from their nests. Keeping their distance meant they were too far away to make an accurate count. Then there was the cost of operating helicopter flights.
Fortunately for Schmidt, an introduction to Mac Schwager, a Stanford aeronautics professor, opened the door to a new solution. He proposed using drones, an inexpensive, non-intrusive, monitoring solution. After securing funding, the team went to work. They quickly realized that one drone would take too long to document a large penguin population. The solution? Use multiple drones simultaneously.
Engineers at Stanford developed a complex algorithm that breaks up a selected survey area into sections according to the number of drones used. This video shows the program planning the most efficient flight, avoiding collision with the other aircraft. Using this technology, researchers can cover vast rookeries in a short time, stitching all the photographs later to create a unified picture of the penguins. Population size and other data are collected and analyzed.
Particular ecosystems require special attention from environmental researchers. Agriculture, glaciers, rainforests, and other habitats are especially sensitive to the changing temperatures and human activity.
To document the impact, researchers are using UAVs for surveying and mapping these areas. Taking multiple images of the same location over a period of time enables change detection. The software compares the pictures and shows the resulting impact. A thermal drone can document the changes in average temperature in a certain location. Photogrammetry software, using data captured by drones, recreates 3D models of landscape in Iceland to track environmental impact, for example.
The sheer size of these impacted areas requires an aerial perspective to monitor effectively. A turn-key solution for scientists, drones are far more accessible than a number of traditional platforms. More importantly, they have access to a greater amount of data for more accurate models.
We are familiar with the ways unmanned aircraft have revolutionized industries. But while we look forward to drones delivering our groceries, we overlook the technology employed to help our environment. This application may not benefit us directly, but the understanding it provides of our world is critical for our future.
Since 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established regulations for UAS operations. Known as Part 107, this set of laws require a license for commercial flight. So unless you are flying your UAS for recreational purposes, a Part 107 license is necessary. Part 107 rules apply to commercial operators (i.e. real estate, surveying, inspections) and public safety pilots. Public safety pilots have another certification option known as a Certificate of Authorization or COA. You can read about its advantages here. However, in this article, we’ll focus on the Part 107 license since it’s applicable to most pilots.
To begin the process for a Part 107 license, the FAA outlines several eligibility requirements.
- Prospective pilot must be at least 16 years old
- Capable of speaking, reading, and writing in English
- Physically and mentally fit to fly
Getting Your License
As a new pilot, you have to first create an IACRA profile and receive an FAA Tracking Number (FTN). This is done on their website here.
Once obtaining an FTN, the next step is to schedule an appointment to take the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam. These tests take place at FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Centers and require you to bring government-issued identification.
To pass the UAG exam, you need a minimum score of 42 out of 60 questions correct, or 70%. After passing the test, new pilots need to apply for a remote pilot certificate using FAA Form 8710-13. This is completed online using the FAA’s IACRA system.
Using the IACRA account created, you will apply for a Remote Pilot Certificate under Pilot Application Type. After inputting the Knowledge Test ID, submit the application. A confirmation email will provide instructions for printing a temporary certificate until the permanent version arrives in the mail. You must present it upon request when operating a UAS.
The FAA Part 107 Test cost is a flat fee of 175 USD.
After the Exam
The FAA requires certified pilots to take a Part 107 Recurrent exam every 24 months to keep their knowledge up to date. You can take the test at no cost and online. It requires a score of 100% correct on 60 questions, although it is open-book.
A recurrent exam also counts towards your eligibility for night operations. Since the inception of Part 107 rules, flights at night or over people required a waiver from the FAA prior to operations. As of April 21, 2021, neither operation requires a waiver under special conditions. One condition to be eligible to fly at night is the completion of an updated knowledge exam or recurrent exam. The other requirements for these flights are found here.
Part 107 Training
While the Part 107 process is fairly straightforward, taking the knowledge exam requires significant preparation. It covers an expansive set of topics including but not limited to:
- UAS regulations
- Airport operations
- Emergency procedures
- Aircraft performance
- Weather and UAS operation
One of the many courses offered by FLYMOTION is Part 107 Test Prep. Our instructors cover all aspects of the exam and the process of developing a UAS program at your agency. Check out our website for more details on our training courses.
