What UAV/Survey Kit should I Buy?

Contours – 0.5 meter with optimization

Following are a combination of 2 recent posts from the ‘Regrarians® Mapping Service‘ page on the Regrarians Workplace in which we talk about what UAV and survey equipment kit people might want to invest in.

 

UAV – DJI Phantom Pro 4 V.2.0 Option

 

Phantom Pro 4 V.2.0

5 x Intelligent Flight Batteries

DJI Care Refresh +

4 in 1 5.7a Rapid Battery Controller Parallel Charger for DJI Phantom 4/4 Pro (or similar equivalent)

 

UAV – DJI Mavic Pro 2 Option

 

Mavic 2 Pro (not Zoom)

5 x Intelligent Flight Batteries

DJI Care Refresh +

PowerExtra Mavic Pro 5 in 1 Rapid Battery Charger

 

RTK GNSS

 

Emlid Reach RS+ Survey Kit

Manfrotto XPRO MONOPOD+ (to mount Reach RS ‘Rover’ • Manfrotto 190 Aluminium 4-Section Tripod with head ( to mount Reach RS ‘Base’

Topcon GMS-2 FC-336 GPS Mount / Range Pole Cradle Bracket – to mount a phone onto the monopod

 

BAG

 

We carry all of our kit (Mavic Pro not Phantom) in a Lowepro FASTPACK BP 250 AW II – its about 13kg all up including a 15″ MacBookPro and its charger. We’ve had ours for about 5 years now and its proven to be very durable and flexible for other uses. Lowepro also make the Droneguard Pro 450 backpack. Its a great bag for those with Phantom’s though I don’t know that it would carry the two Emlid Reach RS+ units. 

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This is basically the kit that Regrarians runs, though we have a (2016) DJI Mavic Pro instead of the Phantom as its more portable and suits the kind of travel we undertake. The mechanical shutter of the Phantom puts this unit ahead when it comes to obtaining better quality aerial photography (and photogrammetry) outcomes. That said in our case if we were starting afresh we would probably still go with the new Mavic Pro 2 and its Hasselblad 20MP camera — primarily because of its portability.

 

The recommendation of a camera tripod and monopod is also to provide a multiplicity of uses as these units can be used for their original designed purpose.

 

Whether using a Phantom or Mavic, this kit will suffice to complete low cost aerial and topographic surveys of areas between 1-500ha — whilst also not committing too much capital on kit that will likely become redundant in a relatively short amount of time.

 

The value of the EMLID Reach RS+ kit is now enhanced because of the new stake out feature — enabling users to set out the features that they have created in a plan. This feature alone can save many $1000’s completing more manual set outs.

 

DJI Phantom 4 RTK & DroneDeploy

 

The most recent DroneDeploy newsletter had an article about the new DJI Phantom 4 RTK.

Summary points:

  1. Data captured by the Phantom 4 RTK can be processed in DroneDeploy
  2. DroneDeploy does not yet support automated flight for the Phantom 4 RTK – though discussions are underway
  3. Tested accuracy of 1–3 centimetres in X&Y, and 5 centimetres in Z.

This UAV is a great leap forward however it,

 

“…cannot connect third-party base stations to the Phantom 4 RTK or the remote controller via a radio station. However, you can obtain data from a network RTK server via Ntrip protocol in 4G/Wi-Fi network environment. Satellite observation data can also be saved in the aircraft for users to conduct post processed kinematics (PPK) to complete their tasks…”

 

Meaning that you have either connect with a Ntrip service or buy a D-RTK 2 Mobile Station for another $6K making the total investment around $13K (including extra batteries and charging kit).

 

Would this be worthwhile as an alternative to a Phantom 4 Pro/Emlid Reach RS+? Great question as the savings in not having to capture GCP’s (or a significantly reduced number) adds up and you can spend more time flying than on the ground.

 

Furthermore if you want to do set outs then this D-RTK module will not support other RTK units meaning you would still need an additional base station and rover (or rover if you have a Ntrip subscription) — a minimum $0.8-1.6K investment.

 

My prediction is that there will be more third party add-ons (there already are but their battery life is shite) that will work with both the Mavic and Phantom and third party RTK GNSS equipment like the EMLID kit and others.