Change detection and monitoring has been a very useful tool and now with drone technology, more and more in industries and governmental operations.

Aerial surveillance by using drone has been used extensively in the industrial line of businesses. Surveillance by drones is proven efficient to cut down the time cost and provide more insights and details.

One of the current use of drone surveillance is to use it to monitor changes of a same site over a specific time period. This can be roughly called as time-based aerial monitoring. 

The main purpose of using drone to monitor changes over time varies by industries. In this article, we will discuss further the application and uses of time-based aerial monitoring that is currently being used across different industries.

Agriculture

Agriculture industry utilises time-based drone surveying as a tool to comprehend agricultural data such as plant health, crops growth, soil condition and irrigation. In the case of plant health, farmers will often fly drones in a specific interval of time (especially after a treatment) to determine if treatment such as fertiliser and pesticide is effective to the plant. 

This also can be done to get the general trend of crops growth in order to determine if more fertiliser or treatment is needed.

When it comes to soil condition or soil moisture index, it is relatively important as it directly affects the condition which the crops grow in. Soil moisture normally refers to the amount of water that is contained int he first 5 – 10 cm layer of land from the surface. 

Image via Esri

Soil moisture plays a very important role in controlling and regulating the interaction between the land surface and atmosphere. Soil moisture index does not only give insights to agricultural perspective of things, but it also gave us other data such as ecosystem. Soil moisture level can serve as an early warning of land erosion or land condition near/in a river that could give clues to soil movement such as soil erosion, infiltration and runoff.

This alone has made clear that UAV change detection can be used not only in agriculture, but also in forestry and environmental management, which brings us to the next point.

Forestry

Deforestation rate around the world is increasing at a quite alarming rise right now despite the many efforts of different parties to decrease the deforestation rate in order to address the severity of global warming.

Few parties all around the world such as government agencies have started to incorporate drone into their conservation operations to widen the surveillance assets and range. Using changes over time from drone reference can help enforcers to monitor the forest reserve more closely.

By using this method, not only the enforcers can see which area is at risk of deforestation and other further damages, they will also be able to calculate accurately the affected area with high accuracy thanks to help of RTK and PPK technology.

Other application would be identifying the habitat loss or upset ecological imbalance due to deforestation as well as threats of natural disasters such as landslide, flooding, soil erosion and so on.

Water Management (Dam, river, sea level increase)

As mentioned previously, the deforestation rate around the world has increased these past few decades which continually contributed to the global warming effects. The obvious effects of global warming would be the rise of sea level which threatens islands and coastal cities.

One way in which drones come in to monitor the rise in the sea levels which is expected to increase over time. Drones also are useful in monitoring beach erosion as the results of rising sea levels.

This will help authorities to plan out the contingency plans where some areas are predicted to be submerged when sea levels rose up.

Case study

Water management is crucial to society, as we use water in our daily activities. Improper use of water has lead to water scarcity and shortage in some areas. While you might think your area or country has no problems with water supply, the truth is, there’s a high chance the clean water provider is struggling to find more sources of water.

Drones can be used to monitor the water supply in major areas such as rainforest, lakes and rivers to see if there are any major changes that would lead to inevitable water shortage. Authorities then can plan to take measures to prevent the water supply shortage and thus, avoiding water supply issues to the public.

This is also applicable to monitoring a dam water level and the overall condition of the dam. 

Construction

In the construction industry, drones are being used commercially to monitor the progress of the construction. This application can be stepped up to another level by the visualisation of the changes of the construction in over time.

By doing this, project managers will be able to do reporting in a much more convenient way by visualising changes of the infrastructure progress in one window rather than showing a series of pictures as a replacement of time-lapse images.

You can view a sample of construction site change detection done by Hivemapper here.
How to read the map:

  • Blue is new — blue means the object is new.
  • Red is fled — red means the object is no longer there.
  • Gray is unchanged — no changed were detected

Urban Planning

Local councils are normally involved in the city planning in the area of their jurisdiction. As such, drones can help in planning for the development projects in the area. This is done by capturing the changes over time in the proposed site to see if there are any major changes from the past (for example, opening of residential areas) that would be suitable for a new development project (for example, shopping mall or parks).

The proposed site can be measure accurately just from the aerial imagery captured by the UAV which later can be utilised for the construction purposes.

Other than that, an aerial view of changes can be used to determine the traffic flow or behavioural changes. This will, in turn, enable landscape architects and planners to examine the existing social and environmental conditions of sites in far more detail than before and planning further development such as highways, upgrading roads, adding traffic lights and so on.

Example of vegetation management for urban planning purposes.