A Part 107 certification opens the door to the full potential of UAS platforms. Taking the time to understand the exam concepts will not only be money well-spent but increased value to you the operator. Have any questions? Reach out to a FLYMOTION representative here.
The right drone mapping software turns your aircraft into an effective rapid-mapping solution. Let’s take a look at two popular mapping platforms—DroneDeploy and Pix4D.
Pix4D has a wide range of mapping applications. These include cloud services and a mapping app for mobile devices. For the sake of comparison, we are going over their drone application, Pix4Dcapture.
Pix4Dcapture is the drone mapping app that allows pilots to plan missions on supported Apple and Android devices. Users can select from five different mission profiles, four of which are autonomous. Each mission is fully customizable. Parameters including overlap percentage, payload angle, and drone speed can be set for the best results. Another important variable parameter is GSD or Ground Sample Distance. This metric will determine the amount of data captured and subsequent measurement accuracy.
After configuring the mission, the operator starts the mission and the aircraft begins to capture data autonomously. Flying a pattern determined by the mission profile, operators monitor the process live. After the mission, images are reviewed directly in the app before uploading them to Pix4Dcloud for processing. In Pix4Dcloud, users create 2D or 3D maps of construction progress, land plots, and disaster sites faster than traditional methods.
Pix4D Supported Drones
- Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Phantom 4 Pro V2
- Phantom 3 Standard, Phantom 3 Advanced, Phantom 3 Pro
- Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro
- Inspire 1, Inspire 2
- Matrice 100, Matrice 200, Matrice 210, Matrice 210 RTK, Matrice 600
- Bebop 2
- ANAFI Thermal
- Disco Pro AG
While Pix4Dcapture is a free app, its software companion, Pix4Dmapper, is not. This photogrammetry software turns image data into usable 2D and 3D maps. In Pix4Dmapper, users are able to measure surface area, distance, and volume.
A subscription plan to Pix4Dmapper costs 350 USD a month. If you choose to be billed yearly, the cost drops down to 291.67 USD a month. This plan includes a license for two devices, unlimited processing, updates, and personal support.
The option also exists to make a one-time purchase of the software for 4990 USD. However, the license is limited to one device and updates for the first year.
DroneDeploy is a drone mapping software alternative to Pix4D. Like Pix4D, DroneDeploy utilizes drone sensors to autonomously create 3D maps. Mapping parameters are fully customizable and data uploads are automatic.
One unique element of their platform is Live Map. This is a real-time mapping feature built into the flight interface that doesn’t use pictures or require internet access. The Live Map feature also works with thermal data to create a large-scale thermal map.
Particularly useful for rapid assessments, Live Map drastically reduces the time needed for decision-making. No back-end processing means the information is available on the controller so users can better coordinate disaster relief efforts.
In addition to Live Map, DroneDeploy also provides cloud-based photogrammetry for specialized map creation. Capable of handling up to 10,000 photographs in a single mission, the platform promises powerful processing and fast turn-around times.
Collaboration is integral to DroneDeploy. You can view maps on any type of device for ultimate flexibility. Collaborators add comments, annotations, and measurements so everyone is aware of mission progression.
DroneDeploy Supported Drones
- Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Enterprise, Mavic 2 Enterprise Zoom, Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
- Phantom 4 Pro V1, Phantom 4 Pro V2/
- Phantom Pro
- Matrice 100, Matrice 200, Matrice 210, Matrice 210 RTK, Matrice 300 RTK, Matrice 600
- One X
- One X2
Whereas Pix4D prices their applications individually, DroneDeploy prices according to mission scale. Here is a DroneDeploy package breakdown:
Lite: 149 USD per month / 99 USD per month, if billed annually
- 1,000 image upload limit per map
- 1 admin user
- Email support
- Live Map – RGB only
- Measurements – 2D Maps only
- Elevation Maps – Digital Surface Model only
- Progress Report – Maps and photos in a mission report
- Share & Export Maps
Individual: 499 USD per month / 299 USD per month, if billed annually
- All Lite features plus:
- 1 full user access
- 3,000 image upload per map
- Unlimited mapping, videos, panoramas
- Live Map – RGB and Plant Health view
- Ground Control Points
- Measurements – 2D & 3D Maps
- Overlays – 2D Overlays on current maps
- Side-by Side comparison
Teams: Request Quote
- All Individual features plus:
- 10,000 image upload per map
- Live Map – RGB, Plant Health, Thermal
- Vertical Flight – Conduct vertical inspections
- Radiometric Thermal Processing
Enterprise: Request Quote
- All Teams features plus:
- Drone Live Stream – live stream video via link
- Pilot certification management
- Equipment management
- API & SDK access for custom integrations
As you can tell, both DroneDeploy and Pix4D provide similar capabilities. Choosing one over the other will come down to the scale of your operation and budget. While the entry-level is lower with DroneDeploy, it is limited in options. Pix4D, on the other hand, offers the whole package at a lower price. However, there is no Live Map equivalent, which you may need.
