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Forestry - Tree plantation management

3D photomesh and orthomosaic of bluegum tree plantation.

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Small Drone Mapping 101

The Aero Scout shares his experiences with UAV mapping and 3D models.

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Alkimos Beach - 3D Photomesh and Orthomosaic

Alkimos beach aerial survey to produce a 3D photomesh and orthomosaic.

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Chestnut Brae - Farm planning map

Demonstrating how drone imagery can be used as a base for effective farm planning.

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Small Construction Site - 3D Photomesh and Orthomosaic

UAV aerial survey of a construction site to produce a 3D photomesh and orthomosaic.

A new Aero Scout - Walkera Tali H500

The new Aero Scout, a Walkera Tali H500 and it's Devo F12e controller in the field
I'm very excited to announce that a new Aero Scout has arrived, it's a brand new Walkera Tali H500 hexacopter. This is going to give me the ability to conduct aerial missions in hotter, higher and windier conditions than my previous quadcopter. It is also capable of carrying a greater payload, typically 600g, which means I can use different cameras/sensors such as a compact camera or a FLIR camera.

Hexacopters are exciting, and I believe, we'll see more of them as the multicopter drone industry develops. The main reason is that they are safer and the Authorities are keen to see safer drones being manufactured. The extra motors mean that if one motor failed (and theoretically even if two motors failed) then the flight controller would be able to maintain stable flight long enough for the pilot to bring the aircraft down for a safe landing. Not that quadcopters have a tendency to always fall from the sky, but with only four motors there is no room for a malfunction. Regular maintenance checks certainly helps, however some components are some small that a pilot is unlikely to spot any problems.

The other bonus that a hexacopter delivers is the ability to lift more weight. I'm looking forward to having more options on the size, quality and type of camera/sensor that I can use. For now that will most probably be a GoPro style actioncam on a 3 axis gimbal, however in the future I'd like to have a  FLIR camera for spotting and mapping temperature gradients or hotspots. A compact camera would be very useful for higher resolution maps and 3D models , you can purchase modified cameras (NDVI) that filter certain light waves to make it easier to determine plant health or crops. There's lots of new options now available for me to explore.

For now though, I'm just familiarising myself with the new airframe, it's very different to my last quadcopter the QR X350 Pro. It has alot more power, hovering with no payload at 25% throttle and is also a lot faster. I'll be spending a few weeks just honing my basic flying skills with this new airframe before I add a gimbal and camera and start running mapping missions.

First flight with the Tali H500 plus basic test FPV system.

A big thanks to Walkera for it's generosity in sponsoring the Aero Scout and supplying this air system at a discounted price.  I have always had a good experience with dealing with Walkera and own (and have owned) a handful of their drones, all of which are excellent and I treasure very much.

This has been another 'drone adventure' in aerial surveying, inspection and mapping by The Aero Scout.

March of the drones: 10 ideas that moved flying robots forward in 2015



Article by Nick Lavars published on GizMag.com

Drones have continued to capture our imagination in remarkable ways throughout 2015. Despite the thick layers of bureaucracy that outlaw commercial use in much of the world, fresh ideas itching to put the technology to use constantly come to the fore. Let's cast our eye over some of the more promising to emerge this year; a diverse list that includes everything from drones that deliver medical supplies to drones that can build bridges all by themselves.

Click here to read original article on GizMag.com .....

DJI P3 vs Walkera Tali H500

DJI P3 vs Walkera Tali H500
Lets compare the Phantom 3 to the Tali H500 for aerial 3D mapping
As you probably would have read in my previous post, I crashed/lost my Walkera QR X350 Pro, which I had successfully operated for over 18 months. Learning from my experience, I'm now wanting to replace this drone with something more capable. The number one consumer drone is the Phantom 3, that said there's some pretty good deals to be found right now on the Walkera Tali H500. I thought an 'informal' comparison between the two, written down in this blog, would assist me in my decision making and help me to arrive at the most suitable choice to fulfill my needs..

There's little doubt that the Phantom 3 Pro and Advance quadcopters are considered some of the best  aerial filming drones on the market right now and they are built by the largest drone manufacturer in the world DJI. Their level of sophistication and the integration of their systems is unmatched, they are brilliant, high end consumer drones.

The Tali H500 on the other hand is not as well known or popular as the P3. It's a hexacopter built by Walkera and has mixed reviews from users. Some say it's a dud but many others say it's a very reliable and flexible and still has room for growth and development as an airframe. It comes with the industry standard autopilot installed and a controller handset that has a built in screen for viewing live video and telemetry.  

See below my comparisons on these two excellent drones., but do understand that my comparison is from a 3D mappers point of view. My interest and passion lies in aerial surveying and post processing 3D map and model creation. Whilst this 'drone discipline' shares many attributes of aerial filming style of drone operations, it is also has some very different requirements. Do read on .......

Stability and safety

One of the main factors to my QR X350 Pro crashing was the hot, windy conditions. This has made me look for a larger, more redundant airframe such as a hexacopter. With a quadcopter if a motor fails then the aircraft will crash instantly. With a hexacopter, if one (and sometimes even two) motors fail then there is a very good chance it can still be controlled back to pilot safely.


P3 AdvTali H500
  • Four motors = no redundancy if component fails, quad crashes!
  • Excellent quality record
  • Ok stability in windy conditions
  • Six motors = safe landing if components fail 
  • Quality control has been an issue for some customers
  • Excellent stability in high winds

Payload

The P3 is all about integration and ease of use. The downside to this is that the user cannot swap the camera over for another. Being a quadcopter is is also very restricted in it's lifting capacity, somewhere around 200g is about all an airframe of it's size can carry.

