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Drone Flight Planning 3 years 3 days ago #255

  • Rob Jacob
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I thought I'd use the forum to share some information on the services I currently use for drone flight planning. These are free, but bare bones services that I found useful in getting from FAA authorization to flight planning to ortho image processing. These steps were necessary for our Environmental Department because we had not budgeted for more sophisticated processing software such as Drone2Map or AgiSoft. I hope this is useful for those beginning their drone programs.

First - FAA Authorization might be needed if drone flight is planned within the vicinity of an airport. The B4UFLY app ( www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/ ) is a mobile app that is endorsed by the FAA for determining any flight restrictions in the are where the drone flight is planned.

For FAA Authorization I use Skyward (app.skyward.io/#/sign-in) to obtain near-instant authorization for flights over tribal land within the restricted area of our local airport. To check and see if nearby airports are approved for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), go to www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/uas_data_exchange/ for information.

Next, I have been using Drone Deploy (www.dronedeploy.com/) to set automated flight patterns for some of our drone missions. While this step is not necessary if the planned flight is manual and the flight pattern does not need to be repeated, I have found it useful for vegetation and wetland restoration mapping and monitoring where the flight patterns need to be duplicated over time.

For processing ortho imagery, I have been using Precision Mapper (www.precisionmapper.com/users/sign_in) for this service. At no charge, I can process 6 surveys per month (I think up to 1000 images per survey) and download several useful files such as point clouds, georeferenced orthos, contours and more. I find the orthos the most useful as I can use them for current basemaps in ArcGIS and to show changes in vegetation patterns for our restoration and monitoring projects.

In sum, while all of these services are free, they are limited and your mileage may vary. Some apps (Drone Deploy, DJI Go 4, etc. might work better on iOS than Android or vice versa). However, I found them useful for future planning. The limitations have revealed what our program needs and, thus, we can adjust budgets and work plans accordingly. I have provided brief descriptions of these services, so to that end, please examine each carefully to see if it meets your drone program needs. Remember that all responsibility falls to the Pilot In Command (PIC).

Please feel free to correct, expand or inquire on the information in this post. My intention is not to mislead the Tribal GIS community, but inform on what has helped get our program started. We have had great initial success and look forward to using more advanced software and monitoring/mapping techniques.
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Last edit: by Rob Jacob.
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