Thegr8gecko

Inspection flight plans

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Is anyone aware of any software/flight planning app, weather free or for purchase, that can do vertical columns around a POI (I.e.- cell tower) and be planned like a normal 2D flight plan?

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If your flight controller is PX4 based then you can do this with MissionPlanner.  However, it's really easy to just possition the drone relative to the tower, fly in loiter, and use the throttle to adjust your vertical rate.  

 

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I have a DJI P4Pro. I'm not sure if that's PX4 based, but I was hoping to have a saved/ repeatable flight plan without flying manually? I think I remember seeing on the DJI GS pro that you can do a orbital flight plan around a POI, but I would have to fly that same flight plan at different altitudes and also figure an appropriate overlap of photos? I just thought it would be simpler to do repeatable vertical columns?

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PX4 is the base code for the Pixhawk flight controller.  The reason it has had success in the commercial market is because you can program it to do just about anything, but MissionPlanner is not for the faint of heart.  Its the "industrial" flight controller.

A couple of things to keep in mind, there are different types of cell towers so the idea of programming a flight path and then applying the same path to different towers doesn't really work that well.  Also, it depends on whether your doing an inspection or a survey.  If your doing a survey then you have to take into consideration whether the analytical software can use the data from vertical scan.  Pix4d does not do particularly well with this type of mission.  It can do it but there are a lot of things that can cause it to not work well and it totally sucks when you spend a lot of time and money getting the scan and not be able to deliver an adequate model.

If your doing inspection then a camera with a "real" optical zoom lens is important because it gives you better standoff capability.  Cell towers are worth a lot of money and the owner doesn't want drones flown too close to the structure.  If you crash into it it might damage something and everything on that tower costs 10X + the value of the drone.  Also if you crash land on the tower someone authorized to climb the tower will have to go up and retrieve it.  That will cost the drone operator as well and you'll probably never be hired to do another tower.

Your right to think that the flight should be automated, a lot of these towers are 200'+ and its unrealistic to think you can hand fly this.  Also, have you ever powered up and armed your P4 on the hood of your car?  You will most likely get a compass warning error and have to recalibrate.  Keep in mind that your flying that same drone in front of a metal tower that has a lot of microwave and RF.  

We pretty much shoot video of every mission and then I usually edit together these stupid little vignettes.  Some are fun, others not so much.  This falls in the latter, but you get to see a drone flying around a cell tower...   

http://iplayerhd.com/player/82da4bbd-3097-4c0a-ad99-a94680b70139

   

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On 6/17/2017 at 0:48 PM, Thegr8gecko said:

I have a DJI P4Pro. I'm not sure if that's PX4 based, but I was hoping to have a saved/ repeatable flight plan without flying manually? I think I remember seeing on the DJI GS pro that you can do a orbital flight plan around a POI, but I would have to fly that same flight plan at different altitudes and also figure an appropriate overlap of photos? I just thought it would be simpler to do repeatable vertical columns?

You can do orbits in Pix4D Capture but you are right, you will have to do multiple missions at different altitude. The front and side lap are computed by the flight software though so no manual flight planning is required (thankfully because its a pain). You can create a mission and fly it, then change the altitude and fly it again. With a 30° or 45° down angle on the camera (which you can also set in the software) you should get a decent 3D model out of it.

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I did come across a company (Airware), that does exactly what I'm looking for, but I believe the drone, flight plan setup and software is proprietary?

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Airware makes all sorts of claims.  I don't know of a single customer who has been able to purchase ANYTHING from Airware.

They do great press releases though.. 

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14 hours ago, Thegr8gecko said:

I did come across a company (Airware), that does exactly what I'm looking for, but I believe the drone, flight plan setup and software is proprietary?

I didn't see anything on the one site I went to that indicated that their solution was available to the general public (or anyone for that matter). This looks more like vaporware to me.

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I use Litchi for these kinds of missions.  It's ability to create, store and recall programmed waypoint flights is extensive.

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I just saw a couple days ago that DJI has released two versions of the inspection type flight plans (vertical and orbital POI) in their DJI GS PRO app. You have to pay to use them, $0.99 for 60 mins. or $19.99 for the year? I'll probably give this a try, but I appreciate all the help!

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