Launched in 2021, the Autel Robotics EVO II Enterprise series was a response to the growing need for specialized unmanned platforms. Two years later, they continue to be an excellent option for public safety agencies. This article breaks down the series’ top 5 features, including some that are often overlooked.
1. Autonomous Functions
An Autel Enterprise drone comes with several autonomous flight functions. One of them is especially useful for public safety operators. Orbit automatically flies the aircraft around a point of interest. Orbiting is useful to accurately assess a situation like a traffic stop or fire. It’s also a continuous function; the aircraft will circle as needed.
Orbit is a standout feature for two reasons. First, flying an aircraft in a circle takes good coordination and can be a challenging technique for new pilots. Automating the movement lowers the entry-level for beginners. Second, it reduces mental workload during flight. Pilots can focus more on the incident than on aircraft orientation.
2. Obstacle Avoidance
Like the autonomous functions, obstacle avoidance makes flying the aircraft easier. Enterprise aircraft rely on 19 sets of sensors for 360 degrees of protection. This feature excels in urban and confined space operations, where the likelihood of crashing is greater.
If it seems redundant to highlight obstacle avoidance, note that not all drones in this class have it.
3. Flight Time
Autel’s Enterprise drones have a best-in-class flight time of 44 minutes. This is a 15-minute advantage over the typical 30-minute flight time of other drones. Because drones leave commanders in the dark during battery swaps, a longer flight time means greater situational awareness.
Accessories increase the versatility of the drone, allowing operators to customize the platform for the mission. All use the dedicated accessory mount found on the top of the aircraft.
Reaching a volume of 120 dB from 1 m away, the loudspeaker turns the drone into an intervention tool. Pilots can communicate instructions to survivors or suspects without placing personnel in danger.
At 469 lumens, the spotlight makes it easy for pilots and ground personnel to conduct searches at night.
This powerful strobe light complies with FAA regulations for night operations.
GPS doesn’t always produce precise results during mapping missions. Autel’s RTK module accurately positions the drone down to the centimeter and shields it from electromagnetic interference.
In a 2021 update, Autel added geofencing restrictions to drones flying in the U.S. and other countries. However, they’re less restrictive than those on other drones. This is valuable for some agencies that would otherwise be barred from taking off. Things may change with new regulations, but for now, Autel aircraft remain easier to deploy.
Choosing a drone often comes down to the features, especially when so many models advertise similar specifications. It’s clear that Autel EVO II Enterprise drones are well-rounded solutions, packed with performance and features. If your agency is interested in purchasing an Autel Enterprise drone, contact a FLYMOTION representative or visit our website.
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It’s easy to think that drones are only good for taking photos and videos. Powerful payloads and software, however, significantly extend the utility of UAVs in other applications. One prominent use of these platforms is for aerial mapping, and some public safety agencies are finding that it makes their response more effective. In this article, we briefly cover two mapping methods and ways that your agency could implement aerial mapping into its workflow.
LiDAR is the abbreviation for Light Detection and Ranging. At its very basic, LiDAR systems use laser pulses to measure distances by recording the time it takes for the light picked up by the integrated sensor. For 3D scans, LiDAR units emit laser pulses at a rapid rate in all directions. Software marks each measurement with a point, creating a highly detailed point cloud that makes up the final 3D render.
- Highly accurate
- Works in all lighting conditions
- Detailed scans
- Requires specialized hardware
- Limited to creating point cloud maps
Whereas LiDAR uses lasers to create renders, photogrammetry uses overlapping pictures. The accompanying software uses camera metadata and GPS information to triangulate light rays intersecting at a specific point in the designated space. The result of these triangulations is a highly detailed 3D map of the metro terrorist scenario at UTAC 2021 in the facility’s mockup underground subway tunnel:
- Uses available imaging systems
- Multiple output formats (orthomosaics, point clouds, textured meshes)
- The most accessible measurement system
- Not the most accurate
- Limited to environmental lighting conditions
Public Safety Applications
LiDAR and photogrammetry have clear public safety applications due to their accuracy and rapid turn-around times. Most recently, both systems are deploying on drones, an effective solution for mapping large areas quickly. Mapping applications also allow public safety agencies to increase the impact of their UAS programs and get more out of their platforms.
Crime Scene Investigation
3D mapping is rapidly becoming an integral tool in collecting evidence, particularly crash reconstruction. Evidence technicians can promptly scan the scene of the accident using a drone. Software compiles the image data into a computer render, which investigators then use for analysis off-scene. They can take measurements and identify trajectories all within the 3D model. Having digital recreation also means accident sites are cleaned up quickly to reopen roadways.
