by Claus KUEPPER

vr-pilot Drone Operations

 24/7 Drone Services


Generating 3D models of large areas can be quite challenging. We mapped a golf club's 120 ha (297 acres) wide course in order to test the limits of 3D model sizes. The model should be viewable online, at least when using desktop computers. We were able to make the large area fit into the technical constraints and the overall quality of the result is quite satisfying. The golf club's web page uses the 3D model as a source of advanced information about the course. Within the model player interface there is a toolbar that allows for switching between different predefined locations. The interface can also be set to an automatic "flight over the green".
The use of drones on emergency sites is getting more common over time. Drone laws in Germany allow many exemptions from legislation for authorities and organizations with security tasks not only in case of an emergency. Drones may also be used for training purposes with just a few limitations. Operating drones during special first responder and fire fighter trainings is a good opportunity to get rescuers used to the flying helpers. The photo shows such a training at "Rescue-Training-Center-Nord".


Third day of gathering agricultural data with a new multispectral sensor that delivers vital information of plants at different growing stages. The aim is to gather details on seed count and biological mass. The sensor data is processed on location by a software that is able to translate the results for a variety of plants. This way the software generates datafiles like e.g. ISOXML for a broad range of land machines, that will use the command lines on site when deploying seed, fertilizer or water.

Testing the Skytraxx 3.0+ system in use for airspace surveillance offering "Detect-and-Avoid" (DAA) abilities. This concept incorporates FANET, Open Glider Network and FLARM functionality. The latter is used especially by helicopters. This picture shows the ground station monitor which acts like a radar screen in order to locate other air traffic. The H520 hexacopter carries the on- board Skytraxx Beacon mounted below the battery compartment. The hexacopter's transponder signal can be received air-to-air by other aircrafts without a network delay.


This picture shows one of our successful "SAR" operations for deer fawns during spring last year. Deers are born and raised initially under the secure covering of the growing grass. Thermal live imaging helps finding them before they get harmed by mowers. On March 27th 2019 we were granted a permission by the local civil aviation authority to also fly in a large nature reserve for this kind of search and rescue operation. Prior to receiving this permission the local nature reserve authorities had to be convinced of the advantages of using drones inside the reservations. By providing scientific studies about the impact of drone usage inside nature reservations and recommended best practices of how to operate the UAS, this "SAR" was finally allowed under certain limitations and as a test for the years and technologies to come.

"Ready for departure" with the Yuneec H520 on the landing pad. Early growing stages of rapeseed (upper left) and wheat (right) can be seen. Agriculture is an important sector for drone operations. Last year's experimental season showed that economical conduct of agricultural field monitoring is only possible when operating in BVLOS mode (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight). This growing season some of our "spanned" fields will be monitored using a BVLOS permission. Additional RTK (Real Time Kinematics) equipment for enhanced GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) functionality will increase accuracy and efficiency at the same time.


After having taken part in the ds.xpress pilot bootcamp and becoming a member of the DPO Crew (Drone Pilot Operators Crew), quite some exciting missions may be expected for the coming year. Wind turbine inspections are a speciality of the DPO Crew for which special laser based measurement techniques were invented. Professional planning and execution is especially a must for this kind of operations, because downtimes of the wind turbines are critical. In order to deliver this demanding standards tailored trainings have to be gone through by the operators. This way onshore and offshore operations can achieve useful inspection results for the industry. The UAS H520 from Yuneec - that can be seen here during a training session at DPO Crew - proved to be a reliable platform since its debut about 16 months ago.


This NDVI-map shows the early plant stages of wheat, oilseed rape and barley. The map overall covers an area of 190 hectares (469 acres). The early wheat plants' small leaves on the lower left field (50 ha) produced a very weak footprint on the nadir images. Nevertheless the GSD of 2.2 cm/px at 75 m AGL was sufficient for analysis. The oilseed rape field (upper left, 62 ha) showed some damages by wild pigs. The barley field's plant health (at the right, 78 ha) varies mainly due to differences in geomorphology and thereby in irrigation. Automated further analysis like plant stress, population, diseases etc. can be acquired.