Drones is helping to accelerate stockpile and inventory survey process in different industries such as mining and construction.

We have always mentioned the usage of drones in measuring stockpiles especially for mining produces, but we have never really gone into how exactly it is done. In this article, we will go into detail how drones are put into good use in the mining industry to hasten their operations.

Stockpile management is important and a critical aspect on the site, yet the measuring process can be expensive, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous to the workers.

This can be a bit of a dilemma to most of mining companies as the conventional way of measuring stockpiles can be very time consuming whereas they would need fast results measurement to make decisions accurately.

The traditional stockpile measurement methods range from bucket counts and visual guesses to slightly more informed measurements based walking wheel length and height of the pile. These methods are riddled with inconsistencies, incorrect assumptions, and data entry errors, leaving companies without reliable data to make smart business decisions.

Bad data causes a negative ripple effect through the entire organization. It can create frustration and tension between operations and finance teams, unexpected costly write-offs, and eats away at profits.

How drones are flown in stockpile measuring operations

When using drones in mining operations, there are few factors that have to be taken into consideration in order to get the best accuracy out of the data captured.

There are three main parameters that has to be taken into account when flying the drone; time of the day, height of the drone and the flight path.

The recommended flight path for the drone when estimating the stockpile is to fly parallelly, not in crisscross or crosshatch.

Parallel flight pattern is sufficient to capture accurate data set while there’s no evidence or case studies that have proven flying in crisscross or crosshatch would help to increase the accuracy of the data.

Next, the best time to fly is actually when there’s high visibility and low wind flow. Generally speaking, that would be around mid-day or noon. This is due to the fact that the shadow of objects is much shorter at noon, at this will allow the stockpile baselines to be clearly seen.

Baselines are important when measuring to material mass as it is a measure of the accumulation parameters.

Besides that, the optimum height would be around 3 times higher than the highest point of the stockpile. 

There are a few other factors such as the image overlay and usage of ground control points (GCP) to guarantee more precise results.

Data processing

Data processing is the most crucial process when measuring material stockpile. There are many factors that can inherently affect the outcome of the results, which will influence the decision making heavily.

Once all the data was collected and uploaded, the software will use the raw collection of GPS points to estimate the shape and elevation of the pile.

To start the processing, 3D points across a given stockpile is measured. Normally, in this practice, we plotted the 3D points which can be numbered up to millions, not hundreds—as in traditional forms of stockpile analysis, which means you will get highly accurate measurement of area and volume.

Then, we would need to identify the type of stockpile on the site that was captured by the drone. Generally speaking, there are three types of stockpiles buildup; standard, ram and bin.

Standard stockpile is the most generic stockpile type. It is constructed with basic bucket loading and dumping techniques.

Image via Pix4D

Ramp stockpile is constructed high, with a narrow ramp, and is optimal for storing a large amount of materials in a very limited area.

Image via Pix4D

Bin stockpile is a common stockpile type. Materials are stored in a row of three-sided bins, with enclosures consisting of a hard floor and walls. It is the best solution to keep different materials separate.

Image via Pix4D

After determining the type of stockpile accumulation, we then will need to predetermine the base surface or the base plane of the pile. Aerial imagery processing software needs this info to accurately calculate the volume of the material.

There are normally two types of base plane of stockpile: clear boundaries and partially non-visible boundaries. A stockpile’s boundaries can be hidden by either by intersecting stockpiles or by a wall.

Image via Pix4D

Aerial imagery processing software will have options for you to actually optimise the processing software to increase accuracy.

Viewing results

After the processing part has been completed, it’s naturally the time for you to present the data as a report for further actions.

Below is an example of a stockpile measurement report.

Image via Propeller Aero

Not only the volumetric measurement will be shown, other dimensions such as area, perimeter, and ground elevation level will be shown.

This information can be used extensively to make logistic and operational decision. Questions such as, ‘Is the current stockpile of materials is sufficient for the project?’, ‘What is the rate of material consumption and does it tally with the progress?’ can be answered just by analysing the measurement results. 

Bottom line

Stockpile measurement and surveying with drones has been proven effective by providing accuracy and cutting off the time cost.

In most cases, using drones can cut off the time cost up to 60 per cent. Traditional stockpile measuring process would involve personnel walking around the site that would take up to 8 hours of operation compared to 3 hours when using drones.

Other than that, drones in measuring stockpiles can help to reduce capital investment, improve reporting, streamline inventory material audit and reduce manpower reliance.

Explore the latest cutting edge remote sensing data processing software in the market, Airamap by Poladrone.

