Autonomous SWiFT Combat UAV

Defensenews.com reported that on Friday, July 1, India successfully carried out the first flight of the Stealth Wing Flying Testbed, or SWiFT, an autonomous drone technology demonstrator. It is a scaled-down version of the upcoming Ghatak combat drone. The 1-ton SWiFT platform is powered by a Russian NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine. The flight took place at the aeronautical test range based at Chitradurga in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The airframe, undercarriage, and flight control and avionics systems were domestically developed. SWiFT demonstrated the ability to autonomously take off, climb, cruise, navigate to waypoints, descend and land. Watch a video of its test flight.

A scientist with the Defense Research and Development Organization noted that at least 10 more flight tests are needed to prove the capability of SWiFT, and only then will the government grant funding for the full-fledged development of the Ghatak UAV. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh called the flight a major achievement toward autonomous aircraft that will pave the way for Aatmanirbhar Bharat — an economic initiative meant to make India less dependent on foreign technology — in terms of critical military systems.

India Conducts First Flight of Autonomous SWiFT Combat UAV Prototype

India Conducts First Flight of Autonomous SWiFT Combat UAV Prototype

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SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more

If you are thinking about taking your drone with you when you travel, there is a lot to consider. Factors range from the obvious, such as deciding which type of carrying case you should use, to the more complex, such as knowing the rules for carrying lithium batteries onboard a commercial aircraft.

I was recently faced with these considerations when I took a trip from my home in San Diego, California, to visit my family near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Choosing a case for my new Mavic Air would turn out to be the easiest part of the trip preparation. And since I knew that both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines had specific rules for carrying lithium batteries onboard commercial aircraft, I researched those rules and familiarized myself with the process.

I also researched the area in advance to locate potential flying sites and to review any local drone regulations. With many public parks putting restrictions on operating drones, it is important to research the rules and regulations for your potential flying sites before arriving at your destination.

This article details my experience throughout this trip.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more

Hobby Tiger carrying case for Mavic Pro 2.

Type of Case to Buy

Just throwing your drone into any backpack or suitcase can easily result in damage, even if you are extra careful when packing. Drones are aircraft and have many delicate parts that may easily break if not handled correctly. Buying a specific case for your drone is highly recommended and is especially important if you are planning a hiking trip or will be traveling to several destinations. A variety of cases meet the size limitations for carry-on luggage and will ensure the drone will arrive in working order.

There are several drone-case manufacturers out there, and many cases are custom-made for specific models. Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference and the type of travel you are planning. There are two general types of drone travel bags: soft shell and hard shell. For example, if you are going to be staying in a hotel and traveling in a rental car, a soft case may be right for you. Those who will be hiking through the wilderness to remote destinations will most likely want a backpack-style case. If you have a large drone and you need to check it with the airline while traveling abroad, you may opt for a hard case with a lock.

Many people prefer custom cases with secure foam cushioning; some of these cases are designed to accommodate the drone without removing the propellers, providing extra room for small accessories. Others prefer cases with Velcro foam dividers, which are removable and customizable. Backpack straps make transportation easy while traveling because they keep your hands free to carry other luggage.

I know some folks who only buy military-grade heavy-duty cases that are lockable. These cases are perfect for airport travel, but some are so large that they require special transportation. Others want cases that are completely waterproof and dustproof to keep the electronics safe in humid environments.

Before you purchase a case for your drone, you should take some time to consider what type of traveling you plan to do and then narrow down the field to the general type of case. From that point, you can compare cases from different manufacturers, read reviews online, and shop for the best price.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more

Statue of Washington in Washington Crossing Historic Park.

Baggage: Checked or Carry-On?

For several reasons, all drones should be carefully packed in carry-on luggage if possible. First, according to the Montreal Convention, airlines are only liable for losses up to $1,000 for checked luggage. When traveling internationally, theft and lost luggage can be common issues, particularly if your flight has one or more connections. If your drone is worth more than $1,000 and you cannot bring it onto the plane, you should consider shipping it using a service such as DHL, FedEx, or UPS and fully insuring the shipment.

Small drones that fit in cases that meet the carry-on size requirements can be brought onboard the plane, but larger drones should be shipped using the services mentioned above, where they can be fully insured through to their destination. If you must check them in on a commercial airline, you should purchase supplemental insurance coverage for the full value of the drone and its accessories.

Drone Batteries and Airliners

Federal aviation regulations for domestic airlines require all spare (i.e., not in the equipment) lithium batteries to be carried inside the passenger cabin, not in checked luggage. According to the FAA website, airline passengers may carry an unlimited number of spare lithium-ion batteries (up to 100 watt-hours [Wh] each) for personal or professional use. With airline approval, devices can contain larger lithium-ion batteries (101–160 Wh each), but spares of this size are limited to two batteries only in carry-on baggage.

To determine the Wh rating of your battery, multiply the volts (V) by the amp-hours (Ah). A 12V battery with 8 Ah, for example, is rated at 96 Wh (12 x 8 = 96). If the battery capacity is listed in milliamp hours (mAh), simply divide by 1,000 to get the Ah capacity and then multiply by the number of volts.

The FAA also states that spare batteries must be protected from damage and short circuits. Metal objects such as keys, coins, tools, or other batteries can potentially come into contact with both terminals of a battery, creating a circuit or path for electricity to flow through. Electrical current flowing through this unprotected short circuit can cause extreme heat and sparks, or even start a fire. To prevent short circuits, keep spare batteries in a battery case, lithium-safe bag, or separate compartment. Make sure loose batteries are secured and can’t move around. Place tape over the terminals of unpackaged batteries to help protect them from short-circuiting.

All battery-powered devices must be protected from accidental activation and heat generation. The best way to do this is to remove the battery from the drone so that it becomes a spare. Remember that spare lithium batteries are prohibited in checked baggage. Checked baggage includes bags checked at the gate or plane side. External chargers are also classified as batteries.

Due to issues of lithium batteries catching fire in recent years, airlines have become stricter about transporting them. Lithium batteries are considered “dangerous goods,” and as a result, packing them properly is imperative if you want to avoid issues when bringing them on the plane. A lithium-safe or fire-retardant bag is a convenient way of safeguarding spare batteries during transit. The flame-retardant bag ensures that if the battery does catch fire, it will not spread outside of the bag. Failure to properly pack lithium batteries can result in the airline seizing them or even or denying you from boarding. If you are planning to travel abroad, there may be additional considerations for international carriers flying to foreign countries. You should always check the specific requirements for your airline. It is important to note that some airlines have more stringent restrictions than the ones imposed by the FAA. Southwest Airlines, for example, limits the number of spare batteries to 20 per passenger.

Where Can I Fly?

When I was planning my trip, I looked at the area on Google Maps to find some potential flying sites. I started my search by looking at nearby parks and other places of interest that had large, open areas. After finding a few locations that I thought would be interesting, I went to their websites to find out if they had any restrictions on flying drones.

The first location I wanted to fly in was the Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. It is a Gothic cathedral built in the early 1900s, which I thought would be a great subject for aerial photography. I checked its website and read that it had a “no-drone” policy; nevertheless, I was not discouraged. I found the contact information and sent a request for an exception to the policy. I wrote that I was an FAA-certified drone pilot, had insurance, and was writing an article for a magazine. I was a little disappointed that my request was denied, but I was gracious and made an appointment to visit the cathedral without my drone.