The Tali H500 hexacopter on the other hand, whilst is not considered a heavy lifter, can lift much more than a quadcopter, more like 500-700g. The other factor is that because the airframe is independent to the camera, the Tali can 'swap out' it's payload anytime. The user can choose what gimbal and what camera he/she wishes to use. For a 3D mapper this means that a GoPro can be used, a modified GoPro with a specialised lens, or even a compact camera. It also means that a 2D or 3D gimbal can be sued depending on what is required for the mission.



P3 Adv Tali H500
  • Can't change payload
  • Around 500-700g payload
  • Change to a 360 gimbal with latest GoPro
  • Add a Walkera G3-S gimbal to carry Sony RX100 camera (professional quality filming and mapping) 


Flight time

The Phantom 3 has a slightly longer flight time than the Tali H500. About 24min is what I have read where the Tali H500 seems to be getting 18-20min depending on who you speak to. For mapping the advantage here is that a longer flight time means a larger area can be surveyed on one battery.



P3 Adv Tali H500
  • 20-25min
  • 18-20min

Flight planning

DJI aren't really in the business of aerial mapping and their Go app does not support mapping features, however there are other companies that have created software to plug into the P3 range to make them a very good mapping tool. When you combine the P3 with a mapping service such as Drone Deploy suddenly it does become much more capable and very close to an absolutely fully integrated airframe/post processing package.

The flight controller in the Tali is based on Ardupilot, an open source autopilot and it uses a mature and feature rich ground station program called Mission Planner. Mission Planner has many, many mapping tools and is considered the industry standard. There's not much that a pilot cannot flight plan in Mission Planner. Also there is a tablet version with most of the functionality.



P3 Adv Tali H500

  • Go app virtually no mapping features
  • Drone Deploy is a professional grade mapping solution that is compatible with the P3
  • Mission Planner considered industry benchmark for UAV flight planning
  • Excellent mapping features built in
  • Can be used on a desktop or a tablet version


Telemetry

The Phantom 3 range of quadcopters have absolute integration of systems, the camera and gimbal are not 'add-ons', they are part of the drone. With the DJI Go app you can view the status almost all systems including the waypoints planned and the current waypoint the drone is heading to plus this can be changed and new waypoints can be added in real time. The other major benefit of the P3 is that is uses 'Lightbridge' for the video and telemetry. This means that the pilot can view all of this information in HD and on an HD Screen such as a tablet.

The Tali H500 (in this configuration) does not report the same level of telemetry, but it does have live telemetry and analog video signal out to a range of around 1km. On  the screen integrated into the controller the pilot can view the drones altitude, distance from home, GPS lock and battery voltage, it does not report waypoints or progress.



P3 Adv Tali H500
  • HD video downlink
  • Full telemetry inc altitude, vertical speed, airspeed, battery status, GPS lock plus waypoints and progress. New waypoints can be programmed in real-time.
  • Analog video (out to 1km)
  • Basic telemetry inc altitude, distance, battery status and GPS lock.

Camera capability

For aerial filming the P3 is pretty darn good, a 12MP still photo and 4K at 60fps videos, certainly as good as a GoPro, also the level of camera remote control is un-matched. For mapping what really sets the P3 apart is that the images are automatically geotagged, this is because the camera and flight controller are integrated. The downside to this is that you can't separate the drone from the camera, you can't add a more powerful sensor or change the type of sensor (well you can but it's very expensive) so you are limited in what you can expand the drone out to. For most pro-sumer aerial photographers there would be little need to upgrade or expand, however I'm not interested in filming, I'm focusing on the still images.

The Tali H500 does not have this level of integration of camera and flight controller and the camera cannot be controlled remotely from the pilots controller or ground station. That said, there are ways to 'add' the EXIF data to a GoPro image post flight so that the images are geotagged. The advantage the Tali has over the P3 is that it can be retro-fitted with other cameras, most noteably the Sony RX100. The Rx100 is considered an extremely good compact camera and won many awards. For aerial mapping is has a 20MB sensor, this results is much higher detail and accuracy for the final 3D map.



P3 Adv Tali H500
  • Full remote camera control
  • Tilt ony gimbal control
  • No provisions for dual operator


  • No camera control for GoPro
  • Expandable to RX100 with limited camera control 
  • Full 360 gimbal control
  • Ability to be dual operated (pilot and cameraman) 

Price

I am in a fortunate position where I have contacts in the industry and I can get some good deals on both these airframes.



P3 Adv Tali H500
  • AUD$1800
  • Inc spare battery, backpack, gimbal, camera
  • Does not include tablet for viewing video and telemetry
  • AUD$1500
  • Inc spare batttery, case, 360 gimbal and camera
  • Inc handset controller with screen for video and telemetry


If my focus was aerial filming then I think the Phantom might have a slight edge over the Tali. It's limited with it's payload capability and for it's expandability, however it makes up for it in it's systems integration, it's HD video link and it's portability.

But for my interests though, in 3D aerial mapping, those features are not as important as the safety benefits and the payload capacity of a hexacopter plus the expandability that the Tali H500 will give me to help future proof the airframe and facilitate me increasing my skills.

For me, I think I'll be grabbing a Tali H500 very soon to replace my lost, but not forgotten, QR X350 Pro quadcopter.

This has been another 'drone adventure' in aerial surveying, inspection and mapping by The Aero Scout.