Last Monday, we launched Airamap, our web-based precision mapping analytics software. W have been developing this software precisely to cater to aerial mapping and remote sensing landscape in this region.

We published a sneak peek of Airamap, basically, we talked about some of the amazing features of Airamap. Today, we will explore all about it on the uses of Airamap, how Airamap can help to optimise your business and how you can get started with Airamap.

Uses

Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture is one of the reasons why Airamap was built, in order to cater to the agriculture industry in this region, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. This is due to the lack of software in the market that is suitable to be used for local farming data.

One of the impressive features of Airamap is the ability to automatically assess the mapping data and tagged the tree count. This is suitable to be used in oil palm and durian plantation.


Image screenshot of tree count map from Airamap.

This process is done automatically by Airamap’s AI-powered engine which ensures accuracy and fast-paced processing.

Other than that, Airamap can be utilised extensively to analyse multispectral or NDVI heat map which contains invaluable insights to the conditions of your plant health and condition.

To read more about multispectral imaging and NDVI, you can do so here: Multispectral Imaging: Uses And Application.

Airamap has been used by some of our clients before it was launched and it is found that generally, the analytical results can help them to increase the harvest yield, detect problematic trees and plan replanting operations. 

Land Survey and Construction

In construction and land survey operations, it is very important to observe and analyse the site topography to ensure the operation can be taken with regards to the safety.

As such, Airamap helps to process the raw data taken from the remote sensing collection to be translated into topography and elevation maps.

These maps are essentially important for building construction and Airamap delivers accuracy with data taken with RTK drones such as Phantom 4 RTK which has the centimetre-level positioning accuracy.

This will ensure the developers can get a bird’s-eye view of the site to give them a better understanding of the area’s elevation, and next, taking measures to ensure the project would run smoothly.

This elevation maps (also can be in form of DTM, DSM, DEM and etc) are also being used extensively in quarry and mining sector.

Quarry elevation maps from Airamap

You check out Airamap features, simply just by creating an account in Airamap platform. To do so, click here to head towards Airamap homepage and you will be given a sample data to explore further.

Get to know in details about Airamap features by going through the user guide. If you are interested to subscribe to a free trial, you now can check out the free trial packages here.

Do you know how drones are contributing towards Malaysia’s economic and civil development? Get updated on the recent applications of drones in Malaysia.

On this day, Malaysia celebrated her sixty-second National Day. As a company that was incorporated and based in Malaysia, Poladrone has nothing but well wishes for Malaysia to be a developed and peaceful country.

As such, Poladrone always strives to deliver our best in helping different economic sectors and civil aspects to contribute to the local landscape of technological advancement.

In the occasion of Malaysia’s 62nd National Day, let’s see how drones are actually contributing towards the betterment of society especially in the local context.

Civil Development

Surveillance

To ensure public security is continuously maintained, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), has adopted the usage of drones way back in 2015. UAV usage has been recognised to be effective in enforcing the laws as well as keeping the general peace and justice.

The workflow by using drone surveillance is through live video captured by the drone projected directly to the control room so the police personnel can monitor any area at a given time and proceed to take proper measures.

Disaster Management

Malaysia Civil Defence Force (APM) also has adopted UAV as a helping tool in their operation. Recently, drones were used to monitor a forest fire recently happened in Miri, Sarawak.

Similarly, the Fire Department (Bomba dan Penyelamat) utilised drones to monitor a forest fire in Pahang that would back then posed a risk to locals.

They also have used drones to monitor hotspots which have higher tendencies to cause haze.

Johor Fire Department also adopted drones in their SAR operations. According to its Director, “Manual searching method can be time-consuming and when adopting new technology (drone), it is apparent that it helps the Fire Department a lot, especially in SAR operations.” 

Forestry and Conservation

Not only limited to civil defence and law enforcement departments, other government agencies that are involved in the forest reserve and conservation. States like Pahang and Sarawak are well-known for their bountiful forest reserve and well-preserved nature. 

To continue preserving nature as well as preventing illegal activities such as logging and hunting from happening inside the protected area, Sarawak and Pahang Forest Department are currently monitoring the reserve area by UAV units.

This is due to the fact that their personnel can monitor the area without leaving the safe spot, which will of course significantly decrease the overall risk in doing patrol rounds on foot.

Defence

Malaysian Armed Forces also are adding drones into their arsenal as well as taking appropriate measures to adopt UAV defence mechanism. 

In a recent talk, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Defence has said that “ATM agrees and admit the importance that UAV technology carries for the time being as well as in the future as one of the warfare strategies, and at the same time increasing ATM’s capability to monitor nation’s maritime and land border.”

