In recent years, first-person view (FPV) drones have grown in popularity, expanding from a small group of specialised flyers to a broad category of remotely piloted aircraft with unique use cases and applications. But what are they, and more importantly, do they have a practical business application? Let’s find out.
What Are FPV Drones?
FPV Drones are First-Person Vision Drones. When it comes to piloting an FPV drone, this effectively means that the pilot sees exactly what the drone sees. Traditional drones are different in that they are piloted from the ground by the pilot, but with FPV, the drone is piloted via an onboard camera from the drone’s perspective. If you’ve seen someone flying a drone with headgear or goggles on, they’re most likely flying an FPV drone.
How Do FPV Drones Work?
There are various components that make up an FPV system. A tiny, nimble, multi-rotor model with fine control, hovering, and vertical take-off are all typical of an FPV drone, as are a camera and a video transmitter mounted to the drone’s body.
Basic models to more expensive 4K alternatives are available on the market today. A dependable live-video transmission with low latency is ensured by a high-quality transmitter, which means there is little lag between what the camera sees and what you see on the ground. This is crucial for safe and effective FPV flights.
At the ground-level, pilots rely on FPV goggles and a remote controller. The goggles include a headset with a screen that captures the first-person view. The flight controller often looks like a video game pad and is used for FPV drone flying.
Now that you know what FPV drones are and how they work, let’s review their real-world applications.
An FPV drone is mostly used for racing. Although conventional drones can be used for some FPV applications, not all of them are suitable for racing. This is due to the fact that your drone and the ground receiver must meet specified requirements that most non-racing drones cannot.
Drone racing has become a popular sport all around the globe. It allows a pilot to immerse themself in virtual reality, technology, and entertainment. You can compete in fields, forests, or abandoned warehouses, with each sort of location providing its own set of thrills.
Impressive maneuvers including flips, rolls, and other flight combinations have become a key component of drone freestyle. As a relatively new arena, it has attracted a large number of expert pilots. FPV freestyle drone flight pushes the envelope of standard drone flight, focusing on reaction times, technological advancements, and aerial freedom.
Search and Rescue (SAR)
Due to the advancement of FPV technology, search and rescue (SAR) has become a more widely used drone application for FPV drones. SAR teams can assign specialised duties to team members, such as one pilot focusing completely on the FPV flight, while another camera operator conducts an independent search with a second drone.
Farm FPV drones assist agriculture operations by giving drone pilots a dedicated FPV feed. This frees up the second camera or imaging device to perform other tasks such as NDVI data capture, picture mapping, or data collection. Agricultural FPV drones also make crop spraying easier and safer because the operator may automate the flight while keeping an eye on the live FPV video.
FPV systems combine radio frequency antennas, transmitters, receiver signalling technology, and state-of-the-art cameras to give you a terrific experience of viewing exactly what the drone’s camera sees. This also gives the pilot the opportunity to control the drone and obtain video shots that are incredibly tricky to obtain under normal flight operation. Nonetheless, when it comes to business applications, FPV drones are outclassed by other drones with more sophisticated technology.
But that doesn’t mean that FPV drones are useless. They trade complexity in data acquisition for the “thrill” of a first-person perspective, and this comes with some definitive perks.
One of the pleasures of FPV flying is the experience of seeing every twist and turn through the eyes of the camera. Not only is this experience highly enjoyable — it also helps the operator to control the drone with more precision and accuracy.
FPV technology gives you a whole new perspective on the world when it comes to aerial photography and filmmaking. This technology aids in shot composition and expands the possibilities for creating dynamic content.
FPV Drones Are Here To Stay
FPV drones have become one of the fastest growing categories of RC flight due to the unique and immersive perspective it delivers, along with access to very thrilling activities such as drone racing. It also helps that getting started with FPV flying is pretty simple.
All you need is an FPV drone and video goggles to display the video in real time. You can utilize your FPV drone for a variety of activities once you’ve set up your FPV system, including aerial photography and cinematography, entertainment, racing, and more.