Undeterred by that experience, I set my sights on another historic location. The site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River has been preserved as the Washington Crossing Historic Park. On December 25, 1776, the Delaware River was the setting for one of the pivotal events of the American Revolution. After crossing the river at night, Washington and his Continental Army landed and began their march to Trenton, where they defeated the British troops in a surprise attack that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.

Since this location is part of the Pennsylvania state park system, I went to its website and learned that, while flying drones was generally prohibited, some locations had been set aside that permitted the activity. Washington Crossing Historic Park, unfortunately, was not on that list, so I found the contact information and sent a request to fly my drone. This time, I was surprised to receive a response that asked for my credentials and insurance. I sent a copy of my Part 107 RPIC (remote pilot in command) certificate and my drone insurance certificate. Within a few days, I was given approval to fly my drone during the upcoming trip. I was asked to give a few days’ notice before my arrival and to check in with the park manager before flying.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see about a dozen school buses and hundreds of children running around the park. I checked in with the park manager, and he said that those visitors would be departing shortly. I spent some time walking around the park with my wife (and visual observer), scouting locations to launch my drone. After the children cleared the area, I had most of the park to myself. I decided on a few launch sites that were remote. The weather was perfect that day: mid-70s and mostly sunny.

Because of the bright sunshine, I decided to use the new high dynamic range (HDR) feature on my Mavic Air. HDR images ensure that an image is captured with the best exposure. The HDR function automatically takes an overexposed, underexposed, and correctly exposed image in rapid sequence. These three images are then combined to create an image with the ideal exposure by choosing the best aspects of each image. With the new HDR function, overexposed and underexposed images are processed to give a more natural look to the final image. All the aerial photos for this article were captured using the new HDR mode with my Mavic Air.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more

Flipside 200 and Mavic Air.

Capturing an aerial view of this historic site was a great experience. Taking aerial photos of colonial-era buildings added a new dimension to visiting these historical sites. Getting up above the trees and looking at the lush Delaware River Valley, I experienced a view that few people get to enjoy. While the dense wooded environment in the park makes it difficult to see the surrounding area, having a small and capable drone resolved that challenge.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more

Delaware River and Washington Crossing Bridge.

Final Thoughts

Traveling with your drone can bring a new dimension to your experience while away from home. Having a bird’s-eye view of historical buildings or even natural areas can add a whole new perspective to a familiar landscape. Proper planning and knowledge of regulatory restrictions will help minimize the problems you may experience when traveling with your drone and lithium batteries. Have a safe and enjoyable flight!

Text & photos by Gus Calderon

The post Traveling with Your Drone – Avoiding airport surprises and more appeared first on RotorDrone.

SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

12 tips to create incredible drone photos

OK, so you’ve mastered the basics of drone flight, have taken the obligatory photos of your house and the nearby empty field, and now you’re looking to take your drone photography to new heights. We’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ve compiled eleven tips that will tell you what to look for, how to frame up your subject, and tricks to create one-of-a-kind photos. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and elevate your art!

Shoot the horizon
The horizon is its own dividing line. Find interesting shapes, lines, and contrast there to capture an aerial image that tells a story. In this image, the setting sun provides a backdrop to the gold and green fields.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Find dividing lines
Lines can direct the viewer’s gaze in a photo. An aerial view lets you use roads, trails, and even walls to create rhythm or patterns in an image that can become your focus. Breaking horizontal lines up with an object or intersecting vertical lines can also create interest. Keep in mind that horizontal lines work best when they are truly horizontal and square with the edges of your frame; otherwise, your image may look off-center.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Take an aerial panorama
Many camera drones have a panorama feature that you can use to seamlessly meld many images into a single, wider view. Panoramas are ideal for overlooks or wide expanses—anyplace that has a wide, 180-degree view. Be careful not to shoot panoramas in wind because if the drone or objects in the image move, the program may not be able to stitch the images together.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Remember the Rule of Thirds
When you’re framing up your image with your drone (or cropping in post-production), divide your image into nine segments with two vertical and two horizontal lines. If you place key elements where these lines intersect, you’ll have a more natural composition.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Create an Illusion
Enlist props and a friend to create a scene that looks “vertical” when shot from above. Have your friend lay on the ground in a pose that makes it look like they’re upright and use other props or nearby objects to set the scene.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Create Abstract Art
Look for interesting shapes and lines from your aerial perspective. Frame up multiple shots from various angles and heights. Often, just cropping in tightly on an area will create a type of abstract aerial photo.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Look for repetition
Some aerial views provide a great opportunity for repetition. Carefully arranged objects can form precise, formulaic lines. A place like a shipping yard or train station can have a huge collection of identically-shaped objects. Even your ordinary neighborhood has a character with all its houses in a row. Appreciate the repetition with a great picture.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Look for symmetry
A bird’s-eye-view allows you to find surprising symmetry, like the top of a gazebo in a park, a water fountain, or a town square. The entire image doesn’t need to be symmetrical; just parts of the frame can be symmetrical. Or you crop in on just the symmetry. The symmetry doesn’t need to be perfect; a break in the symmetry can catch your viewer’s attention and make the image more interesting.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Capture Shadows
When the sun is low in the horizon, the light creates long shadows that you can play with to create wild scenes. Your subjects aren’t the interesting part of the image; their shadows are. Vary your drone’s height to elongate shadows.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Find complementary colors
Keep complementary color pairs in mind when you’re composing a shot. A lush green forest is stunning against the fall-orange trees in this photo. For the best color contrast, keep things simple. The fewer colors in the image, the more dramatic and effective the contrast. Always be on the lookout for ways to juxtapose color complements.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Zoom Closer
Although you never want to fly close to people, you can use your drone’s optical zoom capabilities to capture the personality of your subjects. Using your drone’s optical zoom function to take the photo instead of cropping in post-production will let you retain resolution and image quality.

RotorDrone - Drone News | 12 tips to create incredible drone photos

Capture unique patterns
Humans like patterns, so they make great focal points in an aerial photograph. Getting an aerial perspective is a great way to find unexpected patterns in ordinary places. Start by finding repetition, then re-frame it in a way that draws the eye. To draw the most attention to the pattern, remove any distractions.

THE BOTTOM LINE
We hope this advice and these images will inspire you to take your drone photos to new heights. Be sure to enter your favorites into the RotorDrone Pro “Over the Horizon” competition. Every issue, we showcase our favorite reader photo and give away a free one-year subscription or extension to RotorDrone Pro.
Send your shot to RotorDrone@airage.com!

The post 12 tips to create incredible drone photos appeared first on RotorDrone.

SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

If you’re looking for a first or second drone to explore the exciting world of aerial imaging, keep looking. If you are an experienced pilot working in public safety, industrial inspection or even the armed forces, stop and give the Anafi USA a closer look—it’s worth it.
A quirky platform built on a proven legacy, Parrot’s latest drone excels at providing powerful aerial imaging tools for professionals who need a clear view of what is happening on the ground when lives or big money are at risk. The extraordinary combination of thermal imaging and a visible-light camera with a 32x zoom capability are going to let you see what you need to see, right now.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

With its remarkable 32x visible-light zoom capability and mid-resolution thermal imaging camera, the Anafi USA is well-suited for deployment with firefighters, police officers and other public safety professionals.