Moreover, the Malaysian Armed Forces also are expecting to be receiving 12 ScanEagle UAV units from the US government in their effort to bolster their allies capability.

ScanEagle (Via Drone Center)

Economic Sectors

Agriculture

If you have read or have been following Poladrone’s activities, it is safe to assume that you are well-informed about the usage of drones in the agriculture sector.

UAV platforms have helped in many kinds of way in the farming industry, conveniently reducing cost, time and increase accurateness in problems and issues identification.

Besides for analytics, mapping, spraying and plant health monitoring, more and more usage of drones inside agriculture is being developed.

This is due to the fact that the farmers and farm owners that have used or are using drones as a part of their farming process has seen the effectiveness and are confident in the prospect of drones fully automating the farming in the future.

As such, PV-15 drone which is developed and engineered by Poladrone, also is being used extensively in plantations in Peninsular and East Malaysia.

Poladrone’s PV-15

Construction

In Malaysia also, drones have long integrated into workflow and operations of construction processes. There a few prominent construction firms that are using drones as a tool to monitor the progress, keeping track of inventory and maintenance survey.

The Minister of Human Resources also has called for drone usage to minimised risks involving construction labour following the aftermath of a landslide in Bukit Runtuh.

A team of drone operators also was established by one of Malaysia’s prominent highway developers, ANIH Berhad. The establishment of that UAV pilot team is a result of a landslide incident in 2015.

According to the report, drones are used to monitor land movement on hill slopes, traffic flow, roadway breach and many other usages.

Energy and Utility

Drone utilisation in inspection in the utility sector is currently adopted by Peninsular’s sole electric supplier, Tenaga Nasional Berhad. This initiative has been taken by TNB in 2015 to replace the usage of helicopter for inspection operations.

Not just in the electrical supply area, similar inspection operations are also starting to be adopted in the telecommunications sector. Drones will inspect the telco towers that normally would require workers to climb up the towers and that’s where the hazards lay.

Tourism & Hospitality/Creative Industry

In tourism and hospitality, it is very crucial to create an offline and online presence in order to better promote our country. And to do that, resorts and tourist attraction would have to capture enchanting marketing materials such as photograph and video.

Drones produced by DJI are all now comes with features to take 4K quality footage. As they are optimised for videography, it is only natural that they are also specialised in photography functions.

These functions, of course, are a big boost to the local creative industry players as they would have even more space to be creative and producing notable works.

Oil & Gas

Oil and gas is one of the biggest contributing sectors to our country. As Malaysia houses a whole bunch of oil processing and refining plants, it would be crucial for oil and gas to conduct checkups and inspections regularly.

These checkup and inspection operations would involve a lot of personnel and that sometimes translates to high maintenance cost.

Similar to the utilisation in the energy and utility sectors, drones are normally used to inspect the existing crude petroleum processing and monitoring new facilities.

We have been talking a lot about how drones are used across industries, serving as the key to various automated processes such as mapping, spraying and so on. Precision mapping particularly has seen massive drone integration into its processes. That may be credited to the fact that the mapping accuracy is on par with the conventional land survey and reliable.

In this article, we will be looking at the mechanism behind surveying drone that has rendered it to be extremely useful in land surveying and construction industry.

Real-Time Kinematic (RTK)

RTK stands for Real-Time Kinematics which is a GPS/GNSS technique used to enhance the precision of position data received from satellite-based positioning systems. RTK is centred on the usage of fixed base points which wirelessly sends out corrections to a moving receiver to increase the accuracy of GPS signals.

The satellite and base station corrections will enable more accurate and the GPS engine can fix the position of the antenna to within 1 – 2cm. Traditional GPS receivers, like the ones you can find in your smartphone, or on most robotic platforms could only determine their position with 2-4 meters accuracy. 

Base point is actually a single GCP that constantly provides correction and calibration of the drone’s locational data. Successive GPS measurements at the base stations are paired with the GPS measurements made by the drone. This provides a mechanism for the reduction and elimination of the errors common between the two measurements. These corrections are applied real-time, requiring the drone and the base stations to communicate with each other constantly throughout the survey.

Image credit via Pix4D

Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK)

Post-Processed Kinematics or PPK is actually similar to RTK except for the fact all the corrections are done after the data collection. This means the need for base points as used in RTK processes is eliminated.

Drones that process data using RTK or PPK do not have different sets of hardware. Instead, a PPK drone merely uses a different processing workflow. Data collected by an RTK drone can be corrected using a PPK process, but it will involve a lot of customization.

Image credit via Pix4D

You should be able to understand the basic mechanism of RTK and PPK before we move on to the comparative advantages that PPK haas over RTK which we will be discussing next week!