Live Stream or 3D Model
Drones bring safety and efficiency to inspections of elevated surfaces and elements whether it is an electric transmission line, cell tower, or a flare stack at a refinery. Personnel do not have to directly access the various elements of these assets in order to visually assess their condition in the case of electro-optical (EO) sensors, or identify hot spots or cold spots using infrared (IR) sensors, which can then be used to identify defects within the material or operating unit. The fewer times you have to climb a cell tower, the fewer times you’ll be exposed to injury or death due to a fall. Shutting down a flare stack, impacting production capacity, and accessing the flare tip for an inspection is both costly and time consuming. Instead, it can be inspected with both EO and IR sensors to visually confirm the tip condition and see the combustion process and temperatures without having to hoist personnel up with a crane. The same applies to the inspection and condition assessment of roofs whether they are new, old, one story high, or on top of a high-rise building.
In a conventional inspection scenario, a subject matter expert, either an engineer or specialist, would have to go to the field to conduct these inspections and condition assessments. This of course costs time and money for travel and lodging, in addition to the inspector’s lost time on other projects. While in the field, the inspector would have to take pictures and index them in a photo/video log and provide notes on what issues or defects they had found. This is time consuming and daunting, particularly if several hundred images are needed to be collected and reviewed. Back at the office, the field findings would then be collated into a report of findings and possible fixes.
With the first level of inspections facilitated or augmented by a drone, the expert was usually on site standing next to the pilot observing the video stream from the drone. This had the added benefit of the expert being able to communicate directly with the pilot, position the drone, and take imagery of any areas of interest. This method also had the added benefit of reducing the duration of the inspection since rope access and other techniques were not needed to view the areas of interest. The downside of cost of time and money for travel and lost productivity on other projects still exists, though not as much with the reduction of the duration of the inspection.
In the next level of inspections via drones, the expert does not have to be on site at all. This greatly reduces travel costs and increases the efficiency of high-cost engineers and consultants. This is done by transmitting the drone data straight to the desktop of the expert, eliminating travel expenses and maximizing the utilization rate of the expert by allowing them to direct and inspect multiple remote projects, increasing productive and billable time.
This second level of drone inspection can be done by relying on two different methods or a hybrid of both. In the first method, the expert is in direct communication with the pilot, similar to the on-site method via an internet browser while observing the live video feed. This allows the expert to view the feed directly in real-time while directing the pilot to take additional high-resolution imagery or IR imagery for areas of interest. The deliverable to the expert, in this case, is the video along with a voice recording of their communications, and additional high-res imagery delivered electronically. From there, the expert can produce their findings and recommendations to their client or organization. The benefit of this method is the interaction between the pilot and expert to ensure all relative areas of interest are covered.
The second method involves photogrammetry and the production of a 3D model. In this case, a programmed flight is flown to cover the subject. High-resolution overlapping images are automatically taken. Using photogrammetry techniques, specialized software creates a 3D model that can be observed in a cloud-based browser and/or computer-based program. The inspection is not done directly in the 3D model — the model is instead used to locate the most relevant high-resolution image by pointing and clicking within the model. The relevant image and the adjacent images are then presented to the inspector. The inspector can zoom in and out of the image and make direct annotations. The software can then generate a report of all the annotations made for the asset presented with the relevant image for each. In this method, the hundreds of images taken can easily be indexed by the 3D model with areas of interest inspected and annotated. Areas of completed inspections can be color-coded to prevent duplicate inspections or missed inspections of critical elements of the asset.
Imagine having to review the same number of images in a flat file and keeping track of where you have been/where you needed to go. The benefit of this method is the ability to locate, track and annotate a large number of high-resolution images and generate a report of all the annotations and their associated imagery.
A hybrid of both the live stream and 3D model methods provides the best results for drone inspections. You get the benefit of the expert’s input to identify areas of interest along with the 3D model’s method of organising, visualizing, and report generating capabilities. In this hybrid method, the expert views the video feed of the automated flight from the desktop. When they see areas of interest that need further investigation and imagery, they can have the pilot pause the automated flight and maneuver the drone to a position best to capture the elements of interest. Once this is complete, the programmed flight can be resumed by automatically picking back up where it left off. In this way, the hybrid method maximizes the return on the drone-based asset inspection.
Drone inspections, by their very nature, are safer and more efficient than conventional on-site expert inspections. To put it simply, they save both time and money. As drone inspection technology allows for more robust inspections, the result will be a reduction in risk and costs while increasing the utilization and billable hours of the expert inspector.
A Double Edged Sword – Use and Protection
Drones, technically known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), have many applications in the wide-ranging security industry. Based on their size, cost, payloads, and configurations, they can both enhance and threaten security operations in many ways.