Lightweight

The Anafi USA is a study in contrasts, and it is important to understand the implications of the choices Parrot made in its design before making a purchase decision. Its imaging capabilities are legitimately powerful, and we’ll explore those in depth below, but let’s begin by considering the aircraft as a whole.

The first thing you will discover when you lift the aircraft out of its robust, protective case is that it is lightly built, weighing less than half other aircraft of similar size and capabilities. It weighs 499 grams, compared with a stout 1.1 kilogram for the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. Initially, this lack of heft can make the Anafi USA feel almost like a toy—but that not a bug, it’s a feature.

I’ll never forget unboxing the original Anafi and feeling almost cheated when I saw how small and lightweight it was. However, it has since emerged as one of my favorite drones: its diminutive size and featherweight construction make it extremely efficient and quiet. That same characteristic also makes it more likely to withstand a crash with no or minimal damage—it just doesn’t weigh enough to hurt itself. Of course, that engineering approach has its limits, and those limits will no doubt be met much sooner while flying, and crashing, the Anafi USA: it is larger and heavier than its predecessor.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

To direct the Anafi USA in flight, Parrot has once again returned to the proven SkyController 3. The same unit has also been employed by the original Anafi, the Anafi Thermal and the Skydio 2.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The gimbal on the Anafi USA incorporates three cameras: two, 21-megapixel visible-light cameras work in tandem to provide its 32x zoom capability, as well as a 320×256 FLIR Boson to capture thermal images.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The Anafi USA arrives in a case that is even more robust than the drone itself. Incorporating an O-ring seal and locking latches, it is sealed tight against water and dust. It even floats!

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The ability to pitch its gimbal above the horizon gives the Anafi a big advantage in conducting thermal inspections: allowing the pilot to shift the background from the potentially hot surface (left) to the cool sky (right).

Nevertheless, expect to be surprised when you hold it in your hand for the first time. Also, if you’re the “drone guy” at your local fire district or police department and you recommend purchasing the Anafi USA for your agency, keep this effect in mind when you introduce your chiefs to their new, $7,000 purchase for the first time. Their initial instinct might be that you got scammed.
First impressions aside, the Anafi USA largely succeeds with this approach. The company claims a maximum flight time of 32 minutes. I have never once seen a drone hit its advertised flight time, but I have logged flights more than 27 minutes with this platform—and that’s lot closer than most aircraft I test.

Beyond its lightweight construction, Parrot attributes this performance to the scalloped trailing edges of its propellers: a feature unique to this aircraft, to the best of my knowledge. According to the company, this design was inspired by the pectoral fins of humpback whales. It allows the propellers to turn more slowly while applying greater torque. Thus, the company claims: “Anafi USA emulates a rotor whose power is higher than the theoretical capacity of its diameter,” and, “The tonal sound power of the anterior edge of the blade, is minimized, lowering the noise of the flight.”

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

With an IP53 rating, the Anafi USA is perfectly suited to fly in the rain as well as dusty environments that could cause problems for less well-protected aircraft.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

With a thermal imaging camera and a powerful zoom lens, the Anafi USA would be a capable tool when deployed for infrastructure inspection.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The Anafi USA uses the exact same app—FreeFlight 6—that was employed by the original Anafi and the Anafi Thermal to display video and telemetry on the user’s smart device, making an easy transition for current Parrot pilots.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The pilot can select from three color palettes while employing the Anafi USA’s integrated FLIR thermal imaging camera: white-hot (top), black-hot (middle), and fusion (bottom).

So, is any of that true? I have no idea—I’m a pilot, not an aeronautical engineer. I will say that the Anafi USA is definitely quieter than other aircraft with comparable capabilities, and with its powerful zoom lens, it is capable of conduct up-close surveillance of a subject who is unable to hear it—an ability of potentially keen interest to law enforcement officers facing dangerous tactical situations.

Less is … ?

Read the list of specifications for any drone with the same general capabilities as the Anafi USA, like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced or the Autel Evo II Dual and you’re going to find yourself reading a lot about sensors—specifically, collision-avoidance sensors. These drones make extensive use of binocular camera arrays and machine vision systems to build up a 3D model of the environment to help you avoid running into things, like trees, buildings, telephone poles, etc. Starting with the Skydio 2 from the eponymous manufacturer, the trend within the industry is moving inevitably towards 360-degree collision avoidance systems—front to back, left to right, top to bottom—your aircraft will be able to “see” everything around it, and sound an alarm if it gets too close.

In this regard, Parrot isn’t just marching to a different drummer, it’s sitting alone in the corner playing the theremin. The Anafi USA incorporates precisely zero collision avoidance sensors. Indeed, the only sensors it has—apart from the accelerometers and gyroscopes that are mandatory to keep any multirotor in the air—are a GNSS receiver that picks up signals from the GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite constellations, along with a barometric altimeter, a compass, a single ultrasonic range finder and optical flow camera.

Except for the multi-band GNSS receiver, this would have been considered an underwhelming sensor suite five years ago. Today, it borders on farcical. And yet, plenty of smart people work at Parrot, so we are forced to consider the possibility that this is a deliberate choice, not a blunder. So, why not include all the bells and whistles? At the very least, all those extra features would look good on the sales brochure.

I’m sure that weight and cost were considerations, but I also think it is likely that Parrot though long and hard about their customer for this product, and what that person really needs to accomplish a mission.

My conclusion? That person looks a lot like me: an experienced, well-trained small uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) pilot who knows how to fly. For the most part, I’m glad to have the collision avoidance systems that are standard equipment on most of the other drones I fly. They are re-assuring, even though I don’t trust them completely, and they serve as a check on my own perception while I’m doing proximity flying, for example.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

Unlike drones from other manufacturers, the Anafi USA lacks any sort of collision-avoidance system: making it entirely reliant on the pilot to avoid obstacles.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The FLIR thermal imaging camera on board the Anafi USA has a narrower field of view than the visible-light camera at its most wide-angle setting, allowing the thermal image to be superimposed directly onto the video—aiding pilot orientation.

However, thinking back over my flight testing with the Anafi USA, I never once missed having it. I didn’t miss the warnings that, in the system’s judgment, I was too close to an obstacle. I also didn’t miss the warning that because the system was disabled—by me—I wasn’t receiving warnings that I was too close to an obstacle, and so on.
The beeping, the flashing lights, the alert messages—I didn’t miss any of it. Furthermore, I think I was at least as safe, or even more safe, than when I am flying a drone with a collision avoidance system. This may be true both because I was less distracted, but also because I had no choice but to maintain a higher degree of situational awareness myself, knowing the machine was not going to bail me out if I did something dumb.

Having said that, please keep in mind: this is one pilot’s opinion based on his own unique history, experience, and training. Like they say when you’re buying a new car: your mileage may vary, so think carefully about who you are and what tools you need to be the best, and safest, pilot that you can be.

Verdict: Not Stupid

American novelist Mercedes Lackey has a quote of which I am particularly fond: “If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.” In many ways, this philosophy appears to be the animating spirit behind the design of the Anafi USA—right down to how you charge the batteries. The kit includes three, 3-cell, 3,400mAh high-density LiPo batteries.

