Year: 2017

26 Jun 2017
The Summit of Sgùrr Dearg, Skye

Skye’s The Limit

The Pin Cullin Ridge Skye
The Pin Cullin Ridge Skye

Last week we had an great opportunity to work with the The British Mountaineering Council on a new project. This involved some aerial film work for us on the Isle of Skye, the problem being it was on the summit of a mountain! Skytech Aerial UAV pilot Dave Redpath was up to the task, and takes up the story: Back in 2015 I remember watching The Ridge by Cut Media thinking to myself what a great film project. Two years later I’d never have guessed I’d get a similar opportunity!

Sgurr Alistair, Cullin Ridge Skye
Sgurr Alistair, Cullin Ridge Skye

To warrant the effort I knew I had to get the Inspire 2 up there and shoot with 4K ProRes422HQ. The Mavic or Phantom wasn’t going to cut it in terms of quality for the project. Coming in at 12 kilos before clothing, food and water I knew this was going to be a major effort. Having bagged over 50 Munros before family came along I had a rough Idea of the scale. The Inspire 2 was around the weight of climbing/camping gear anyway so I knew it was possible. Just nearly a decades gap in fitness to account for. I managed to squeeze in a few training runs and gear up on energy food and drink from Decathalon. I also invested in an external frame ruck sack much like the ALICE pack the military use.

 

Skytech Aeriall UAV Pilot Dave Redpath Flying the DJI Inspire 2 Nearly 1Km Up
Skytech Aerial UAV Pilot Dave Redpath Flying the DJI Inspire 2 Nearly 1Km Up

On the day the challenge for me was overcoming doubt that I could get up there. I’d built it up in my head I’d hit some terrible fitness wall mountain bikers refer to as the ‘bonk’. It hurt a bit but slow and steady won the race and I got to the summit in 3.5 hours. There was also a worry over geomagnetic interference on the ridge where compasses are reported to spin freely. The Inspire 2 had no problems. After a long wait to get the right mood and solitude I got the aerial shots required.  We got some great clear weather to shot in. I did 3 batteries of shots varying between the 12mm and 45mm Olympus M.Zuiko lenses compatible with the Zenmuse X5S. These were perfect for aerial establishing shots on the 12mm as well as some tighter tracking shots on the 45mm. After finishing up we got back for around 10pm, nearly a 15 hr day. If only I had more batteries and a mule. What an awesome spot to film.

Danny Macaskill: The Ridge from Cut Media on Vimeo.

The Pinn – BMC TV and Final Crux Films
09 May 2017
Phantom 3 AG

Agricultural Monitoring Trials

We’ve been refining our agricultural monitoring service which we will offer to farmers in Scotland and Northern England in the next few weeks. We have combined the MicaSense Sequoia Multispectral camera with a modified UAV for data collection. Using the Pix4D Mapper Pro software we can now produce high quality field data to supplement modern precision agriculture.

Currently there are several NDVI survey cameras on the market but many of these lack features and require difficult post processing to calibrate and geotag the resulting images. The Sequoia camera provides an all in one solution and integrates seamlessly with Pix4D Mapper Pro.

Phantom 3 AG
Skytech Aerial Phantom 3 AG In Flight.

This light weight camera made it possible for us to modify a DJI Phantom 3 drone to carry it. Over larger UAV platforms the smaller Phantom class is light and efficient to fly as well as easily transportable when walking a long way over rough ground. We’ve flown hundreds of acres so far in our trials and it’s proven capable of capturing the imagery required for agricultural mapping.

Once we have acquired imagery data from the field it is processed using Pix4D Mapper Pro a professional mapping software that calibrates, combines and indexes thousands of images to create an indexed field map. By combining different light spectral bands red edge (RE) and near infra red (NIR).

Vegetation Reflectance Bands
Vegetation Reflectance Bands

The principle of NDVI analysis is that a healthy plant reflects more NIR than an unhealthy plant. Plants may look green but the RE and NIR bands of interest are unseen to the human eye. These along with RGB colour values may be added to different indices formulas to provide a plant health indicator.

Pix4D AG
Screenshot of Pix4D Mapper Pro showing the stressed areas in red.

The indexed map colour then gives a plant ‘health’ indicator from green for healthy plants, through to red for stressed plants. This data can be used to create an ‘agricultural prescription’ which is simply an application map file readable by modern farm equipment so that they can spray the correct amount of fertiliser or pesticide in the marked areas.

This health report can then be used along with farm based data (what, when has happened already) as well as point inspections to diagnose the problem (pest, nutrition, irrigation).

Further examples follow:

Example 1
Example 1

Example 2
Example 2

12 Apr 2017

Skytech Aerial Now CAA Approved

Skytech Aerial PFCO
Skytech Aerial PFCO

We our pleased to announce our CAA approval has now arrived, better known in the industry as Permission For Commercial Operation (PFCO). This allows us now to operate legally in the UK to sell our UAV services.

In the UK there is currently no official license required to operate a UAV (drone). Currently the CAA divide pilots into two groups, hobbyists (non-commercial) who do not intend to make any monetary gain and commercial operators who will charge for their services. This has led to quite a lot of confusion and there have been a few stories circulating of the CAA actively seeking to prosecute those break it’s rule. For example, a man who sold his footage to a news network was threatened prosecution. It’s also a grey area regarding sale of photography and video by a hobbyist which is collected say for use on a website, or in ad sponsored Youtube channel.

Different countries have different rules regarding use of drones and how they are regulated. In the UK the rules are fairly simple just now. For Drones under 7KG you must keep far away for airports. Keep 50m away from the public and 150m from crowded areas. Despite the fact some drones travel several kilometers now the UK rules are to keep the drone in line of sight at all times. No higher than 400ft vertically and 500m horizontally. More information is available at dronesafe.uk.

A fair deal of common sense is also needed to stay out of trouble. The public don’t generally have a good perception of drones, so it’s not ideal to make the situation worse by flying in a busy park or disturb a peaceful area such as a nature reserve.

The Great Orme
The Great Orme

For instance the US have banned drones in their National Parks. The UK is rapidly following suit with the National Trust banning drones on it’s property. It’s not uncommon to see signs up to that effect on many beauty spots. Generally, if it feels like you will disturb, harass or infringe the privacy of someone without their permission don’t do it. Likewise, respect animals such as nesting birds and livestock that may feel threatened by the proximity of a drone.

That said this doesn’t make a flight impossible either. Make a plan, chat to property owners, landowners of your intentions. Most are more receptive than you think once they know what is going on. The UK Data Protection Act also applies to drones with a camera, the Information Commissioners Office ICO website also contains information on privacy law in the UK.

In the UK pilots holding PFAW have studied these issues and have submitted an operations manual to the CAA as well as valid insurance to obtain their approval. On first submission most pilots use a NQE to guide them with both theoretical and practical training and assessment towards PFCO.