Photogrammetry and LiDAR also serve as critical tools in disaster response. Because the disasters impact large areas, it can be difficult for responding agencies to understand the scale of the situation. Fortunately, 3D mapping provides decision-makers with an accurate, interactive scene overview. Furthermore, they can identify the areas with the most critical damage and steer responders clear of potential hazards. Finally, mapping offers a convenient way to monitor recovery progress.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
With a 1-inch Hasselblad sensor and compact airframe, the Mavic 2 Pro is the perfect photogrammetry platform. The Mavic 2 Pro is compatible with the powerful PIX4D software for rapid outputs.
DJI Phantom 4 RTK
An older model, the Phantom 4 RTK is no less of a capable mapping drone. Also compatible with PIX4D, the Phantom 4 RTK brings the advantage of an RTK unit for precise positioning.
DJI Matrice 300 and Zenmuse P1 payload
Currently, the M300 with Zenmuse P1 payload is one of the best drones for photogrammetry workflows. The M300 airframe is an industry workhorse, with exceptional obstacle avoidance, range, and endurance. The P1 payload is a 45MP, full-frame camera that features Smart Oblique Capture, ensuring images are captured at the appropriate angle for the mission. The result of this combination is an ultra-detailed 3D map accurate to centimeter levels.
DJI Matrice 300 and Zenmuse L1 payload
For missions that require LiDAR mapping, the M300 paired with the Zenmuse L1 payload is among one of the best solutions. Comprised of a Livox LiDAR module, an RGB camera, and a highly accurate IMU, the L1 can scan up to 2 km^2 area in a single flight. One standout feature of the L1 payload is its Point Cloud LiveView. Operators can see the LiDAR scan in real-time on the controller as the aircraft makes its passes. This feature is essential for SAR teams that would need an updated topographic map before beginning their mission.
Photogrammetry and LiDAR have their distinct advantages and drawbacks. Both, however, are highly effective methods for rapid mapping and are significant improvements over traditional assessment procedures. Are you interested in a photogrammetry or LiDAR solution for your agency? Contact a FLYMOTION representative or visit our website.
24th May 2022
FLYMOTION Now Preferred Partner of Squishy Robotics
TAMPA, FL – FLYMOTION, a leading provider of unmanned systems, technology integration, training, and services across public safety, government, and defense, announced they are now a preferred partner of Squishy Robotics. Through a value-added reseller agreement with FLYMOTION, the technology company’s line of sensor platforms will be available for distribution.
Headquartered in Berkeley, California, Squishy Robotics, Inc. specializes in making customizable robots for emergency response. Known as tensegrity structures, these platforms can place a wide variety of sensor payloads in austere environments. Field-proven in pilot partnerships with several first responder departments, these tensegrity robots are versatile tools and useful for numerous public safety, defense, and industrial applications.
“As technology advances exponentially, the possibilities of integrating robotics into operations in place of a human operator follow suit. Merging unmanned systems with Squishy Robotics sensor payloads opens the door for operators to accomplish whatever mission profile they encounter. Furthermore, this partnership advances our mission of ‘Supporting Those Who Serve’ across public safety, government, and defense on a global operational scale, and we are eager to see the capabilities continually develop,” said Ryan English, CEO & Co-Founder of FLYMOTION.
The integration of Squishy Robotics into FLYMOTION’s growing list of advanced technology will make its innovative products more accessible for application in public safety, government, defense, and enterprise operations. As a leading end-to-end industry solution provider, FLYMOTION prioritizes partnerships with companies that champion the development of life-saving technology. Establishing a relationship between Squishy Robotics and FLYMOTION will place these advanced platforms directly in the hands of front-line operators and uphold the mission of ‘Supporting Those Who Serve.’
“We are thrilled to be working with FLYMOTION, a technology solutions provider dedicated to providing local, state and federal public safety agencies with the latest and most innovative tools they need,” said Squishy Robotics COO Deniz Dogruer. “We are excited that this agreement will enable us to offer our drone-droppable/throwable sensors to the first responder community, providing them with the immediate, on-the-ground information they need to protect themselves and the public from many dangers.”
Interested parties will be able to experience the advantages of the Squishy Robotics platform by contacting FLYMOTION representatives.
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About Squishy Robotics, Inc.