Discover how drones are aiding the construction works tremendously by optimising time and material management.


Last week, we have discussed in-depth about the application of drones inside the agricultural field. But as I have stressed this all this time, there’s a whole lot more about drone application that can be realised through the technology advancement.

Today, we will be discussing one of the popular industrial application of drone; construction sector.

Construction sector is one of the biggest industries that is incorporating drone as one of the effective tools to aid the construction process.

Now, let’s see how exactly drone helped out through the various stages of a construction process.

Pre-Construction

A pre-construction survey is a thorough process that documents the condition of the properties adjacent to or neighbouring your construction activity through visual observations, photographs, notes, and other diagnostic devices as warranted by the complexity of the project.

The pre-construction phase is very crucial for the engineers as there are a few things that needed to be surveyed. A construction survey typically consists of determining current site conditions for future above-ground and in-ground infrastructure.

Land surveyors stake elevations for footings, collect topographic data for mapping existing drainage courses, invert elevations and diameters of pipe and manholes perform a number of other services. Land surveying services are used to establish the accurate location of proposed structures, accesses, pipelines, buildings, and other improvements.

The conventional land surveillance practice.
Image via Harbor Compliance

Land surveying method usually involves using human resources, heavy machinery & expensive surveying tools, that produce complex data. In actuality, you can get the job done in half the time & money, with greater accuracy by using drones.

Drones equipped with advanced payloads that can produce high-quality digitised map such as Digital Elevation Models (DEM), Digital Surface Models (DSM), and Digital Terrain Models (DTM).

Related: DEM, DSM & DTM Differences

These maps serve the purpose of the survey process, and in addition to site analysis, boundary & topographic surveys, maps, and plats, they also:

  • Help mitigate the risk of potential future regulatory enforcement actions
  • Minimize or eliminate costly delays in project schedules
  • Maximize project startup efficiencies through comprehensive regulatory planning
  • Provide data which helps define project scope and aids strategic pre-construction planning
A land survey using UAV
Image via Site Design Concept

During Construction

Minimising the risk and avoiding any accident is mainly the priority during the building phase, alongside materials management and quality inspection.

Drones are a lot safer to send in for inspections instead of manual inspection by the workers. Engineers and managers can identify the problems or any issues on the site via complete footage, live or recorded from the comfort of office desks.

Moreover, drones are suitable to be used for construction that is near any waterbody.  Plus, through orthomosaic map produced by the camera payload mounted on drones, can help with detecting deviations and taking early corrective action, thus reducing thousands of dollars in change orders.

Bridge inspection using UAV
Image from statescoop

Progress tracking and reporting to your client can be easier with the high reachability of drones. For example, you can track the level of the building completed simply just by deploying your drone and then comparing orthomosaics across various dates enable precise progress tracking and reporting.

A quite innovative way to use drone in construction is to examine the placement of post-tension cable. You can read more about this here: Using Drones to Reduce Risk in Concrete Construction

Post Construction

With drone, the BIM (Building Information Model) can be produced directly as it provides 360 degrees of views and insight of the building from bird-eye view.

Plus, aerial photography and videography can be a great marketing material of the property as aerial captured photos and videos are quite popular these days. Drones can reach places humans can’t, meaning you can capture a wide range of images of your building. These can be utilized in marketing collateral, on a company’s website, on social media platforms and beyond.

Drone-based method also can help in conducting after completion quality assurance process by identifying defects in the outer side of high-rise building.

On Going Asset Maintenance

Not only limited to the building construction, but also is beneficial in the long run; ie. the building maintenance and damage assessment. The data captured by a drone can be used to plan and improve long-term maintenance of the structure as well. After a project is completed, you can produce the as-built drawings and models created with the help of our drones. This detailed information makes it easier for the owner to renovate, manipulate and upgrade aspects of the facility in the future.

Drones equipped with thermal imaging can also fly over a building and detect if there are leaks in the building envelope. They can also identify areas of leak potential so owners can proactively maintain their facility before a small problem turns worse.

Drones can also help assess damage after a hurricane or any natural disaster. For example, if the roof is torn away by strong thunderstorm ; it is advisable to use a drone to safely identify the extent of the damage and plan for the proper repairs.

Bottom Line

Drone are consciously changing how we are constructing buildings and structures. Information and data that once took days to be collected can now be captured with incredible accuracy in a matter of hours — this translates into huge time and cost savings for anyone.

Like any cutting-edge technology, the research and applications of drones change continually, and we should always be exploring how we can continue to leverage their benefits moving forward.