For the successful introduction of drone and counter-drone operations into an organization’s Security Management Plan, a thorough assessment of the needs and objectives should drive the development of use cases for their integration. Drones can do a lot of things, but sometimes the solution is a camera on a stick!
The current state-of-the-art drone technology can be broken down into four basic categories:
- UAV Technology
- Payload Technology
- Counter-UAV Technology
UAV Technology concerns the flying platform itself. UAVs come in many different shapes, sizes, and configurations that impact payload capacity, flight duration, and other operational characteristics.
Payloads vary in their capabilities, resolution, and level of integration. Some payloads are highly integrated and are a permanent part of the UAV, some are totally separate. High resolution and zoom cameras enhance what you can see. Infrared imagers allow you to track subjects in the dark and find hot spots in wildfires. Laser range finders can give you range, azimuth and altitude to your target. Spotlights and speakers provide additional capabilities.
In addition to the software that controls the drones, there is software that can be employed to post-process and store imagery, live-stream the video feed from the drone to remote locations, and AI software that can evaluate crowd behaviour and locate violent activity.
Counter-UAV Technology is based on detecting and tracking drones with radar, radio frequency (RF), electro-optical, infrared, and acoustic techniques and equipment. The countermeasures and interdiction uses many different technologies, from RF & GPS jamming to nets and projectiles.
There are three main categories of use cases for drones in security operations. They are Patrolling, Situational Awareness, and Counter-UAS.
Patrolling use cases generally involve a level of patrolling and/or surveillance — whether by autonomous or manual flights — i.e. patrolling the perimeter of a secured area. Another example would be the deployment of an autonomous drone, from an onsite nest, at a remote location in response to an alarm or triggered sensor.
Situational awareness use cases generally involve emergency responses that are typical for first responders that need good situational awareness and command and control of incident response. For example, rolling up to a HAZMAT incident and needing to scout the situation from a safe distance before deploying teams into the incident area.
Counter-UAS use cases are developed to detect and/or intercept drones operating illegally or dangerously, particularly in and around critical infrastructure, prisons, airports, and large events. For example, drones have been used to drop contraband into prisons for pick-up by inmates.
Counter-UAS technology and techniques would be used to deny the operator the ability to fly in the area either by surveillance or jamming of specific radio wavelengths used to control UAVs. Direct interdiction of these drones can be done with drone deployed nets, or even by trained animals such as eagles, which has been done in the Netherlands.
When it comes to drone uses in security, both a needs analysis and clear objectives are required to initiate operations. Contact us today for a free assessment on how you can upgrade your operations with the power of drone technology.
Have you ever wondered how cities can leverage drone technology to serve the public? From police departments to firefighters, public departments nationwide are beginning to take note.
That’s because of a UAVs unique ability to work safer, faster, and more efficiently than ever before. From traffic accident analysis to search and rescue, local governments have begun to leverage UAV technology to make smarter communities a goal of the future.
With this goal in mind, we’re pleased to announce that the South Florida Governmental Purchasing Cooperative has officially signed a multi-year renewal with Suntuity AirWorks! In a bid to further update both public and private entities in the region with the advantages of drone technology, we’re excited to continue helping the Sunshine State with an aerial advantage.
The original agreement, signed in 2019, positioned us to supply, train, and maintain commercial drones for police, firefighters, disaster relief teams, and more within the 56 different townships and agencies of the Co-op.
This long-term membership renewal emphasizes the successful implementation of Suntuity AirWorks’ all-in-one drone package solutions in South Florida. These packages were created to increase efficiencies for existing departments needing to purchase new drones, train their teams, and fully integrate aerial technology into existing services. Among the existing services are programs that help public servants better perform for their communities. From thermal imaging for electrical inspections to ongoing and post fire assessment, Floridians can feel safer when their emergency personnel have access to the latest and greatest tools of the trade.
Government agencies currently taking advantage of the contractual drone benefits include the Boca Raton Police Department, the Palm Beach Police Department, the Town of Davie Fire Rescue and Police Departments, and the City of Lake Worth Beach Utility Services.
Charmie Pujalt, Director of New Business Development at Suntuity AirWorks, believes the proven success of the South Florida Co-op membership will lead to further drone integration for public service departments and businesses nationwide.
