We started a wonderful science project yesterday. We took one of our drones (our DJI Mavic) over to Shafer Metro East Airport to test the capability of the drone and its ability to integrate with our photo processing software (Drone Deploy). We flew the Mavic for about an hour on a search pattern over Shafer Field, covering every inch of the airport. We ended up collecting about 1200 photos. Drone Deploy’s maximum upload is 999 photos per map, so we edited out the ones we didn’t think we needed and uploaded the 999 we kept. It took about 2 hours to upload the photos and then Drone Deploy worked for about 6 hours to process them in the cloud into a seamless photo mosaic. The Mavic is a very impressive small drone. It folds up to about the size of a small shoebox, and the quality of the photos are amazing. The resolution of the photo is approximately 1″ per pixel. The colors are very nice and the photo looks fantastic. For all of our friends in California, yes, we have had a lot of rain the last couple of weeks and things are really this green.
Here is a sample of the photos we took yesterday. Below the photo is a link that will take you to an interactive web-based map of the airfield where you can zoom in and out and pan around the photo.
The downside of the photo is that it is not all that accurate. It is definitely not accurate enough to use for survey work, which we are trying to accomplish. Most of the points in the photo are within 2 to 5 feet of their actual position on the airfield, but the end of Runway 31 down in the lower right corner of the mosaic is about 20 feet off of its actual position on the ground. We are looking to add Ground Control Points to our future work to ensure more accurate photos, but there is also the possibility of adding Real Time Kinnematic (RTK) correction our larger drone’s navigation system so that the camera will know more accurately where it is taking the photos from and helping the system to produce more accurate photos. We will have to decide whether we want the convenience of taking our Mavic out to the field with its longer flight time and easier logistics, but have to place ground control points in the field before we fly, or do we go with our more expensive and huge DJI S1000 and add RTK correction. It makes for an easier process, but the S1000 is so much bigger and requires a lot more equipment and logistics to do the same job. It will be interesting to see how we implement this. We have a fantastic science project that we will be working on this summer for now.