Adding a Radar rangefinder to a drone enables it to precisely follow the terrain during the flight, based on the data received from the altimeter.
In True Terrain Following mode, the drone flies at low and constant AGL altitudes (starting from 0.5m) without the need to import precise Digital Elevation Model (DEM) height-map into UgCS.
The integrated system that enables the drone to fly in True Terrain Following (TTF Data Sheet) consists of:
One of the main components of the integrated system, enabling efficient survey planning is UgCS - flight planning software providing tools for easy creation and calculation of flight paths, and interpretation of acquired data in a user-friendly manner.
Magnetometers and Ground Penetrating Radars (GPR) have an extremely useful ability — they can see below the ground. For this very reason, they are widely used in mining, engineering, construction, and many other industries – even in archaeology. As usual, where the surface of the terrain is too dangerous (or fragile) for humans to walk on, sensor-carrying drones come into play. But there is one problem with this: how can you fly drones at a precise height – a very, very precise height?
Too little, too much
Usually, digital elevation model (DEM) data that represents the surface of the terrain is used for such purposes. However, this kind of data is not available for many remote areas, and when it is, it is often not sufficiently accurate. For example, one of the best available commercial DEM data (WorldDEM) has a vertical precision of three metres. If for your mission the sensor needs to be two or even one metres above ground level, this data is simply of no use.
LiDARs seemingly offer a solution. They can create extremely accurate terrain maps by providing a precision level of up to one centimetre. As good as this sounds, for a drone mission planning this means a lot of time wasted because in this case missions have to be based on too many waypoints (we’re talking hundreds and hundreds). As the waypoints need to be loaded onto the DJI drone in batches of no more than 99 at a time, following a LiDAR-mapped area of terrain precisely would involve flying over the area time and time again. And that’s without mentioning the drain on the batteries.
Measuring on the go
Why not use actual terrain information instead of relying on sub-optimal pre-existing data? That was the game-changing thinking behind a new integration solution brought onto the market by SPH Engineering, which provides unmanned systems integration services and software development.
By adding a proprietary onboard computer UgCS SkyHub and a radar altimeter to the drone carrying a Magnetometer or GPR (the feature is currently available for DJI M300 RTK, DJI M600/M600 Pro, and M210/M210 v2 drones and can also be used with custom drones based on DJI A3 autopilot) SPH Engineering makes it possible to follow the terrain accurately without crowding the mission with too many waypoints and thus making it inefficient.
First, the radar altimeter gathers an uninterrupted data flow by measuring the distance to the surface of the terrain. Second, the onboard computer adjusts the drone flight height accordingly. As it uses actual data, rather than pre-existing information, this mode is called True Terrain Following.
True terrain-following with one click
All of this, combined with a special add-on of SPH Engineering’s UgCS software, allows for hassle-free drone mission planning with immaculate flight height precision. True Terrain Following mode requires no more than two waypoints on each survey line, thus sparing you from unnecessary interruptions to missions. The operator just needs to set the desired flight height and speed and activate the True Terrain Following mode. The rest of the work will be done automatically.
In addition to mining, engineering, and archaeology, this new solution is useful in situations where Magnetometers and GPRs are not used, but flying over objects or following the surface at a particular height is required for other reasons. This could include spraying plants in agriculture and many other situations where accuracy is a priority.
One of the main components of the integrated system, enabling efficient survey planning is UgCS - flight planning software providing tools for easy creation and calculation of flight paths, and interpretation of acquired data in a user-friendly manner.Learn more about UgCS Software
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