“The best way existing departments can increase efficiency and reduce costs is with the power of drone technology,” said Pujalt. “From infrastructure inspection to police and fire deployments, the value aerial technology provides to local departments looking to update their processes is unmatched. That’s why Suntuity AirWorks is taking the experience and success we gained in the South Florida Co-op and expanding our end-to-end drone solutions to other agencies and townships across the country.”
The Co-op membership renewal comes off the heels of the recent announcement of our new drone leasing program, a cutting-edge pricing initiative created to help offset the cost of purchasing large-scale drone equipment.
We look forward to continuing our mission to build a better future with the power of drone technology. If you are a Co-op member and are interested in exploring your options with the program, contact Charmie Pujalt at 833.424.7957 or submit an inquiry to [email protected].
Our drone integration solutions can be customized to include training on various UAV platforms, as well as developing UAV Programs and documentation for your department. Thanks to our experience serving public institutions in Florida, we are more prepared than ever to bring the power of drone technology to your department. We look forward to serving you!
Upgrading systems and procedures with the power of drone technology is necessary in order to save time, money, and lives in almost every industry. But there’s a problem.
Drone equipment is expensive.
That’s why we’re launching a first-of-its-kind drone leasing program to help anyone, from small businesses and cities to multi-national corporations, easily invest in an aerial update.
Drones are making data collection and inspection safer and faster than ever before, but in order to update their systems with drone technology, companies have to swallow a significant initial expense in order to purchase the drones, cameras, and training they need.
That’s why we created the Suntuity AirWorks Leasing Program — to offset the financial burden that keeps many cities and businesses from fully incorporating cost and life saving drone services into their existing platforms.
Unlike current third-party financing platforms, the Suntuity AirWorks leasing program provides a variety of UAVs, an on-site flight and equipment training platform, and a drone replacement service to ensure new owners can effectively operate and benefit from their new drones.
But there’s another consideration — technical obsolescence.
Because drones are in the middle of a technological boom, new UAVs are being developed on an annual basis with better and smarter technology. That’s a problem for businesses, as the cost-savings of drone services could be offset by continually purchasing new equipment.
Our leasing program offers customers the option to easily trade-in aging UAVs in order to upgrade leases to the newest drones as they hit the market.
“Technological obsolescence is a real concern for new drone owners,” said Gordon Dowrey, Director of Operations. “By offering this new leasing program, lessors will be able to build their drone fleets without fear of an expensive purchase becoming outdated down the line.”
With a significantly lower initial expense, the ability to upgrade and replace aging drones, and an in-house training program designed by our own drone pilots, customers will now be able to more easily transition to drone technology than ever before.
To learn more about the advantages of buying vs leasing drones, click here.
Airspace regulations set the stage for how the drone industry works. From safe flight practices to no-fly zones, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for making sure the drone industry doesn’t mimic Icarus in its ascent toward the sun.
Recently, the most hotly contested regulatory change has come in the form of the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft proposal. To the FAA, it means more accountability and less specific regulation. To pilots and drone manufacturers, it means a systemic change in the way business gets done.
Set to go into effect in March, the FAA has pushed their new Remote ID requirements back a month to April 21 of this year, giving both pilots and drone manufacturers more time to adjust to the sweeping rules change.
But what is Remote ID, and why do you need to know about it?
For starters, Remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that can be received by other parties. To put it simply, consider it a digital license plate for your drone.
Regulators are hoping that the ability to immediately identify any drone in the sky will ensure that aerial operations are performed with more safety and accountability than ever before.
The rule change will require all drone manufacturers to outfit all new UAVs with Remote ID capabilities. But they’re not the only ones impacted — drone pilots will also have to retrofit all of their existing drones with technology that ensures their older drones can submit their IDs as well.
This is a huge change that will virtually impact everyone in the drone industry.
The FAA believes that Remote ID laws will lay the foundation for safer and more complex drone operations, and on paper, it makes sense.
After all, the more prevalent drones become in inspections and deliveries, the more we’ll need to ensure the safety and legality of those operations.
Nevertheless, drone industry insiders need to familiarize themselves with this new Remote ID rule due to the timeline of its implementation. After April 21, drone pilots and manufacturers will only have 18 months to ensure all new and existing drones have Remote ID capabilities.
It’s important to note that, with the Remote ID rule in place, the FAA is softening restrictions on night flights and flights over crowds, which would make thermal surveys and inspections easier to perform than ever before.
That trend could become the norm going forward, but for now, it’s important for everyone in the drone industry and beyond to understand Remote ID before it becomes law. Your future as a drone professional may depend on it.
