SenseFly's software integration with Trimble optimizes UAS mapping workflow for geospatial professionals

SenseFly has announced a new software integration with Trimble that optimizes the UAS mapping workflow for geospatial professionals, ultimately ensuring the smoothest possible end-to-end mapping UAS workflow. Within their drone's recently launched eMotion 3.5 software, senseFly operators can now transform a senseFly S.O.D.A. camera’s georeferenced imagery into an “automatically-collated project (in .jxl format).” This allows for the simple, one-click import of UAS imagery into the Trimble Business Center Aerial Photogrammetry module, without having to manually create a project and organize images.  “Making work easier and more efficient for geospatial professionals is the goal that drives every solution we develop,” says Jean-Christophe Zufferey, senseFly’s Co-Founder and CEO. “Therefore, we are excited to collaborate with Trimble on more tightly integrating our solutions, since enhancements such as this new eMotion-to-Trimble Business Center workflow do exactly that, ensuring that the transition from data collection to acting upon this data is as seamless as possible.” The first camera to be built for professional UAS photogrammetry work, the senseFly S.O.D.A. is a 1-inch, 20-megapixel RGB camera that captures extremely sharp aerial images, across a range of light conditions, which allows senseFly fixed-wing UAS operators to produce “detailed, vivid orthomosaics and ultra-accurate 3D digital surface models.” The camera is compatible with most senseFly fixed-wing mapping UAS, including the company’s eBee Plus. Along with producing powerful photogrammetric deliverables, Trimble Business Center also allows surveyors and other geospatial professionals to combine aerial photography with data collected from GNSS receivers, total stations, 3D laser scanners and more, for a “complete field-to-finish workflow.” By easily combining imagery from UAS with ground-based survey data, users can “visualize their project from both aerial and terrestrial perspectives, measure points within the images and create 3D models of the infrastructure and terrain.”

SBG Systems debuting Quanta UAV Series during Xponential 2019

During Xponential 2019, SBG Systems is debuting its brand new line of Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), the Quanta UAV Series, which is dedicated to UAS-based surveying integrators. To help UAS surveyors save autonomy for additional survey lines, SBG has designed a small, lightweight, and low-power INS offered on two levels of accuracy. Developed for compact lidar to high end beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) mapping platforms, Quanta UAV and Quanta UAV Extra both provide precise orientation and centimeter level position data delivered both in real-time and post-processing. With this direct geo-referencing technology, ground control points are no longer needed, and it also greatly reduces the need for overlapping. According to SBG, the Quanta UAV offering is completed by SBG’s post-processing software, Qinertia, which provides access to offline RTK corrections from more than 7,000 base stations located in 164 countries. By processing inertial data and raw GNSS observables in forward and backward directions, trajectory and orientation are significantly improved. Qinertia also computes a user’s base station position to quickly get their project to the centimeter accuracy. While designed as a geo-referencing technology, Quanta UAV can also be used as a high-end navigation technology to feed the UAV autopilot. SBG says that Quanta UAV benefits from a tight integration with in-house IMUs, advanced calibration techniques and algorithms that make sure behavior is consistent in all weather conditions. Quanta UAV also has a robust position even if the UAS gets close to buildings, electrical lines, or trees. For an easy configuration, Quanta UAV embeds a web interface, and has a 3D view showing all parameters. The calibration tool automatically aligns the lever arm between the two antennas and the sensor, and re-estimates it in flight for more precision. SBG Systems will be at Booth 3916 during Xponential.

TomTom launches new product to ensure safe automated driving operations

TomTom (TOM2) has launched a new product for automated vehicles called TomTom RoadCheck that allows carmakers to decide where it is safe for drivers to activate their vehicles’ automated driving functions. TOM2 notes in certain instances such as during periods of adverse weather, in tunnels, and in changing environments, automated driving operations might not be safe. In these instances, RoadCheck enables carmakers to define the operational design domain (ODD) of their vehicles’ automated driving functions using TomTom’s high definition (HD) map data, which gives carmakers the ability to manage where these functions can be used safely. “By enabling carmakers to control where automated driving functions can be activated, TomTom is addressing a critical industry challenge that has been highlighted by our partners and customers,” explains Willem Strijbosch, head of Autonomous Driving at TomTom. “TomTom RoadCheck – an industry first technology – will make safe autonomous driving a reality sooner.” TomTom RoadCheck is the latest edition to TomTom’s vehicle automation portfolio, which also includes the TomTom HD Map, the TomTom ADAS Map, a hazard service, TomTom AutoStream and TomTom Vehicle Horizon. TomTom says that RoadCheck will be deployed in a production model by a leading global carmaker in 2021, starting in the United States.