However, rather than a custom charger with a proprietary connector, you recharge them using a standard USB-C cable. The included charger is basically one of those five-outlet USB power supplies that you would otherwise keep on your desk or your nightstand to recharge your digital life. You also get four USB-to-USB-C cables, allowing you to recharge all three batteries simultaneously, along with the aircraft controller.

This is a smart arrangement because you can get these components anywhere. Accidentally leave the charger for your Mavic 2 Pro at home, and you’re doomed. Leave the charging gear for your Anafi USA at home, and you can pick up a cheap replacement at any Best Buy. I use a Samsung Galaxy smartphone with the aircraft controller, so the charge cables even do double duty by allowing me to make that connection, as well.

The controller itself exemplifies a similar aphorism: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You pilot the Anafi USA with the SkyController 3, first introduced alongside the original Anafi in 2018. It’s a compact, folding, all-plastic design. However, its simplicity is marked by a number of smart design choices. First, rather than the recessed dials that most manufacturers provide to control camera pitch and zoom, the Skycontroller 3 provides a pair of levers: a much more intuitive and easier to operate control interface.

Second, the simple act of unfolding the controller accomplishes three discrete tasks: it powers up the unit, positions the antennas for flight and reveals the mounting clamp for your smart device. The spring-loaded mount will hold your phone securely and accommodates the latest generation of smart devices—including my mammoth Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. However, I must first remove it from its protective cover to make it fit: a sacrifice that DJI does not require with its latest generation of controllers.

As Smooth as it Needs to Be

This minimalist approach even applies to the design of the aircraft itself. For example: it is so common these days for drones to incorporate a three-axis mechanical gimbal that it scarcely bares mention in the advertising. However, in keeping with the standard established by its predecessors, the Anafi USA only has a two-axis gimbal.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

Sealing its motors was among the measures Parrot took to protect the Anafi USA from water and dust infiltration.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

While using the thermal camera on board the Anafi USA, the pilot has the option either to look at the infrared image (above), or a hybrid composite that uses details from the visible light camera to improve clarity (below).

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

The Anafi USA and its 32x zoom capability allows infrastructure inspectors to get a close-up look at potentially hazardous environments, such as an electrical substation, while keeping the aircraft—and themselves—well away from it.

We could label this heresy—like the absence of collision-avoidance sensors—and smugly discount the aircraft entirely for failing to keep up with the rest of the industry. Once again, however, that would be a mistake.

The Anafi USA’s gimbal stabilizes the camera payload in the pitch and roll axes, keeping it level and on target when the aircraft is moving forward, backward and side to side. Unlike virtually every other drone on the market today, it does not offer mechanical stabilization in the yaw axis: that is, when the nose of the aircraft pivots left or right.

It turns out that this is not essential for acquiring stable video, at least in most cases. First, except for those rare drones that offer 360-degree rotation in the yaw axis—like the DJI Inspire series and big, Hollywood aerial cinema rigs—all the third axis does is smooth out the video when you make a turn, because the camera must ultimately end up facing the same direction as the nose of the aircraft, anyway. If you take it easy with your left thumb, you can still get smooth video, just like I’ve been doing with my original Anafi for years.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

Thermal imaging is often employed by electrical inspectors to identify faults that are invisible to the naked eye—and the Anafi USA will allow them to literally take this ability to new heights.

Second, Parrot incorporates digital stabilization in all three axes, to supplement the mechanical stabilization provided by the gimbal. If you’re like me, you will be skeptical about this approach—and, obviously, I can respect that. However, Parrot has a history of success with this approach that bears noting.

When the first three-axis camera gimbals were arriving in the market, Parrot audaciously introduced a drone with a zero-axis gimbal: the Bebop 2. Instead of a gimbal, it relied completely on digital stabilization, and it worked surprisingly well—you could even “pitch” the camera up and down, just like a mechanical system. If you were only watching the video downlink, and had never actually seen the aircraft, you could easily be fooled into believing it had a conventional gimbal. The Anafi USA builds on that accomplishment.

Finally, this aircraft was not designed to deliver butter-smooth, cinematic aerial video—it was designed to provide crucial information for people in life-or-death situations. If you need to yaw hard to get the image you need, who gives a damn how it looks on video? To say otherwise is a bit like complaining that a firefighter’s handheld thermal imaging camera takes lousy vacation photos. It’s undeniably true, but it also misses the point.

I Can See for Miles and Miles and Miles …

For all its idiosyncrasies, the Anafi USA delivers where it needs to: as a serious aerial imaging tool intended primarily for people working in tactical environments. Even a cursory examination of the aircraft reveals a peculiar fact. It has three cameras mounted on its gimbal, not the two you would expect for visible light and thermal.

The reason for this arrangement is that it carries two visible light cameras: one with a 75-degree field of view (FOV)—comparable to the Mavic 2 Pro’s 77-degree FOV—and the other with a 16-degree FOV, which is the equivalent of 5x magnification. Since Parrot boasts this aircraft delivers an uninterrupted zoom capability from 1x to 32x, you would be right to wonder how this is accomplished.
The answer: digital zoom. From a magnification of 1x to 5x, the imaging system simply crops the image from the wide FOV camera. The absolute number of pixels in the image drops—if you capture a still image, for example—but the real-time image on your smart device remains perfectly clear. Then, when you hit 5x magnification, the system switches over to the other camera and the digital zoom process begins again.

At 10x magnification, the camera is still capturing the equivalent of 1080p video (1920×1080 pixels), which drops to 1280×720 at 15x, and then 720×480 at 27x. All the way out at 32x, you can begin to discern some pixelation in the real-time video, but I would judge the quality to be sufficient for applications like search and rescue. Also, Parrot made good on its promise: the zoom is smooth and completely seamless, even during the hand-off between the two cameras.

Except for their lenses, the two cameras are identical: capable of capturing 21 megapixel stills and 4K, high-dynamic range video at 24 frames per second. Each has 1/2.4” Sony IMX230 sensor with an F2.4 fixed aperture.

From an end-user perspective, the 32x zoom capability is impressive: so much so that it has the potential to change your perception of what drones can do. You can get an amazingly close-up view of people and objects that are a long way off—and that’s away from the drone, not you. I found I could reliably maintain visual line of sight with the aircraft out to 1,000 feet. Add the 32x zoom on top of that and you can keep watch on a subject more than a mile away.

That would be reason enough to deploy the Anafi USA with first responders, like search and rescue teams, firefighters, and law enforcement—but, arguably, we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. The aircraft also mounts a FLIR thermal imaging camera: a Boson core capturing 320×256 pixels at 20 frames per second with a 50-degree FOV.

That sounds like pretty low resolution, and compared to visible light cameras these days, it is. However, for reasons that go well beyond the scope of this article, thermal cameras small enough to fit on a drone the size of the Anafi USA are always going to have limited resolution: topping out around 640×512. Furthermore, in my own extensive testing of aerial thermal imaging systems, I’ve discovered that resolution is not as crucial as you might expect for real-world tasks, like finding a missing subject in the woods or searching out hot spots following a wildfire. Make no mistake: I’ll take 640×512 if I can get it, but I wouldn’t regard 320×256 as being especially inferior alternative for most applications.

