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Challenges in Selecting the Right Drone for Aerial Mapping

Many regions across Malaysia require updated mapping as it has been decades since they were last mapped. Old maps are obsolete as the geographic and spatial data of these regions does not take into account the variations in the past decades.

Drones are increasingly being used for Aerial Mapping as it allows us to map large areas in a quick, cost-effective manner and provides hard data that helps expedite workflows to make informed decisions. However, mapping projects are never the same. Whether it is on cartographic techniques, projection mechanism, terrain and topography of the region to be mapped and the use of equipment, each project comes with its own set of requirements.

This also applies to selecting the most appropriate drone according to the varied mapping requirements. Let’s have a look at the major challenges which we have to grapple with while selecting drones for mapping.

Take Off

As the most important part of a flight, it is absolutely necessary to find a suitable location from which to launch and recover the drone. Since multirotors (drones that have 4 rotors and a functionality similar to helicopters) and hybrid drones (a hybrid between airplane-like fixed drone and multirotor) can fly smoothly like helicopters, they can take off with relative flexibility.

But, in the case of fixed-wing drones, selecting a suitable location is very difficult, as it requires a vast, open land. Multirotors and hybrid drones offer an advantage: they can land vertically and occupy much less space.

Area to be Mapped

The time that is taken in mapping and the cost incurred is directly proportional to the area that is to be mapped. The rotors of a multirotor consume a lot of energy and that is why they are suitable for small mapping projects. On the other hand, fixed wing and hybrid drones can stay in the air for a long time fly faster and map with more efficiency. This makes fixed wings and hybrid drones desirable when large landmass has to be mapped.

Accessibility

Isolated areas are the most difficult to map and ensuring accuracy in mapping is even more challenging. Since ground controls are not viable in these locations, drones equipped with post-processed kinematic (PPK) module are used as the only alternative available. Just like real-time kinematics (RTK), this module generates geotags of the photos at a higher-than-usual precision. The increased accuracy of the geotags also increases the accuracy of the resulting model, and this means that there is no need to map ground points.

In rugged terrain and areas covered with dense forests, it is impossible to set up a ground control point anywhere. Hence, the PPK method is used in this situation.

Transportation

In order to tap the complete potential of the drone, it should be used at regularly and should not be troublesome. As per different projects, the system must be suitable for shipping as air freight, fit easily in a small car and be easy to carry around in the field. For portability and ease-of-handling, backpacks can also used.


Wind

Wind resistance is a major obstacle in the path of drone deployment and its maneuverability. A drone with a higher wind resistance can be deployed more frequently, increasing the possibility to execute the project on time.

Multirotors have good wind resistance when they take off. Drones with in-built wings have higher cruising speeds, enabling them to fly against the wind. Hybrid drones with minimum four propellers have high wind resistance and stability during take-off and landing and can withstand the pressure of the wind.

In conclusion, there is no drone solution that fits every single project. Hence, it is important to consider all the necessary factors. Your business may need to invest in more than one drone model to achieve all of its project objectives. Always remember to plan and consult with experienced operators before investing in time, money and effort to ensure sustainability of your drone operations.

If you are thinking about drones and want to know how to start, contact us today.

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