SenseFly introduces free service package to keep UAS operators working

SenseFly has announced its new “Always On” free service package, which is designed to ensure business continuity by keeping professional UAS operators working. Thanks to the “Always On” service package, which according to senseFly, provides operators “with an advanced level of professional support and peace of mind,” if a customer has a hardware problem with their eBee Plus UAS, they can have that UAS replaced within 48 hours, for free and with no questions asked. The “Always On” service package, which is available as a bundle option alongside every new eBee Plus UAS purchase, extends the limited warranty from one to two years for the eBee Plus, and it includes free scheduled services and free battery replacements as well. “Helping clients by providing them with reliable and highly accurate mapping drones and exceptional professional grade service has always been at the core of what we do,” says Jean-Thomas Celette, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at senseFly. “Today we’re taking this support to the next level, enabling eBee Plus operators to virtually eliminate the issue of project disruption and, in turn, allowing them to better plan their workloads and meet their commitments, because business never stops.” The eBee Plus is a “large coverage photogrammetric mapping system featuring RTK/PPK upgradeability, for survey-grade accuracy on demand,” and it has garnered attention for mapping more square miles per flight than any UAS in its weight class.

Global UAV Technologies and others conduct landmark UAS mapping mission in Canada

On June 14, Global UAV Technologies Ltd., InDro Robotics Inc., and High Eye Aerial Imaging Inc. conducted the first UAS mapping mission over a major Canadian metropolitan city, flying over the downtown core of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The mission, which was a first of its kind operation, was completed for the City of Victoria’s Emergency Management Division and conducted alongside members of Transport Canada. “This first of its kind operation signals a significant achievement for High Eye, InDro and Global UAV. The ability to safely operate a UAV over a populated downtown core without interrupting people’s daily commute is a milestone event and will aid in progressing UAV regulations in Canada,” says Jeremy McCalla, Global UAV Technologies’ Business Development and Operations Manager. “The successful collaboration between Global UAV, InDro Robotics, Transport Canada and the City of Victoria on the project provides a foundation for future collaborations on similar missions.” Approximately 1,000 high resolution images were collected using a Sensefly eBee plus RTK/PPK UAS during two flights that covered an area of 1.5 square kilometers. A professional flight crew that included personnel from all three entities completed the survey in just one day. “Transport Canada’s willingness to work with the team to ensure this mission, vital to emergency planning and preparedness, could be flown in an efficient and safe manner has provided not only a wealth of data for emergency response but also a new depth of knowledge for future operations in such environments,” says Phillip Reece, CEO of InDro Robotics. ​A video about the mapping mission can be seen below:  

Embry-Riddle, UCF partner to examine how UAS can be used to map oyster reefs

With a focus on 21 oyster reefs near Edgewater, Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Central Florida (UCF) have partnered to develop methodologies for remotely mapping regions that are difficult, and expensive, to monitor on site. The goal of the research is to utilize UAS to collect different types of information while surveying the reefs, without ever visiting the locations in person. If the project is successful, it would represent progress, signaling a clear change in the way environmental data has traditionally been collected, according to Dr. Dan Macchiarella, professor of Aeronautical Science. “The alternative to remotely sensing is to physically travel to a location, and in the case of oyster beds, many are located in hard-to-access areas, like the middle of mangrove tree stands,” Macchiarella says. “There are other applications for remote sensing to sample wildlife, too, including using the technology to locate fish nests in remote river locations.” The project is Embry-Riddle’s first partnership with UCF’s National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. The entities note that while this technology is centered on coastal mapping, it can also be used for other applications, such as monitoring elephant herds in Tanzania, as part of an anti-poaching program. The entities also note that UAS images are currently 60 times more detailed than even the best visual data captured by Google Earth, so possibilities will continue to expand in the U.S. as the FAA moves toward “effective integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.” “In the future, more and more environmental-monitoring tasks will be accomplished using UAS, due to the inherent mobility, aerial perspective and cost efficiencies of these systems,” Macchiarella says.