Tired of drone restrictions? Then these recent rules changes might be for you.
Love them or hate them, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in place to ensure the safety and viability of any operations in the sky. From Boeing 747s to a drone that can fit in your hand, if it flies, it most likely falls under the FAA’s jurisdiction.
But, just like with planes before them, overregulating drones has led to backlash in the commercial sector. After all, drone services make inspections, deliveries, and data gathering safer, smarter, and more efficient than ever before.
Those unique service abilities have translated to real market demands throughout the United States and abroad. With current regulations in place, Business Insider projects the drone service industry to grow to $63.6 billion by 2025.
Nevertheless, the FAA is in place to balance safety with economic growth. They don’t make rule changes lightly, but they also don’t ignore new technology and techniques that innovate the aerial industry.
That’s why their newest rules changes are set to break the commercial drone industry wide open.
First and foremost, it is now legal for drones to fly over people.
Second, it is now legal for drones to fly commercial operations at night.
Previously, drone service providers needed exclusive FAA waivers to fly specific jobs over people or at night. The waiver process took time for the FAA to review, and pilots needed new waivers for each job, significantly bottlenecking the commercial viability for inspections on a larger scale.
Now, nighttime thermal facade inspections or facility inspections with workers present can now be streamlined and completed on-demand, vastly improving the serviceability and efficiency of these kinds of drone services.
The rules changes come thanks to the FAA’s new reliance upon a drone’s ability to identify itself remotely instead of simply operating anonymously in the sky. With remote ID, drones autonomously broadcast their location, altitude, speed, ID, and more so that air traffic control can know when and where drones are operating.
Many in the drone service industry see remote identification as what has allowed the FAA to relax drone service restrictions for night flights and flying over people, and see it as a sign that more innovative rule changes are on the horizon for the commercial drone industry.
To put it simply, now that responsible drone pilots and commercial drone service operators can be identified in the sky, they’re being given more freedom to complete their services than ever before.
That means more savings, more efficient drone operations, and more opportunity to grow in this already booming sector.
Thought you knew all a drone can do? Think again.
With the announcement of DJI’s newest enterprise level drone, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, drone capabilities for the energy, infrastructure, and telecom industries have become more viable and affordable than ever.
So let’s break down what makes the M2E:A a game changer.
First and foremost, this drone is not for everyone. It’s no novelty — it’s an advanced machine specifically built for large-scale industrial applications such as thermal energy detection, facade inspection, and much more.
The M2E:A raises the standard for a go-to industrial drone. While the Matrice 300 RKT is the top-of-the-line industrial drone, its capabilities may not be what you need. The Matrice 300 is durable behemoth with all the fixings, but you’ll have to fork out cash for not just the drone, but the specific cameras for whatever job you need.
The M2E:A is different. It covers your bases by being a compact yet powerful and cost-effective alternative to the Matrice line. It comes standard with both thermal and visual cameras, 32x digital zoom, and centimeter-level positioning accuracy to start.
The visual camera sports 48 megapixels, which is a 200% increase over the standard megapixel requirement for most enterprise level inspections. The thermal camera steps up as well, offering a 30Hz frame rate, 640 x 512 resolution, and both spot and area meter measurement capabilities.
But those are just the cameras. The drone itself has DJI’s patented omnidirectional obstacle sensing technology, which means that your investment is protecting itself while it saves you money from the skies.
Drone work comes in all shapes and sizes, but knowing the right drone for the job can be the difference between saving money and wasting it.
This drone in particular is best suited for land surveying, surface and below-surface facade inspections, thermal applications (such as identifying hot-spots and energy leaks, cell tower inspection, pipeline inspection, and general facility inspections on a large scale. It can also thrive in fire departments looking to introduce aerial capabilities to their teams.
But perhaps the most unique feature of the M2E:A is its “Dual Vision” mode, which showcases a direct side-by-side visual from both thermal and visual cameras simultaneously.
This feature will be invaluable to roof inspectors who can now complete both surface and below-surface inspections with the same capture, which offers the industry an unprecedented opportunity to streamline their processes and complete more advanced work in far less time.
But the question isn’t how good the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced can be for other businesses.
The question is, is the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced right for yours?
To find out, give us a call or contact us online and our team of experts will walk you through how this new drone may be altering your industry for the better in the new year.