Saturday, March 29, 2014

A different view

Going to tech workshops is a bit like getting fundamentalist religion; people preach at you, show you a shining new future and you go away raving about it to your slightly bored friends (or at least I think that's what happens I’s an Anglican we rarely get that excited).
So to the tech day run by United Positioning Group the Australian distributor of all things Trimble. I actually like hearing about new items and the fun that can be had with point clouds even if I am the only non-surveyor in the room. So coming down from the mountain let me tell you about the fun I had with the UAV’s. 
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or as they are called by the ignorant are drones but they offer a cheap and effective way to quickly obtain aerial imagery and contours by combining GPS technology and cameras to produce digital surface models and orthophoto mosaics in visible light (default camera) or composite infrared light (CIR camera). Trimble offers two the small UX 5 and the X100. Typically they are black and look rather like Thunderbird 2.
Paul Standen UPG’s National Geospatial Manager has been introducing this technology and working through the rules with CASA so that they can operate legally and within safe parameters. This involved licencing the owners of the UAV’s and the operators.
Last years demonstration was aborted due to bad weather this year the clouds parted and Paul offered to pop down to Parramatta Park for a demo. I was keen and with Paul and three others we headed off. “I have a project in Parramatta Park” I ventured, great said Paul I’ll fly that.
Parramatta Park, I should explain, was part of the area that post-contact settlers were moved to in 1789 when it began to be apparent that the sandy soils around Sydney Cove were not suitable to agriculture. Exploration along the Parramatta River found a suitable site at “the Crescent” and a farming community of convicts was quickly established there. Parramatta Park  contains evidence of this early farming activity.
The time from arriving at the site, finding a car park and setting up for a flight was between 15-20min.
Parramatta Park General  003 ed
This is what the area looked like a grassy field with limited surface visibility.
The flying is autonomous that it once it is set up the plane will fly its route automatically and land once done. You don't “fly” the UAV you plan the mission by putting in some parameters and safety options and launch the plane. The UAV flew the mission in 9 minutes.
After retrieving the plan and packing up we went on our way and Paul downloaded that date and processed it in about 30min and had it in a Dropbox file for sharing. I was probably still on the train home.
What did we see -
Well us, and
A series of intriguing marks -  clearly a structure of some sort; various paths and drains and crop marks.
and of course contours
UPG Map contours
I could take Paul’s images and drop them directly into ArcGIS as they were geo-referenced and then overlay some historic aerial over them and do all the other GIS type things.
How cool was that – quick. easy with little set up time and processing time – the costs are well within the budget of an EIS or larger Heritage Assessment. With one flight we saw things which are not readily visible on the standard aerial such as Google Earth.
I have seen the flight Brothers and Sisters , I have seen the flight.

2 comments:

Jane Lydon said...

Wow that's amazing- did you know about the markings beforehand or was it a surprise?

IainS said...

Jane,

the crop marks were known but the other structures were not. Of course not you know what to look for you can see them faintly on Google earth.

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