The survey of waterways can be quite difficult to be obtained. Trees and branches are possible obstacles in the river's path which can become a potential threat to the area as floodings could be caused by those. To monitor obstacles in river paths in remote or difficult to reach areas is a vital task for the safety of upstream regions. Drones can deliver images to create overviews of such regions helping authorities to take appropriate action to reduce the risk of floodings. The screenshot of the remote control was taken during such a survey mission.
During an open-door day at a volunteer fire department the use of drones by first responders like fire fighters was demonstrated to the public. A Yuneec Typhoon H Pro drone's live aerial image of its dual low light RGB and thermal camera CGO-ET could be viewed on a large screen. The "search and rescue" of persons and finding of fire sources - represented by the barbecue grill and special explosive fire demonstrations - caught the interest of many visitors. In addition to that a Yuneec H520 demonstrated ad hoc mapping capabilities of drones for generating aerial overview maps for disaster response.
The screenshot shows a thermal live image while flying patterns overhead a corn field for a wild pig search. This year's corn harvest was diminished by the summer's drought. The long enduring sunny period with high temperatures caused the soil to become hard as concrete. This is the probable reason for wild pigs not having caused too much additional damage to the corn plants initially. But as soon as the drought was ended by a series of major rain falls, the wild pigs began entering the corn fields. Thermal imaging helps proving their actual presence inside the fields, which is an important information for hunters.


Solar panel inspection is a good example for efficient use of drones. While the idea of installing photovoltaic on rooftops is great, inspection of those is much more challenging than the ones mounted close to the earth surface. This screenshot of the remote control shows the live thermal image with one isolated panel indicating a higher operating temperature. A technical malfunction is most probably the cause and the panel should be replaced in the near future. The group of warmer panels indicates possible differences in cooling efficiency.


This screenshot shows the remote control display of the Yuneec H520 during a mission close to a soccer game. Due to the large amount of spectators a special exception by the state's authorities required the risk analysis "Specific Operational Risk Assessment" (SORA). All exceptions were granted at the first request which was made possible to a large extend by the lowered "Air Risk Class" for hexacopters. Additionally geofencing was required and altitude limitation had to be obeyed.


Animals and drones. How do they interact? Common sense tells us that animals somehow must fear the unknown noisy bird in the sky, but reality shows different effects: while cows are primarily "interested" and deers react almost indifferent, horses can get quite nervous already from a distance just by the noise. Probably they think of approaching hornets? When using drones for environmental purposes the impact on animals' perception must be studied further...

"Plant Health Map" showing the chlorophyll content of a meadow as of date June 20th. The mown grass has just been put away and what can be seen is the dried out surface after almost 6 weeks with hardly any rain.
This photo shows a "SAR" operation for deer fawns during last spring. The "baby deers" are born and raised initially under the secure covering of the growing grass. But as soon as the mowing season begins, the lives of these little animals get endangered. Thermal live imaging helps finding them before they get harmed.


Newly invented mobile battery charger trolley for recharging batteries on site. Even when leaving the vicinity of the team SUV a continuous charging of drone and remote control batteries can be achieved.


The Yuneec H520 "Business Class Drone" is capable of carrying different kinds of payload. In this picture the payload locking mechanism can be seen because no device is attached. As of now a 20 mega pixels mapping camera, a 58° field of view (close up) inspection camera and a thermal imaging camera can be utilized, all with 360° endless gimbal rotation.

This year's season of deer fawn search and rescue has just begun. A little later than usual because of the extended period of cold weather. Now farmers begin to mow the first meadows and a lot of effort is done to avoid killing those fawns unintentionally. The photo shows a "fawn dummy" during parameter optimization of flight altitude, speed, pattern overlap and level of automation.


In-flight photo of a DJI Phantom 3 Pro equipped with a modified 4K camera producing NDVI imagery for plant health capturing. These images (and videos) contain "RGN"-information, which reveal the Red+Green+Near-Infrared (NIR) components of the light spectrum. High NIR reflectance levels indicate good plant health.


4WD SUV mobility is in many cases of great advantage when working for agriculture, forestries and the construction sector. An onboard charging concept keeps flight batteries ready at the launch site.


Using Pix4Dcapture in conjunction with Phantom 3 Pro. An NDVI-NIR-camera module will be tested this April for agricultural purposes. Plant health of vegetables, crops and forests can be monitored over large areas in a short time period.


End of March 2018: wing flight training with hybrid copter "Convergence VTOL" - equipped with real time video transmission - with probably the last snow on the flight test area for this year.


Orthomosaic and 3D modelling flight pattern for conservation and agricultural purposes. Approx. 400 nadir photos are taken to cover a 125,000 m² (12.5 ha) test area in less than 20 minutes flight time.

Preparing for flight tests at -6 °C outside air temperature. Operating drones below -5 °C OAT require special battery precautions and put system software to a test. Numerous critical flight phases were conducted without problems. The UAS proved to operate safely.


This video is an example for thermal live imaging during a search for pigs in corn fields. It was recorded flying a Typhoon H PRO RS hexacopter with a CGO-ET camera incorporating both, a thermal sensor and a low light FHD camera. Gathering data and images in post production enables detailed analysis.


Early morning "foggy" takeoff preparations on landing pad at - 5 °C. Winter seasonal testing of drone operations. Special attention must be paid to battery temperatures and possible propeller icing.