Taking time to consider needs and budget is important for making the right choice. One platform will cater to your operations better than the other. Either way, Pix4D, and DroneDeploy will elevate your mission capabilities with their turn-key mapping solutions.
FLYMOTION does work more with Pix4D than DroneDeploy and our mapping specialists can guide you in the proper direction regarding your agency’s needs. We can also consult on 2D fast-mapping software from Pix4D known as Pix4Dreact. Contact us to inquire for more information!
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Trends in technology, including unmanned aircraft, would indicate that they are becoming more intuitive to use. The integration of sensors and automation into flight systems reduces pilot workload and the barrier to enter for new pilots. All of these facets support the manufacturer’s claim that users can simply pick up their products and start flying. While true to a degree, some public safety UAS pilots erroneously believe they can fly without any training beyond a Part 107 license.
The truth, however, is very different. The effectiveness of UAS operations depends heavily on two factors: pilot proficiency and the deployment of mission-appropriate resources. Now that your department has acquired aircraft, how does its pilots build up their flying abilities? What about adhering to operating procedures during different missions?
One way to address these questions is by taking one of FLYMOTION’s many training courses. We believe that offering equipment is only half of the equation for a successful UAS program. The value comes from creating a sustainable operation that goes beyond the sale of an aircraft. Equipping public safety pilots with the knowledge and skills to operate equipment effectively is one way in which we are ‘Supporting Those Who Serve.’
With courses ranging from Part 107 training to disaster mapping and night operations to tactical thermography, FLYMOTION uses the accumulated UAS experience of our instructors to provide training at every level. Beginning pilots can prepare for the Part 107 exam through our test prep program.
Once certified, courses Response Tech 1 and Response Tech 2 are available to put pilots through scenario-based training. Flight procedures set in the context of emergency operations help participants understand the role of unmanned aircraft during incident response.
For agencies looking to increase their skill sets, we offer specialized courses like Interior Operations or Counter-UAS Operations. Interior Operations deal with how UAVs are best used indoors with more obstacles and challenges with teams outside of a structure. Interior Operations is particularly useful for agencies who deploy their UAS in support of SWAT calls. More importantly, attendees understand this partnership covers each other’s limitations.
Counter-UAS delves into the methods and systems for protecting airspace from intruding aircraft. These calls see pilots operating an aircraft in tight spaces and require well-developed skills. These courses and others make you pilots familiar with the specific demands, ensuring a better outcome when those situations occur.
Training With FLYMOTION
Florida State University’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy (CDRP) accredits several of our courses as indicated in our course catalog. Courses are taught periodically at our headquarters in Florida. However, the option exists for our instructors to train at your agency and on your schedule—having your pilots learn in their area of operations may fulfill needs in ways that a general course cannot. This flexibility has enabled FLYMOTION instructors to train some of the largest government and defense agencies across the globe in a variety of basic and extensive programs. The complete course catalog is available on the FLYMOTION website.
Using technology without the proper training will limit its potential. No level of technology features will replace the time spent using tools properly. With the right instruction, however, your pilots become more proficient, and your UAS program, becomes a valuable asset.
The past several years have seen an uptick in wildfires. Even more worrisome is the spread and subsequent damage of these fires. To oppose the mounting threat, some fire departments have turned to unmanned aircraft for an additional countermeasure. It’s an obvious decision, considering the advantage that UAS provides in an emergency operations scenario. In this article, we take a brief look at the applications of these aerial platforms in fighting wildfires.