I do have one frustration with Parrot’s implementation of the thermal imaging system on the Anafi USA: the controls and interface are not well suited for professional thermography. For a soldier, firefighter or police officer interested in qualitative results, like finding people or judging how quickly a blaze is spreading, this system will work great. However, if you need quantitative information—like the temperature at the tip of a flare stack—that data is not going to be easy to access, which may limit this platform’s utility for certain types of industrial inspection.

Made in America

Although Parrot is based in France, the Anafi USA is manufactured in Massachusetts. The company is clearly eager to exploit the cybersecurity concerns around foreign-made (i.e., Chinese) drones, especially in sensitive applications like the military, public safety, and critical infrastructure inspection, and hasn’t missed any opportunity to highlight the drone’s country of origin.

To begin with, you don’t need to look any further than the name of the product: “Anafi USA.” And, just in case that was too subtle for you, the case is emblazoned with a label that reads: “Designed for the U.S. Army.” Heck, the only way they could possibly make this thing any more American would be to ship each unit with a six pack of Budweiser, a slice of apple pie, and a deep-fried bald eagle. Still, I don’t blame Parrot for banging on this drum repeatedly and hard: they are in a desperate fight for survival against a global hegemon, and they need to press every advantage they have as far as they possibly can.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

To address the cybersecurity concerns raised by the U.S. government regarding drones manufactured in China and other rival nations, French-based Parrot is building the Anafi USA in Massachusetts.

The Anafi USA will be a benefit to these efforts. It strays from the established industry playbook in significant measure, but Parrot has always demonstrated an aggressive tendency toward outside the box thinking, and I think it serves them well in this case. Rather than pile on features because that’s what every other company is doing, Parrot gave some serious thought to the needs of the people who would be using this drone and built an aircraft to suit them.

Most of you reading this magazine will not need an Anafi USA, but it will be a real benefit to the few of you who do.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

RotorDrone - Drone News | Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features

AnafiUSA 1.8.0

The post Parrot Anafi USA – A diminutive drone with superlative features appeared first on RotorDrone.

SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

In drone survey missions, the choice between photogrammetry and LIDAR depends heavily on the exact application. You also need to consider operational factors, such as cost and complexity. Knowing what outputs you really need will help you make the right decision.
What is LIDAR and how does its output compare with results obtained with high-resolution RGB cameras and photogrammetry? In this article, we’ll explore the ways photogrammetry and LIDAR are actually quite different from each other, even if their three-dimensional (3D) outputs look similar. We’ll then dig deeper into specific applications and how photogrammetry can provide exceptional results for most missions at a fraction of the cost and complexity of LIDAR.
Photogrammetry and professional, high-resolution cameras can cost-effectively generate 2D and 3D surveys, with absolute accuracies down to 1 cm (0.4 in) root mean square (RMS) horizontal and 3 cm (1.6 in) RMS vertical.

How Photogrammetry Works

In photogrammetry, a drone captures a large number of high-resolution photos over an area. These images overlap such that the same point on the ground is visible in multiple photos and from different vantage points. In a similar way that the human brain uses information from both eyes to provide depth perception, photogrammetry uses these multiple vantage points in images to generate a 3D map.
The result: a high-resolution 3D reconstruction that contains not only elevation/height information, but also texture, shape, and color for every point on the map, enabling easier interpretation of the resulting 3D point cloud.
Drone systems that use photogrammetry are cost effective and provide outstanding flexibility in terms of where, when, and how you capture 2D and 3D data.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

The WingtraOne vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone allows users to conduct small- and large-scale drone surveys with unmatched data quality at a fraction of the time and cost of a crewed aircraft.

HOW LIDAR WORKS

LIDAR, which stands for “light detection and ranging,” is a technology that has been around for many decades but has only recently been available in a size and power feasible for carrying on large drones. A LIDAR sensor sends out pulses of laser light and measures the exact time it takes for these pulses to return as they bounce from the ground. It also measures the intensity of that reflection.
LIDAR uses oscillating mirrors to send out laser pulses in many directions so as to generate a “sheet” of light as the drone moves forward. Through measuring the timing and intensity of the returning pulses, it can provide readings of the terrain and of points on the ground.
The sensor itself is only one part of a LIDAR system. Critically important for capturing usable data, you’ll also need a high-precision satellite positioning system (GNSS) as well as high-accuracy sensors to determine the orientation of the LIDAR sensor in space—an inertial measurement unit (IMU). All of these high-end subsystems must work in perfect orchestration to enable processing of the raw data into usable information, a process called direct geo-referencing.
As the sensors have evolved, there’s now the option to capture aerial LIDAR data from one of two types of systems: classical manned airborne and lightweight UAV.
Classical airborne LIDAR surveys are conducted from a crewed airplane and are less accurate but capable of covering more ground than lightweight UAV LIDAR operations. Specifically, you can cover between 10 and 1,000 square kilometers (4 and 400 square miles) in one flight. The absolute accuracy depends on the flight height and sensor choice. At a typical flight height of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above ground level (AGL), you can expect an absolute accuracy limit of about 20 cm (8 inches) horizontal and 10 cm (4 inches) vertical.
Lightweight drone LIDAR systems cover as much as the drone allows per flight. As we will discuss in detail in below sections, these systems can be more accurate than those carried by manned aircraft. Specifically, fixed-wing drones carrying a LIDAR payload can cover up to 10 square km (4 square miles) in a flight, with absolute accuracy limits right around 10 cm (4 inches) horizontal and 5 cm (2 inches) vertical.
In both cases of crewed aircraft and lightweight drone LIDAR, the accuracy is significantly less than photogrammetry avails. Plus the post-processing for LIDAR absolutely requires expertise beyond a quick training or reading of a manual, as we’ll discuss below.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

A WingtraOne UAV equipped with a LIDAR sensor can create accurate 3D models with 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 in) of vertical accuracy. These models can be used for precise volumetric calculations across a number of industries.

ACCURACY CONSIDERATIONS

As we have seen, photogrammetry and aerial LIDAR differ in the way points on the ground are registered. This directly affects the final point cloud accuracy and we will see that, especially for horizontal accuracy of areas free from dense forest canopy, photogrammetry clearly outperforms aerial LIDAR.

Photogrammetry. In the case of photogrammetry, a quality, high-resolution, full-frame sensor camera like WingtraOne’s Sony RX1R II can yield outputs with horizontal (x-y) accuracies in the range of 1 cm (0.4 in) and elevation (z) accuracies in the range of 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) over hard surfaces, enabling precise volumetric analysis.
Note, however, that in order to achieve such performance the payload used for photogrammetry must be a professional one, with the right image sensor and lens to capture more detail. It’s not just about the number of pixels. In fact, two cameras with the same number of megapixels and different size sensors provide different image quality and accuracy.
Proper mission planning and post-processing are also important for achieving optimal accuracy: good overlap among images increases accuracy and provides better error correction compared to complete reliance on the direct geo-referencing method used in LIDAR. A high-end drone system with professional mission planning and post-processing workflow helps ensure that you capture quality data that generates accurate results.

