The Value of Mapping Vertical Obstructions

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We have been locating, documenting, and mapping vertical obstructions for one of our many customers.  As a retired US Air Force C-130 Navigator I flew low level missions at 300 feet almost every day.  I know the value of knowing where your vertical obstructions are located before you go fly.  We recently worked on an area with an incredible amount of new obstructions.  The red line on the screenshot are actually dots that represent powerline pylons and the blue dots represent light poles either along roads or within athletic areas.  Every dot on the map represents an obstacle that is taller than 50 feet.  Most are between 50 and 100 feet, but there are occasional vertical obstructions that reach up to 1,000 feet or more.  Those could ruin your fun day of flying whether you are in a C-130 or a Cessna 172.  For safety of flight reasons it is imperative to know where these obstacles are.  The work we do eventually makes it into FAA and DoD flight charts to help promote safety of flight.  This is a huge project that we have been working on for the last 3 years.  We have mapped the vertical obstructions for an enormous amount of airports over that time.

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Shafer Metro East Airport Photography

We started a wonderful science project yesterday.  We took one of our drones (our DJI Mavic) over to Shafer Metro East Airport to test the capability of the drone and its ability to integrate with our photo processing software (Drone Deploy).  We flew the Mavic for about an hour on a search pattern over Shafer Field, covering every inch of the airport.  We ended up collecting about 1200 photos.  Drone Deploy’s maximum upload is 999 photos per map, so we edited out the ones we didn’t think we needed and uploaded the 999 we kept.  It took about 2 hours to upload the photos and then Drone Deploy worked for about 6 hours to process them in the cloud into a seamless photo mosaic.  The Mavic is a very impressive small drone.  It folds up to about the size of a small shoebox, and the quality of the photos are amazing.  The resolution of the photo is approximately 1″ per pixel. The colors are very nice and the photo looks fantastic.  For all of our friends in California, yes, we have had a lot of rain the last couple of weeks and things are really this green.

Here is a sample of the photos we took yesterday.  Below the photo is a link that will take you to an interactive web-based map of the airfield where you can zoom in and out and pan around the photo.

Shafer Field 20170419

                                          Shafer Metro East Airport, St Jacob, Illinois

The downside of the photo is that it is not all that accurate.  It is definitely not accurate enough to use for survey work, which we are trying to accomplish. Most of the points in the photo are within 2 to 5 feet of their actual position on the airfield, but the end of Runway 31 down in the lower right corner of the mosaic is about 20 feet off of its actual position on the ground.  We are looking to add Ground Control Points to our future work to ensure more accurate photos, but there is also the possibility of adding Real Time Kinnematic (RTK)  correction our larger drone’s navigation system so that the camera will know more accurately where it is taking the photos from and helping the system to produce more accurate photos.  We will have to decide whether we want the convenience of taking our Mavic out to the field with its longer flight time and easier logistics, but have to place ground control points in the field before we fly, or do we go with our more expensive and huge DJI S1000 and add RTK correction.  It makes for an easier process, but the S1000 is so much bigger and requires a lot more equipment and logistics to do the same job.  It will be interesting to see how we implement this.  We have a fantastic science project that we will be working on this summer for now.

Checkout the latest ESRI ArcNews Article

Checkout the latest ESRI ArcNews Article on Airport Incident Management here http://ow.ly/Y5DxI

VerticalGeo will be at the American Asso

VerticalGeo will be at the American Assoc of Airport Execs (AAAE) Conf May 15-18 in Houston. Stop by Booth 1022. ow.ly/Y5BKM

Big Happenings with Small Satellites

Interesting developments in the small satellite world: Link

Cubesat

Cubesat

International Year of Light

Thanks to my friend Brittany K. L. Mabry for putting together a great article on the International Year of Light for LiDAR News. Expect to hear lots of information regarding the use of LiDAR and other light-based technology over the next year. Here is a link to the article: http://www.lidarnews.com/content/view/11124/136/

Going Paperless

I have been thinking about going paperless with my company VerticalGeo for the last couple years.  I have cut the amount of paper I use by 50% over the last year by storing most of my paperwork online with DropBox.  Lately though I have been hearing people I work with talk about how great the Evernote program is.  I downloaded Evernote the other day and have been experimenting with it.  I like it, but thought it would have limited impact until I saw this video by John Chow on YouTube.

Looks pretty interesting to me, so I think I’ll take the plunge and buy the scanner and see how paperless I can go.