With all the recent (and constant) flood of news about high-tech UAVs, it might be nice to take a break and talk about something a little less sophisticated that could also have a significant impact on aerial survey.
We started our adventure into the world of photogrammetry a few years ago and quickly found ourselves testing a variety of camera systems, platforms, and software. I was amazed by the versatility and scalability of the technology. After learning how it somewhat paralleled our workflows with laser scanning, I knew we needed to invest some time in learning the ins and outs and finding solutions that would complement our current laser scanning services.
It wasn’t long after a few small scale tests at ground level that our sights drifted to the skies. Initially we tried to gain altitude by simply using a 20′ extension pole, but mounting a large, heavy DSLR camera on a long wobbly pole proved more entertaining than useful. I purchased an AR.Drone, which at the time was one of the more widely available pre-built quadrotors. After numerous random and hilarious mid-air collisions with buildings and trees, I came to the conclusion that I might not be the best pilot and that drones can and will crash. Sure, with a higher quality platform we could achieve more reliable flight, but the battle with gravity will always be present.