LIDAR. As for aerial LIDAR methods, the sensor does not target specific features on ground but instead shoots the beams at a set frequency in a defined pattern. Even if the horizontal accuracy of the single point might be higher, the best horizontal accuracy of a point of interest on the ground is limited by the point density.
Crewed aerial LIDAR can provide a point density of up to 50 points per square meter and offers a typical absolute accuracy of 20 cm horizontal and 10 cm vertical if flown at a standard height of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) AGL.
By flying lower, lightweight UAV LIDAR provides a higher point density than crewed aerial LIDAR and can achieve better accuracy even though the laser is less powerful. Mounted on a multicopter, point density and the resulting point cloud accuracy can be improved by flying low and slow at the expense of reduced efficiency.
In the case of LIDAR on fixed-wing drones, a point density between 50 and 200 points per square meter is possible. This means a measurement every ~ 10 cm, so an absolute horizontal accuracy of about 10 cm can be achieved.
On top of limited horizontal accuracy, LIDAR-derived point cloud accuracy depends on the precision of the LIDAR itself and the quality of the INS (IMU and GNSS) system. Considering all technological advancements and system variables at this time, the typical absolute accuracy that you can expect from a lightweight LIDAR system on a fixed-wing drone is approximately 10 cm (4 inches) horizontal and 5 cm (2 inches) vertical.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

While LIDAR can provide more detail underneath denser vegetation, both photogrammetry (lower graph) and LIDAR (top graph) can generate terrain models underneath sparse vegetation where the ground is partially visible from the air. (The data shown in this graphic was captured at 30 meters above the ground.)

Photogrammetry and LIDAR Applications

For most missions, 3D results achievable with photogrammetry are similar to those obtained with LIDAR, but with better accuracy and greater versatility, e.g., photorealistic outputs, thanks to the high-resolution visual data. There are some applications—specifically featuring power lines or large areas of dense forest canopy—where the higher expense of LIDAR for airborne missions is justified. Let’s look at the evidence for this across a range of actual applications.

Topographical maps featuring light vegetation (sparse tree stands or open canopy) are best surveyed with high-resolution RGB data capture. The resolution and photorealistic results are useful in cases like wildfire management in residential areas and have been used by some of the world’s largest urban fire and rescue services since the information serves many stakeholders who need a real view of what’s happened.

Topographical maps with medium vegetation can be obtained via a combination of photogrammetry and a method to capture the ground below the vegetation. To capture the additional information below the vegetation, ground survey methods or aerial LIDAR can be used. The combination with ground survey methods keeps the price down while guaranteeing high accuracy plus the resolution and photorealistic results available through photogrammetry.
While LIDAR can provide more detail underneath denser vegetation, both photogrammetry and LIDAR can generate terrain models underneath sparse vegetation where the ground is partially visible from the air.

Large-scale topographical maps featuring heavy vegetation are best acquired via manned airborne LIDAR. A digital terrain model (DTM) of the forest ground provides useful information for project planning in construction (e.g., the planning of new roads), forest biomass or detailed information on vegetation and habitats via topography and underlying terrain, applications falling under these circumstances will always require LIDAR at least in part to normalize topographical data.
Typically, state agencies try to maintain reasonably accurate digital terrain models (DTMs) of the forest grounds. For these kinds of large-scale projects with low resolution requirements, manned airborne LIDAR is the most cost-effective option available. If a more accurate or up-to-date DTM of a small forest is needed, a traditional ground survey will be the cheapest option available, yet lightweight drone LIDAR might fill a niche in-between.

Bare-earth mining, volumetric and natural resource surveys are best handled by high-end RGB payloads. Even massive surveys are ideal with the right drone and RGB camera. On top of this, photogrammetry is cost effective and saves time not only to capture and process data related to cut and fill volumes, stockpile assessments and status reports, but also to share this information and reconcile with contractors and stakeholders.

Power line surveys for vegetation control can be done with LIDAR or high-resolution photogrammetry and powerline extraction features on software like Pix4Dsurvey. For the sake of photorealism, price, and workflow, I recommend the latter option. Research is ongoing around photogrammetry as a go-to, cost-effective solution.

Powerline pole tower inspection benefits from live video inspection with a multicopter carrying an RGB or thermal payload. These are usually relatively small areas that multicopters can maneuver around and take oblique shots of easily and safely. With this method, you get all information within a very short amount of time. Zoom cameras allow detailed inspection that cannot be offered by photogrammetry or LIDAR..

Rail track inspection is still most often carried out from the ground—by a train equipped with ultrasonic, LIDAR, and visual sensors. Inspection from the air with either photogrammetry or aerial LIDAR is gaining more and more interest but both methods are in early stages. High-resolution photogrammetry offers data that avails outputs with all of the essential details accurately and autonomously while saving time. Plus the photorealism adds an element of easy identification and versatility that can answer to a range of questions.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

City mapping with vertical structures requiring 3D vantage points has been widely demonstrated with photogrammetry based on imagery captured with a payload featuring oblique capabilities. For cityscapes with many high-rises and intense levels of vertical detail, multicopters work well, although their ability to cover wide-spread areas per flight is compromised. VTOL drones carrying oblique payloads can still capture wide areas and achieve impressive vertical accuracy.

Operational considerations

The difference between photogrammetry and LIDAR grows when considering operational and logistical factors. To generate quality results, a LIDAR system requires all of its components to work perfectly in sync. Small gaps or errors in sensor measurements can lead to significant errors in outputs. Or worse, outputs that “look” right but are not. Techniques like ground control points (GCPs), which are useful in photogrammetry to correct issues, are harder to implement with LIDAR. Most of the time, the only solution for erroneous LIDAR data is to repeat flights.
LIDAR projects require an expert who understands the workflow and details of each subsystem and can recognize consistent and accurate data.
In contrast, photogrammetry-based workflows are more forgiving. The redundancy created by multiple, overlapping images of the same point on the ground enables error correction during processing and translates to high-accuracy outputs, even in non-ideal conditions or operations. The shorter learning curve for drone-based photogrammetry (even for operators with no prior experience), leads to greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
The ease of use of photogrammetry solutions like the WingtraOne translates into greater operational flexibility, the ability to deploy multiple systems to cover distributed sites, greater frequency of captures, and overall reduced costs.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

Photogrammetry allows the creation of accurate 3D maps of large areas. Photogrammetry outputs also include high-resolution visual data in full color for every point on the map to aid in the interpretation.

Final thoughts

We have explored the differences between how photogrammetry and LIDAR work and the similarities in their outputs and learned about situations where each technology can be best applied. And while some specific applications might justify the cost and complexity of LIDAR, photogrammetry can meet most of the everyday challenges presented across a range of projects and industries, providing exceptional accuracy and stunningly detailed maps, available on demand and with minimal expertise overhead.
So if you don’t need what LIDAR uniquely provides—specifically to mid- or large-scale forests with heavy but penetrable canopy—you can do more using photogrammetry coupled with a professional drone for significantly less money and complexity.

The post Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job appeared first on RotorDrone.

SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

Strange things start happening once a company no longer has any meaningful competition, and the Air 2S from DJI is a prime example. Like all of the company’s offerings over the past several years, it’s an absolutely top-quality platform that provides robust capabilities in both its flight and imaging performance. However, it also has some important limitations—a few of them seemingly arbitrary—which it is important to understand before you buy it simply because you can afford it and it is the “latest and greatest” from the world’s leading manufacturer in the industry.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

The Basics

To begin with, let us consider the Air 2S as a small uncrewed aircraft system (sUAS)—a flying machine that we intend to operate in the National Airspace System (NAS). In this regard, our top concerns must be safety, reliability, and performance. The Air S2 excels in all three categories. Incorporating an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver, the S2 will alert you through the DJI Fly app when a crewed aircraft equipped with an ADS-B transmitter is in the vicinity.
ADS-B is nearly universal at this point on the type of small, general aviation aircraft that are most likely to be operating near us as remote pilots, making this an incredibly valuable tool. Unfortunately, it won’t tell you which direction or how far away the aircraft is, but you’ll likely see the warning before you can hear it. That gives you precious extra seconds to heighten your situational awareness of the surrounding airspace and begin a descent or other maneuvers to potentially move your aircraft out of harm’s way.
Regarding the question of reliability, circumstances didn’t permit me to log hundreds of flight hours to test the platform’s mechanical reliability or establish a mean time between failure. However, the S2 is reliable in that its performance is remarkably steady, even in extremely challenging environments. To test its ability to fly safely in high winds, I visited Hood River in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. Recognized as the kite surfing capital of the world, the wind blows constantly—and hard. Even with a pair of flags whipping in the wind behind it, the S2 hung stone steady in the sky.
At altitude out over the river, I received high wind warnings through the app, but maintained confident control of the platform throughout my maneuvers. This is an aircraft that will go where you tell it and stay put when it gets there. This is thanks to DJI’s highly refined flight control system technology, assisted by the fact that it incorporates a three-band global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver, picking up signals from the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS, and the European Union’s Galileo constellations.
Still, as always, it is prudent to take any manufacturer’s claims with a degree of caution. DJI claims the S2 can hover for 30 minutes on a single battery charge. During my own hover test, conducted on a 76-degree Fahrenheit day with no wind, I was only able to wring 23 minutes and 9 seconds out of a brand new 3,500mAH battery—and that was by flying the aircraft until it tried to initiate return-to-home on its own owing to a low-battery warning. When maneuvering, flight time dropped to 20 minutes and 10 seconds.
This is still a very good showing for such a small UAS, but I don’t know how you get to 30 minutes unless you’re flying inside one of those indoor skydiving machines turned up to 11.
Finally, when it comes to performance, the S2 is a potent little aircraft. Switching over to sport mode, I was able to keep pace with a kite surfer as she was literally flying across the waves while simultaneously holding my position against the wind blasting down the gorge. In calm air, the S2 provided tight, buttery-smooth controls making it as easy as it can be to pull off complex maneuvers like manual turns about a moving point.
While speed and maneuverability are crucial for capturing a dynamic still photo or video, they are also important for the safe operation of the aircraft: giving you, the pilot, the ability to quickly move away from an emergent hazard or navigate a complex environment. In this, you would be aided by not one, but two, forward-facing collision avoidance systems—with which one is active being determined by the speed of the aircraft and its pitch relative to the horizon. The S2 also incorporates a rear collision avoidance sensor, as well as belly-mounted optical flow system and an infrared altimeter.

Picture Perfect

Of course, the ability to fly safely and make aggressive maneuvers is all in the service of capturing aerial imagery. In this regard, the S2 is, once again, a top performer. Its three-axis gimbal mounts a camera with a one-inch CMOS sensor, capable of capturing 20 megapixel stills and 5.4K video at 30 frames per second. If your mission allows you to bump your video resolution down to “only” 4K, you are able to capture up to 60 frames per second.
I’ll refrain from offering my personal opinions regarding the performance of the camera. Instead, I captured a number of aerial photos across different environments that accompany this article, so you can judge the image quality for yourself. I will say that having a 20-megapixel sensor is a significant benefit if you are a professional photographer or enjoy making prints of the images you capture.
With a 20-megapixel image, you have the option to crop an image in post to improve the composition while still having plenty of pixels left over for high-resolution printing.
One nice feature is that the S2 itself incorporates eight gigabytes of internal memory for photos and video. That isn’t huge capacity, being only enough to capture 10 minutes of 4K video at 30 frames per second, but it is a nice reserve in case you forget to install a microSD card and only discover that fact once you arrive at your mission site.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

The Air 2S features a high-intensity LED on the belly of the aircraft which can be activated from the controller. While it has the potential to ease spotting of the aircraft, the beam has a relatively narrow field of view—making it most useful when it is almost directly overhead.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

With sport mode engaged, the Air 2S is an agile, high-performance aerial imaging platform, well suited for capturing dynamic sports such as kite surfing in the Columbia River Gorge. Just watch out for those shroud lines!

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

With a 20-megapixel camera and solid flight performance, the Air 2S would make a great small commercial UAS for missions such as monitoring the progress at a construction site, were it not for limitations deliberately put in place by DJI.

Your interface with the S2 is a conventional two-stick controller connected by a USB-C cable to your Android or iOS device, which provides video and telemetry downlinks as well as control over aircraft settings via the DJI Fly app. The controller itself mounts your smart device above the joysticks—instead of below them, as has been the case with DJI’s small, folding platforms since the release of the original Mavic in 2016. Bowing to industry convention in this regard is a welcome change for DJI, as the smart device is both easier to see and access in its new home.
However, it is in the pilot interface that some of the S2’s peculiarities begin to reveal themselves. To begin with, like DJI’s other recent controllers, the joysticks can be unscrewed from the gimbals and tucked away in a pair of notches built into the side of the controller. In theory, it’s a great way to protect the gimbals from damage and reduce the profile of the controller during transportation and storage. It can also have some less-beneficial side effects, unfortunately.
During one of my test flights, as I was returning to the launch site with a low battery warning, the right joystick managed to unscrew itself and fell on the ground. Given the totality of the circumstances at that moment, I wasn’t comfortable taking my eyes off the aircraft and kneeling down to look for it. So, I put my thumb directly on the gimbal and managed to bring it home that way.
This wasn’t a critical failure, but it could prove to be a significant distraction during a complex mission—and the fact that the “Fly More” combo comes with an extra pair of joysticks suggests that I am not alone in having this problem. This is something to watch out for and potentially even practice during your proficiency training with this aircraft.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

The controller that ships with the Air 2S is notable departure from many of DJI’s previous designs: it mounts the display above, rather than below, the control sticks. The sturdy retaining clamp, large enough to accommodate the latest smartphones in a protective case, also houses the controller’s antennas.

