Programming a Flight Using a Drone with a Small Payload


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My name is Gary and I know almost nothing about drones. I have a specific project and would appreciate expert guidance.

We have a bunch of sensors in an area which is relatively flat. We are monitoring the conditions with sensors to look out for the health of animals. The sensors are about 1Km apart which makes IoT WiFi prohibitive.

What we need is a drone that can be programmed to fly very near these data collection units and hold for a few seconds while the measuring device uploads data, then go to the next spot and so forth. The return "home" to deliver the data.

The payload is a small WiFi router and a small computer, both powered by a smallish battery. Perhaps the whole thing is 1 to 1.5 Kg

Could I get some suggestions on what equipment I should be looking for please?

Regards,

Gary

 

 

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Hey Gary, pardon the delayed response and thanks for posting here.

I'm wondering if you could use a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with this payload attachment accessory?

That payload attachment price feels high, I'm sure there are other options out there.

And you could figure out a way to package and attach your WiFi router securely?

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has an intelligent flight mode called Waypoints that you could use to program an autonomous flight. You could use an app like Litchi to do this as well.

Would love it if you shared your progress with the project in this forum thread. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Also curious what other folks might recommend as solutions. (cc @Dave Pitman, @Av8Chuck)

 

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The challenge with using a DJI drone is that they are designed and tuned for a specific payload, they work exceptionally well if it does what you need but doesn't work well at all if you try and use it for something it wasn't built for.

The connector for Mavic2Pro, computer and WiFi router weigh approximately three and a half pounds plus you need power.  You might be able to get 5V from the MAVIC, if you need more power you'll need to add an external battery which will likely put you at almost four pounds making the MAVIC2Pro not a good candidate for this mission.  

If you want to stay with DJI you should look at the M100, M200 or possibly even an Inspire2.  To kit any of these models out for the field will be pretty pricey, approximately $7K to $15K.  You might be better to contract with someone to build you a purpose built platform that is rugged enough with all you need to deploy it into the field.  It would probably cost about the same but then you'd have exactly what you need, not have to update the firmware every other day and have a tool that you can depend on for several years.  If your not moving your sensors  around it would be quite easy to automate the entire process.  You could even embed your computer into the drone so that you can use it to find the strongest signal and validate that you've collected the information your collecting before returning to land. 

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I mostly agree with Chuck's assessment.  With a 1.5 kg payload,  you would need at least a M200 series if going with DJI.  You could easily do it with an M600 pro or M300.  A custom built unit should also be on the list.  The total distance needed to travel while carrying that payload will also be a factor. Can it be multiple short hops or does it need to be a longer out and back.

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  • Alan Perlman changed the title to Programming a Flight Using a Drone with a Small Payload
22 minutes ago, Dave Pitman said:

The total distance needed to travel while carrying that payload will also be a factor. Can it be multiple short hops or does it need to be a longer out and back.

Right, there's the "line of sight" component to this as well. Good point.

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On 3/14/2021 at 7:28 PM, GaryK said:

My name is Gary and I know almost nothing about drones. I have a specific project and would appreciate expert guidance.

We have a bunch of sensors in an area which is relatively flat. We are monitoring the conditions with sensors to look out for the health of animals. The sensors are about 1Km apart which makes IoT WiFi prohibitive.

What we need is a drone that can be programmed to fly very near these data collection units and hold for a few seconds while the measuring device uploads data, then go to the next spot and so forth. The return "home" to deliver the data.

The payload is a small WiFi router and a small computer, both powered by a smallish battery. Perhaps the whole thing is 1 to 1.5 Kg

Could I get some suggestions on what equipment I should be looking for please?

Regards,

Gary

 

 

As suggested by @Av8Chuck a custom built drone would likely be the best solution for this application. There are a couple of open source flight stacks that could be used.

https://ardupilot.org

https://px4.io

These flight stacks provide the stabilization, navigation and guidance for the drone and can be programmed with "missions" consisting of waypoints which in your case would of course be the ground sensors. Configuration, mission planning and flight monitoring is also provided by open source software running on a laptop, tablet or phone.

https://ardupilot.org/planner/ 

http://qgroundcontrol.com

The flight stacks are also very customizable and support a "companion" computer communicating via a protocol called "Mavlink". That companion computer potentially could be your small computer/router depending on the OS it runs. One example of a companion computer is the Raspberry pI which has built in WiFi and can operate as an access point so could easily be used to upload data. Also those flight stacks can control both mutli-rotor aircraft and fixed wing and in your case, depending on the required distance to travel, a fixed wing maybe the better option due its prolonged flight time. Of course it also depends how close the aircraft needs to get to the ground sensors but potentially a fixed wing could circle that location while uploading the data.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Thank you all! Keep it coming! You have given me much to study. I will keep you informed of progress. It will be slow as we are building a lot of IT infrastructure at the moment and this is but one little piece.

Edited by GaryK
adding context
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3 hours ago, GaryK said:

Thank you all! Keep it coming! You have given me much to study. I will keep you informed of progress. It will be slow as we are building a lot of IT infrastructure at the moment and this is but one little piece.

It looks like an interesting and doable project. Also any further requirement details that you can share would help answer any more questions that you may have.

Edited by Spitfire76
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On 3/22/2021 at 10:43 PM, Alan Perlman said:

Hey Gary, pardon the delayed response and thanks for posting here.

I'm wondering if you could use a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with this payload attachment accessory?

That payload attachment price feels high, I'm sure there are other options out there.

And you could figure out a way to package and attach your WiFi router securely?

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has an intelligent flight mode called Waypoints that you could use to program an autonomous flight. You could use an app like Litchi to do this as well.

Would love it if you shared your progress with the project in this forum thread. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Also curious what other folks might recommend as solutions. (cc @Dave Pitman, @Av8Chuck)

 

Is it possible with DJI inspire 2 too?? 

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