senseFly establishes itself as a leader in BVLOS operations

As beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAS operations are primed to open a range of possibilities in the drone industry, fixed-wing drone solutions provider senseFly has established itself as an early leader in safely and successfully performing these operations. Having already participated in several landmark BVLOS flights, senseFly is quickly becoming an expert in how to properly pull off these operations, from both a technical and non-technical standpoint. According to Pierre-Alain Marchand, regulatory compliance manager, senseFly, the technical requirements needed for these operations include a reliable command and control (C2) link, a safe and reliable aircraft, an automatic behavior capability, and a detect and avoid function. All of these requirements help ensure that operations are conducted safely, and provide safeguards in case things don’t go according to plan.  Before these technical requirements can even be implemented, though, a healthy relationship with the National Aviation Authority (NAA) in the country where the BVLOS operations will take place is essential.  “I think it’s really important to have a good relationship with your aviation authority,” Marchand tells AUVSI. Having a healthy relationship with a country's NAA is important for several reasons, Marchand explains. NAAs are not only the ones that provide a company with BVLOS authorizations, but they are also the go to entities for questions that may arise regarding specific requirements that need to be met and fulfilled before take off. Marchand says that senseFly has an open and ongoing dialogue with the NAAs in the countries it is operating in, as well as some of the ones it hasn’t yet. A knowledge of a country’s regulations is also important. Marchand notes that most of senseFly’s clients are located in North America, South America, or Europe, so senseFly is extremely knowledgeable about what’s needed to conduct BVLOS operations in these specific countries. In countries that senseFly isn’t as familiar with the regulations for BVLOS flights, the company checks to see what’s necessary to conduct these operations, either via the internet, or by reaching out to that country’s NAA. senseFly makes BVLOS history in several countries In just the last few years, senseFly has participated in several groundbreaking BVLOS operations. In 2017, the company conducted one of its first BVLOS flights when it inspected a gas line in Switzerland. The flight went “really well,” Marchand says. In 2018, senseFly, in collaboration with In-Flight Data, conducted North America’s first urban BVLOS UAS project in a major city. Conducted in Calgary, Alberta, the project’s goal was to collect mapping data to support the development of a new graveyard site, which would be the first new cemetery in the city since 1940. Using a senseFly eBee Plus fixed-wing UAS, the In-Flight Data team mapped the area by conducting a total of 257 miles’ worth of BVLOS operations at an average distance of 1.46 miles from the pilot. Data collected during the project was delivered to the city of Calgary and was expected to support construction management as the development of the graveyard began. According to the companies, the findings from the project not only provided valuable inventory data, which allowed city officials to identify the real estate available at the site, but they were also going to be shared with the citizens of Calgary to follow the progress of the site construction. “The success of this project indicates that the potential for BVLOS operations in urban, city environments is huge,” In-Flight Data owner Chris Healy said at the time. “When correctly planned and executed, including ongoing communication with local air traffic control, and live air traffic monitoring within the drone’s flight software, BVLOS operations are an incredibly efficient, safe and cost-effective tool for mapping cities. With fewer personnel and operational requirements, BVLOS drone flights are key in facilitating and reducing the costs of urban UAS operations, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for BVLOS in other urban applications.” In 2019, senseFly followed up that historic project by once again making history when it collaborated with AL Drones and Santiago & Cintra to get approval to conduct BVLOS flights in Brazil for the first time in the country’s history, using UAS technology from senseFly. With this approval, senseFly’s UAS became the first and only in the country permitted to fly 400 feet in height with a five-kilometer radius from a licensed pilot or observer. VLOS operations restrict the current use of UAS to a 500-meter radius. SenseFly pointed out at the time that one of the major benefits of this authorization was that UAS operators could now navigate and map larger and more remote areas, which would expand the professional use of UAS in a diverse range of sectors. Another important BVLOS mission that senseFly participated in came in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence’s destructive impact on North Carolina in Sept. 2018, when the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) used senseFly's fixed-wing drone technology with BVLOS capabilities to evaluate the damage and help the community rebuild as quickly as possible. SenseFly’s eBee drones were deployed to fly at 200 feet above ground level (AGL) over North Carolina’s flooded I-40 highway. The UAS flew for an hour on a single battery, capturing 2,050 photos with senseFly’s Aeria X photogrammetry camera. In less than 24 hours, senseFly flew the requested area, processed the flight data and generated a deliverable for NCDOT. The hour-long flight produced accurate, useful information to fully understand the extent of damage and flooding of I-40. “It’s really great to see the drones used for such important and useful uses,” Marchand says.   BVLOS’ potential to make operations for companies cheaper, safer and easier For Marchand, the importance of BVLOS capabilities cannot be understated. Right now, most drone flights are conducted within the visual line of sight (VLOS) of a pilot, which of course has its limitations. But BVLOS capabilities are expected to make operations for companies cheaper, safer and easier, as demonstrated by missions and projects that senseFly has completed in recent years. NAAs across the world already recognize that senseFly’s drones are reliable and being used for a lot of VLOS missions. As the company continues to prove itself mission by mission, senseFly is optimistic that routine BVLOS operations is the next step in the maturation of the drone industry.  “Once BVLOS is allowed, I’m pretty sure that we will see a lot of drones in the sky,” Marchand says. 