Fly less

To interface your smart device with the UAS requires an app called DJI Fly. Upon learning this from the user’s guide, I pulled out my Android-based smartphone and typed “DJI Fly” into the search bar on the Play Store. To my considerable surprise—so much so that I actually screen-captured the page—there was no DJI Fly anywhere to be seen. Considering that maybe the name of the app was a misprint, I tried in vain to connect with the aircraft using the DJI Go 4 app.
Growing increasingly frustrated, I did a Google search on my laptop for “DJI Fly” and found a result on the DJI website. Pulling it up provided me with a description of the app and verified it was the correct option to use with the S2. At the bottom of the page, I spied a QR code that would allow me to download it to my smartphone. Incredulous, I launched my camera app and pointed my phone at my computer screen, thinking to myself, “This is not the way a leading 21st century technology company does business.”
After bypassing two separate safety warnings that “this type of file can do harm to your device,” I finally managed to get the app installed. Then, to my further surprise, I had to pair the aircraft with the controller. This made me think of nothing so much as binding a $150 foam airplane transmitter, prompting me to wonder why this had not been done at the factory—as it had been for the dozen or so other DJI drones I’ve owned and flown over the years?
Facing no meaningful competition in small UAS market, DJI no longer must confront the imperative of providing a seamless customer experience: why not let the customers do the work themselves and make a couple of extra bucks? It’s not like there are any other companies producing a comparable product at a comparable price.
After I had I updated the firmware and confirmed video, control, and telemetry links were functioning nominally, I headed out to the field to commence my test flights. One of the first things I discovered is that I really don’t like the DJI Fly app. The default view is extremely spartan with only the most basic flight information displayed. Items I’m accustomed to seeing on screen full time, such as the pitch angle of the gimbal, would only fade into being when I made an adjustment, and then vanish again a moment later.
Perhaps my greatest concern was with how the app displays feedback from the collision avoidance system. Rather than the familiar bow-shaped representation of the range to nearby obstacles that change from green to yellow to red as the aircraft draws ever closer, Fly applies an orange “glow” along the very edge of the screen to indicate where there are obstructions. For such a crucial piece of information, it’s too subtle and easy to miss.
I appreciate the desire for an uncluttered display, but the Fly app takes this laudable goal way too far. Immediate access to flight information is a cornerstone of situational awareness, and situational awareness is essential to maintaining the safety of flight.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

The DJI Fly app offers a limited amount of telemetry, requiring the pilot to tap on-screen indicators for more detailed information about vital facts such as the direction home and the amount of flying time remaining.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

Although DJI advertises the Air 2S will fly for 30 minutes on a single battery charge, practical testing revealed 23 minutes to be a more realistic figure, even in optimal conditions.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

Even in a brisk wind that brings flags snapping to attention, the Air 2S is more than capable of holding its own, owing to its advanced sensors, flight logic and powerful electric motors.

Cui bono?

Two thousand words ago, I asserted that strange things start to happen when a company—any company—no longer faces significant competition in the marketplace. Essentially, it begins to compete with itself which, of course, is no competition at all. Instead, it seeks to herd its customers into product silos based on their ability to pay—even if that means effectively sabotaging their own offerings.
The first time I saw DJI implement this strategy was with the release of the ZenMuse XT2: a combined visible-light/thermal imaging camera system. The original ZenMuse XT had been compatible with the Inspire multirotor, being DJI’s only heavy-lift, interchangeable-payload platform at the time. However, by the time the XT2 was released, the company decided it would rather make $9,000 by selling you a Matrice M200 than $3,000 selling you an Inspire, so they made sure the XT2 was only compatible with the M200.
There was no technical reason that this should be true, but DJI realized that most of the entities purchasing the XT2 were fire departments and other public safety agencies, and they could afford a $9,000 drone.
The Air 2S is aimed at the high-end consumer or low-end professional aerial imaging market. It will give you great stills and video at a price no other company can match because they lack DJI’s economy of scale. However, the hardware could easily be put to use in more professional applications, such as orthomosaic mapping. No doubt the results it is capable of delivering would clobber my original Mavic Pro with its 12-megapixel camera, which I have used for countless mapping missions over the years.
However, that isn’t an option. Don’t take my word for it: ask the two industry-leading photogrammetry software providers. In the Pix4D customer support forum, a community manager named Kapil Khanal wrote, “Pix4Dcapture, our flying app does not support the Mavic Air 2S. At the moment, there are no plans to support it.”
Referring to the 2S’s immediate predecessor, the Mavic Air 2, DroneDeploy’s customer support team is even more direct: “While we support the latest versions of the DJI SDK known to work with Mavic Air 2, waypoint missions are disabled via DJI firmware on Mavic Air 2. Because of this, flight apps such as DroneDeploy, and even DJI’s own apps, do not allow for waypoint missions. As a result, users cannot fly autonomous missions with the Mavic Air 2 on the DroneDeploy App.”
There is not a doubt in my mind that the 2S hardware would deliver high-quality orthomosaics. However, DJI won’t allow that to happen because they have determined the people who do this type of work are able to pay $1,500—or more—for an aircraft that will, such as the Mavic 2 Pro or the forthcoming Mavic 3 series.
So, if you want to shoot aerial photos and video, the S2 is a great platform that will no doubt serve you well. However, it is equally important to recognize what it can’t do, and the fact that those limitations were a deliberate choice made by DJI.
All new journalists are taught to ask one question: Cui bono? Translated from Latin into English, it means, “to whom is it a benefit?” Here’s a hint: not us.

RotorDrone - Drone News | DJI AIR 2S – A test-drive

The aerial perspective provided by small UAS creates the possibility for unique images that would be difficult, or even impossible, to capture by any other means. With its 1-inch CMOS sensor, the Air 2S makes the most out of each opportunity.

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SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

Da Vinci’s Aerial Screw Reimagined as a Drone and Flown!

In the fifteenth century, artist and engineer Leonardo da Vinci envisioned a craft that flew using a single helix-shaped propeller — the aerial screw — viewed by many as the first vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) machine ever designed. In 2020, the Vertical Flight Society’s (VFS) 37th Annual Student Design Competition challenged students from across the world to reimagine da Vinci’s design. Using modern-day analytical and design tools, students were tasked to design and demonstrate a feasible modern-day VTOL vehicle based on the aerial screw concept and demonstrate the consistency of its physics. Here’s the result! Find out more about the Vertical Flight Society here. See it fly in this video!

da Vinci Aerial Screw Flies

da Vinci Aerial Screw Flies

da Vinci Aerial Screw Flies

da Vinci Aerial Screw Flies

da Vinci Aerial Screw Flies

The post Da Vinci’s Aerial Screw Reimagined as a Drone and Flown! appeared first on RotorDrone.

SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.

Ion Drone Propulsion

Interestingengineering.com reported that in April, Florida-based Undefined Technologies unveiled its silent (or at least relatively quiet) eVTOL drone, Silent Ventus. The drone is powered by ion propulsion. “Silent Ventus is a vivid example of our intent of creating a sustainable, progressive, and less-noisy urban environment,” said Tomas Pribanic, Founder and CEO of Undefined Technologies, in the statement. “The design brings us closer to our final product and enables us to showcase the dual-use of our technology.” According to Undefined Technologies’ website, the drone today “uses innovative physics principles to generate noise levels below 70 dB.” This would make it ideal for use throughout the U.S., where acceptable noise levels for residential, industrial, and commercial zones range from 50 to 70 dB.
“Ionic wind,” also known as electroaerodynamic thrust, is a physical principle that was first identified in the 1920s and describes a wind, or thrust, that can be produced when a current is passed between a thin and a thick electrode. If enough voltage is applied, the air inbetween the electrodes produces sufficient thrust to propel a small aircraft. Watch a background video on ION propulsion here. For more information, see an Undefined Technologies press release on Silent Ventus, here.

ION Drone Propulsion Coming of Age

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SOURCE: RotorDrone – Read entire story here.