As with any UAS program, the primary objective of a drone is to provide situational awareness. Residential fires and hazmat operations are, for the most part, contained. Unlike these incidents, wildfires are expansive incidents, capable of growing rapidly in minutes. Maintaining awareness is a real challenge. Manned aircraft often fulfill this need, but they are limited by weather and geography. Sometimes, they cannot fly close to the fires to overlook critical information.
Deploying a UAS during a wildfire fills that awareness gap. Whereas an incident commander may wait a while for air support, a UAS unit on-scene can launch immediately. From the initial attack, decision-makers have a birds-eye perspective of the burn area. This allows to predict the path of the fire and identify any structures in danger. Rather than being reactive, a UAS-equipped response is well-informed and proactive.
The Thermal Advantage
Incorporating a thermal payload significantly increases the benefit of a UAS. Smaller aircraft like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and Autel EVO II Dual have stabilized optical and thermal gimbals. Larger aircraft, such as the Matrice 300 RT, carry the H20-T, also a 3-in-1 payload. In short, it isn’t hard to find a platform with thermal capabilities.
Thermal cameras are so critical in these incidents because smoke obscures visibility. It typically hides the size of a fire, its direction, and other threats. Augmenting an optical camera with a thermal camera is one way of overcoming this challenge. Incident commanders remain aware of the incidents regardless of the conditions and make better decisions and decisions faster.
As crews begin to clean up after a fire, UAS aircraft remain useful. With a thermal camera, crews identify hidden hot spots. It is critical to prevent a re-ignition for the safety of everyone involved. So, placing a thermal asset at a high vantage point is certainly effective.
After containing a wildfire, responders typically collect incident data to update wildfire models. An effective solution is a LiDAR mapping drone. Rapidly scanning a burn area, a mapping aircraft accurately reconstructs the area affected by the fire. Rather than relying on photos for damage assessments, the command uses a 3D map. Building damage, forest density, and geography are captured in full detail—information essential to understanding the severity of the incident.
A more specialized application, some drones are outfitted with prescribed burn kits. To meet resource management requirements, some departments are finding it advantageous to employ UAS in this role. While drip torches and flare guns are popular solutions, neither one is as efficient as what the IGNIS system by Drone Amplified promises. Dropping small chemical balls that ignite on the ground, a drone equipped with the IGNIS payload starts a prescribed burn quickly over a large area. Furthermore, it reaches areas inaccessible to ground crews and creates precise fire lines. In an active capacity, UAS solutions make resource management operations more efficient.
By now, you may be sold on the advantages of deploying a UAS for a wildfire response. However, some agencies with UAS programs have run into some challenges you need to be aware of. First, the airspace over a large wildfire is typically congested. Tanker aircraft, helicopters, and spotter planes are flying in and out of a very small airspace. The low visibility alone makes for a dangerous situation. Adding small unmanned aircraft to the mix significantly increases the risk of air collision. To reduce the chance of fatalities, UAS operators need to be aware of the other aerial assets. When UAS pilots lose awareness of their surroundings, an already bad situation becomes much worse.
The second challenge some agencies are facing is the issue of privacy. Much like law enforcement UAS programs, fire departments have faced some criticism for their use of unmanned aircraft. One such widely known fire department, for example, met some resistance when they deployed their UAS unit. Their response? Be transparent as possible. Learning lessons from failed programs, the department in question clearly outlined their procedure for the city committee while working with the ACLU to avoid privacy infringement. As a result, the program has matured since its inception.
Educating the public about your UAS program is the first step to ensuring its success in the future. Assuming the public will understand may raise some tough opposition from decision-makers.
Whether it be overwatch or prescribed burn operations, UAS units are extremely capable assets for combating wildfires. Even fire departments with air support units (ASUs) benefit from having another layer between an ASU and ground units. A rapidly-deployable platform generates a more complete picture of the incident, especially for isolated units.
As fire seasons grow in length, your department may want to consider leveraging an unmanned platform for wildfire response. FLYMOTION, as a provider of unmanned solutions, stands ready to assist in this initiative. Our extensive line of UAS solutions coupled with industry knowledge will ensure your agency is fully prepared. Interested? Check out our website, or contact us.