Squishy Robotics is a technology company that makes drone-droppable/throwable sensor robots that can be rapidly deployed to provide situational awareness without requiring first responders to hand carry sensors into potentially dangerous environments. The company’s tensegrity (tensional integrity) robots can reduce human risk and exposure in hazardous situations because the robots’ customizable payloads (equipped with a variety of chemical and other sensor as well as video cameras) can provide the information needed to make data-driven decisions—all without putting humans in harm’s way. Firefighters, HazMat responders, and military personnel are among the company’s customers. The technology company was founded in 2017 and grew out of research originally focused on space exploration performed for NASA Ames. Please visit https://squishy-robotics.com.
Since our inception in 2014, FLYMOTION, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, has become the largest provider of technology solutions and integrations to public safety, government, and defense. Our service portfolio spans unmanned systems, software, mobile command vehicles, full system integration, custom training, consultation, and support; we are a true end-to-end solution provider. Our efforts to deliver the highest degree of client satisfaction are founded on our mission of “Supporting Those Who Serve,” an idea rooted in us as a veteran-owned company.
FLYMOTION furthers our mission by hosting our annual Unmanned Tactical Application Conference (UTAC), the premier unmanned systems, robotics, and technology training event. UTAC offers fully immersive real-world scenarios where attendees can operate, evaluate, and familiarize themselves with the most advanced operational technologies. For more information, please visit flymotionus.com.
Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, known as “Spot,” is making its mark as a versatile robotic platform, becoming a vital tool for public safety and industrial applications. A recent software update released by Boston Dynamics now elevates Spot’s capabilities in several ways. In this article, we will briefly look at the new features introduced in the update and their implications for the use of the Spot robot in industrial settings.
Introduced at the end of 2021, Spot Release 3.0 builds on the already impressive capabilities of Spot to leverage the power of AI in businesses. This yellow robot dog is equipped with a host of automated functions. Greater automation provides accurate and consistent data for AI processing. Updated units will see significant improvements across three areas: autonomy, data collection, and enterprise integration.
Autowalk is a feature on Spot enabling operators to program autonomous missions, like inspections at industrial and commercial sites. Release 3.0 brings some powerful upgrades to this ability.
Using the tablet controller, users can easily set schedules for their missions. For example, Spot might start its mission after hours. Thus, it avoids peak hours in the factory or construction site. Schedules are also necessary for consistent data collection.
Operators can design specific Inspection Actions into Spot. Once the Action is selected, the robot will automatically find the quickest way to collect the data.
Edit current missions with path extensions and new Inspection Actions. Easily accommodate site expansions into existing missions.
In scenarios where the site layout is constantly changing (like construction sites), Spot knows to walk around blocked paths to collect data. You don’t have to be worried about the pallet lying in the mission path. Spot will sense it and find an alternate route.
Data collected by Spot is critical for creating a complete picture of your operation. Therefore, the data needs to be trustworthy. An updated Spot robot ensures this in two ways.
Repeatable Image Capture
Using scene-based camera alignment, Spot takes pictures from the same position and angle every mission. This ability guarantees data consistency for precise measurements and change detection.
Live Review of Computer Vision Models
One method of gathering data utilizes Spot’s cameras to read gauges. The robot uses compatible computer vision models to read and process gauge information. Through the update, operators can review this information live on the controller.
Boston Dynamics designed the update to integrate Spot into large-scale operations. More importantly, the integration is seamless. Workflow compatibility turns Spot from a specialty robot into an enterprise workhorse.
Automatic Data Upload
Data automatically uploads into the company system at the end of the mission. Spot Dock offers the connection to offloads data for review. As a result, inspection missions become efficient and routine.
Spot is now compatible with cloud-based platforms like Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and IBM Maximo. Cloud integration makes it part of the system architecture.
Scout, Boston Dynamics’ web-based application, is the hub for Spot operations. Manage the fleet, schedule missions, and review site data.
Some other features to be aware of include the remote restart of payloads, increased functionality of the Spot Arm, and an alarm to alert bystanders of Spot’s presence. All provide a greater degree of control and safety.
As you’ve seen by now, a Spot robot coupled with Release 3.0 is more than capable for any large-scale industrial application. Accurate and autonomous, Spot is a logical option for inspection missions.
Furthermore, the ability of updates like Release 3.0 to expand the operational envelope indicates something about the future of this robot. The potential of later updates means Spot is a dynamic platform; it is ever-evolving to meet new demands. As software and AI become more proficient, so will Spot.
Interested to know how you can integrate Spot into your agency or organization’s operations? Visit our website or contact one of our representatives here.
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.