Although 3D mapping has been done for years using various methods, UAVs now offer a new economical alternative to conventional methods. This first image is a mosaic created from a fly-over with a UAV operated by Story In Focus.
It is constructed of 28 images shot from 162 feet above the take-off point. While the autopilot triggers the camera, it also records the GPS position of the UAV. All the position information and photos are imported into the photo analysis software. Through the miracle of mathematics and image recognition, the software creates a point cloud in 3D space that represents the terrain.
This point cloud contains all the information needed to create a 3D surface model of the area. The texture mapping is completed next, giving the surface a realistic appearance.
There are many benefits to having a 3D surface model with texture mapping and software capable of analyzing the information. Do you see the light colored gravel pile in the foreground? That gravel pile contains 596 cubic meters of material. How do we know that? Well, we used the aerial survey gathered with our UAV and Agisoft software (www.agisoft.com) to calculate that information. This complete aerial survey and results were obtained within four hours from the take-off of the UAV. Models created by the software can also be imported into other mapping and design software for use by engineers, architects, aggregate companies, landscapers, and others.
Not only do UAVs produce wonderful aerial images and videos, they also can provide valuable information at a lower cost than conventional methods. This example is just one of the possibilities. Together let’s find ways for your company to reduce costs through the use of our services.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, are a big trend these days. For once, I’m actually part of a trend. Without knowing it, I’ve been moving towards aerial videography since I was a child. It allows me to combine the two defining passions of my life.
My father was a forest ranger in northern Alberta, so I grew up on the end of a runway. I have many fond memories of being allowed to go up in Bell 47s and the forestry’s Helio Courier.
I started flying radio-controlled aircraft in high school and still remember the simple six-channel radios used at that time. My best friend Gord and I would load up a couple of gliders and search for a slope from which to soar.
After high school, I studied aircraft maintenance at SAIT. Soon, I was working on light aircraft doing everything from regular maintenance to complete rebuilds. I was one of the few from my class that actually used the lessons learned about fabric covering.
In the 1980s Alberta’s economy took a downturn, and jobs in aircraft maintenance dwindled. For a while, I pursued my other love—capturing images. I started off selling cameras, but soon I was assisting a very talented commercial photographer who taught me many things about photography and advanced darkroom techniques. Later, I did audio visual shows with large banks of synchronized slide projectors. I loved the technical aspect and started a business creating slides for business presentations.
When that market was eliminated by computer programs like PowerPoint, I returned to aviation. I became an air traffic controller. I loved working in the Lethbridge tower. Every day I went to work and watched the planes. It was perfect. But then they moved me to the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) stream. There were no planes in sight and I was not happy.
In high school, I spent many hours in the machine shop making things. I decided to pursue a career as a machinist. Quickly, I became very good at what I did because I enjoy solving problems. I never took a production job because I knew that would kill me. Instead, I became a research and development machinist specializing in prototype work. I loved being inventive and designing things. I even made things for myself, such as a computer controlled camera mount for making virtual reality photographs, and a computer-controlled foam-cutting machine for production of radio-controlled aircraft wings. The computer-controlled foam-cutting machine was eventually purchased by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for use in their low-speed aerodynamics lab.
I was still playing with photography, and when digital video became affordable, I was in like a dirty shirt. Due to family reasons, a few years ago we started planning to move to the coast. My wife Debbie and I knew it was best to bring jobs with us, so I started making videos on the side. When we arrived on the coast, we launched Story in Focus video production.
It’s been a great journey so far and we’ve decided to take it one step further. Before moving to the coast, I started building unmanned aerial vehicles. I now have two that are ready to fly. We obtained our first Special Flight Operations Certificates a few weeks ago and have several others planned for the near future.
I have found a way to combine my love of flying radio control, knowledge of how things work, aviation safety knowledge, and film skills in one package. I am doing what I was made to do and I am loving it.
Story in Focus recently went through the process of obtaining a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. It isn’t easy. Transport Canada requires manuals that detail safety, roles, operation and maintenance of each UAS the company intends to use. But it is more than a paperwork exercise. By carefully documenting our procedures, we were able to ensure that safety will be maintained throughout our operation. My background in air traffic control and aircraft maintenance came in useful when preparing the manuals, so did my partner’s technical writing skills.
In addition to manuals, Transport Canada also requires operators to carry liability insurance. Story in Focus carries $2M. We will continue to do our best to ensure that nothing goes wrong, but if it does we have coverage.
Companies wanting to employ the services of a UAS operator should ensure their contractor is properly certified and insured. It is not legal for a company to sell UAS services without a SFOC from Transport Canada. Fines from Transport Canada range from $10,000.00 to $25,000.00. The UAS operator must also be properly insured; otherwise, if an incident happens, your company may be at risk.
The UAS industry is in its infancy and every day there are new uses for this technology. It’s not just for aerial photography. Farmers can use near infrared images to evaluate the health of their crops. Inspections of mining, construction and lumbering sites can be completed at a lower cost and more safely. In an afternoon, a UAS can gather all the information required to calculate the volume of mining stockpiles.
Infrared cameras can show heat loss from roofs or find a lost child in the woods. Images taken by using a UAS can be used to generate 3D models. This enables architects to design buildings in harmony with their surroundings while saving excavation expenses and minimizing environmental impact. These are just a few examples of what can be done. I’m sure you can think of others.
Using a UAS can save money, as long as it is used in a safe manner. That is the purpose of the SFOC process. Obtaining a SFOC helps ensure safety is in the forefront. If you ever want to explore the ways in which a UAS operator could help your company, please give me a call.
The video posted with this blog was a test of a new camera mount.