Drones equipped with GNSS, inertial a game changer

April 1, 2020  - By

Why do we keep hearing about unmanned aircraft all the time, almost everywhere? Fortunately, the buzz has gone beyond next-door neighbors flying dangerously close to your roof or hovering annoyingly around a living room window, and incidents of UAV incursions shutting down airports seem to be getting fewer — improved enforcement and higher penalties may be slowing down these incidents.

Now, UAV users are taking on productive, innovative tasks that couldn’t previously be done, or finishing projects surprisingly quickly and more affordably than ever before, with drones built or adapted for new applications. And equipment manufacturers are creating new sensors customized for use on drones.

Commercial, integrated GNSS/inertial sensors are available that have extremely high performance — previously only available with expensive mil-spec electronics — but in lightweight, small packages, supported by real-time kinematic (RTK), precise point positioning (PPP) corrections or post-processed kinematic (PPK). UAVs carry still, video and multi-spectral cameras generating automatically geocoded outputs, ready for post processing into multi-layered formats — virtually everything a customer could ever dream of having. And lidar sensors enable drones to build accurate models of everything they overfly.

Drones originated largely with military forces. Originally used for forward intelligence gathering, UAV tasks have multiplied and substantially expanded in scope.

Commercial industries were quick to realize the benefits. Before drones, the cost of many tasks done manually would be prohibitive and too time-intensive. Fast, affordable data collection now allows us to quickly tackle and solve many problems.

UAVs can pre-survey large, previously inaccessible tracts of difficult terrain, collect detailed visual representations of entire cities, monitor and support crop growth, or even survey underwater terrain using lidar. UAVs provide crop-growing support by flying autonomous patterns and spraying fields with pesticides or fertilizer. They also are being called into service to spray villages with disinfectant to control the spread of coronavirus, and to survey England’s beaches to monitor coastal erosion.

Check out some case studies here:

Featured photo: PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

About the Author: Tony Murfin

Tony Murfin is managing consultant for GNSS Aerospace LLC, Florida. Murfin provides business development consulting services to companies involved in GNSS products and markets, and writes for GPS World as the OEM Professional contributing editor. Previously, Murfin worked for NovAtel Inc. in Calgary, Canada, as vice president of Business Development; for CMC Electronics in Montreal, Canada, as business development manager, product manager, software manger and software engineer; for CAE in Montreal as simulation software engineer; and for BAe in Warton, UK, as senior avionics engineer. Murfin has a B.Sc. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK, and is a UK Chartered Engineer (CEng MIET).