Sanborn Map Company secures five-year contract for on-call UAS services with El Paso County

Over the next five years, departments and municipalities within El Paso County, Colorado will be able to negotiate task orders and procure UAS services and products from Sanborn Map Company, Inc. (Sanborn), which is a leader in the geospatial industry that delivers mapping services to customers across the world. After awarding Sanborn this on-call unmanned aircraft services multi-year contract, El Paso County will reportedly use the UAS for a variety of tasks including disaster and emergency response, the mapping of parks, open space and trails, highways and bridges, and inspections for roofs. Sanborn’s commercial UAS platform features a “full military-grade autopilot with GPS waypoints and laser altimeters that are integrated with its sensor payload, permitting precise sensor control.” The UAS also has a 15-pound payload capacity, which allows it to use a variety of sophisticated sensors including video, multispectral, and hyperspectral. According to Sanborn, all work will be completed under FAA appropriate approvals for platform and operator requirements. Sanborn also says that any work conducted under this contract will be done “in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local regulations regarding the use of UAS and observe all privacy laws.” Several commercial UAS data collection projects have already been completed by Sanborn thus far, and in an effort to validate the system’s geospatial data collection capabilities, many test flights have been conducted as well. These efforts have resulted in “unprecedented data accuracy and resolution.” A broad portfolio of services is facilitated by Sanborn’s UAS, including engineering-grade digital terrain models exceeding 2-inch accuracy, thermal imaging data, and vibration-free video. Besides offering UAS flight services, Sanborn also offers a full range of professional image processing and analysis services for all data collected via UAS. Sanborn’s UAS data is available as a licensed product within its cloud service, which allows customers to store and securely access their data around the clock at a decent price. If customers want to, they can also purchase and host the data on their own servers.

Marble's delivery robots hit the ground to map out Arlington, Texas

The first two test robots from Marble, a San Francisco-based robotics company, began mapping out the city streets and sidewalks of Arlington, Texas on Friday, August 17, according to NBC DFW. Marble is the first company to deploy this type of technology in Arlington after the City Council gave approval for private companies to deploy robotic delivery devices to test their usage in the city back in June. “This is our first step in interacting with the city of Arlington and we are very excited to be here,” says Marble representative Jackie Erickson. Over the course of the next few weeks, the two robots will travel across the city to get a layout of the land. The robots will be accompanied by human “ambassadors” during this process. “They are watching the mapping process and they are ensuring that [the robots] are safe and they are efficient and they are interacting well with pedestrians and politely with pedestrians,” Erickson explains. Once the mapping process is complete, a pilot delivery program is expected to start. A human will accompany the robots during the first few months of the program to monitor their behavior, but the plan is for the robots to eventually operate with full autonomy, with a human watching movement from a remote computer. “It would look like, grocery delivery, package delivery throughout the day – working with our retailers,” Erickson says. “You’ll be seeing these robots on the sidewalks navigating alongside pedestrians.” Capable of holding up to four bags of groceries, six shoe boxes and 10 hot meals, the robots will deliver to locations up to about two miles away. Customers will retrieve their items by entering a special code into the robot. No specific routes have been chosen yet for the robots to operate on, but data gathered during the mapping process will help decide where the robots go. “We’ve got a lot of great residents, apartments and neighborhood in North Arlington and that is probably where they will be focused on,” says Arlington Strategic Planning Manager Lyndsay Mitchell. Mitchell believes that this technology could prove to be extremely beneficial for citizens. “Particularly for people who have transportation challenges or mobility challenges,” Mitchell says. “They will be able to get groceries and other items delivered to them so they won’t have to make those short trips that may be inconvenient for them at any time.”

Terra Drone Europe to provide UAS services to UK's national mapping agency

Terra Drone Europe, a group company of Terra Drone Corporation, has announced that it has secured a framework agreement to provide UAS services to the national mapping agency of the United Kingdom, Ordnance Survey.  Through this agreement, Terra Drone Europe will provide a variety of UAS services to Ordnance Survey, with deliverables including orthomosaics, digital terrain models (DTM) and digital surface models. “This framework shows how Ordnance Survey is using new and innovative techniques to create the most accurate maps of the United Kingdom,” says Patrick Rickerby, technical director, Terra Drone Europe. “We are glad they have chosen us based on our quality and track record in this field.” Having already received more than 500 survey locations to survey, Terra Drone Europe says that it will use a number of different fixed wing and multirotor UAS to conduct the surveys.  Terra Drone Europe has selected RUAS, a professional drone services company and training provider based in South Wales, to support the data collection over the entire UK. This will ensure full UK coverage and consistent deployment of teams throughout the country. With the addition of dedicated UAS services, Ordnance Survey is extending its data gathering capabilities. This framework agreement will also increase Ordnance Survey’s ability to offer accurate and timely data to businesses and enterprises even more.