Skip to main content
skip to content Français Search
Start of main content

Geomatics takes flight

Kevin Grover, Stantec UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Operations Manager for Canada, answers FAQ's about Geomatics' latest toy, the Sensefly eBee UAS.

What is a UAS?
A UAS is an Unmanned Aerial System, also known as a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System), or drone. When an aerial system is referred to as being unmanned, it means the system does not have a human pilot on board. At Stantec, we are working with UAS platforms that fall under the small UAS category (under 25 kg/55 lbs in weight).

How does it work?
Stantec has a Sensefly eBee UAS which is a fixed wing system. It is made from foam, weighs roughly three pounds, and has a three foot wingspan. The advantage to our UAS is the automated flight software it comes with. The mission area is programmed in a Google Maps interface which then calculates how the UAS should fly to collect the area needed. Once uploaded to the UAS, the eBee is hand launched and flies the entire mission in a fully automated pattern. It flies, captures images, and lands all on its own. Many other UAS are not as automated as this system, making them much harder to operate.

What sensors are on the UAS?
The sensor on the UAS is an RGB camera. The eBee does have optional sensors including near infrared, multispectral, and thermal. Other UAS systems have different sensors including gas detection or LiDAR.

Where can you fly a UAS?
In Canada, Transport Canada set guidelines and restrictions on commercial UAS operations. There are restrictions on where commercial UAS can legally operate including proximity to airports, restricted airspace, and urban areas. Some other restrictions include maximum height (121 m/400 ft) as well as operating within visual line of sight. The visual line of sight restriction limits the distance the UAS can operate from the pilot in command which is typically around one kilometer (0.6 miles).

A permit called a Special Flight Operating Certificate (SFOC) is needed in order to legally operate a UAS. This permit governs how and where a UAS can be operated. With an increase in UAS experience, we have been able to obtain blanket permits to operate legally in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, NWT, Yukon, and Nunavut.

In the United States there are similar requirements, however the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently developing policy for commercial operations.

What does Geomatics use it for?
Geomatics has an arsenal of tools that we use on projects including levels, total stations, GPS, and laser scanning. The next progression was to integrate the use of UAS. The UAS is an excellent tool to collect 3D data and imagery on project sites like landfills, gravel pits, excavations, or even undeveloped land to determine topography. Geomatics specializes in collecting data, so it is important to understand what tools can be used on a project in order to get the best information for our designs.  

What else can you do with a UAS?
The important thing to realize with UAS is that it is just a platform to carry a sensor. The key is to determine what sensor is required in order to capture the data needed for your analysis. With the increase in small and lightweight sensors hitting the market, this is opening up the doors for further data collection. This could include the capture of high resolution oblique imagery or HD video, or integrating gas sensors or thermal cameras for leak and heat detection. There are many opportunities for the use of UAS, as long as the legalities to operate commercially are adhered to.

Kevin Grover has been leading Stantec's Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) technology since 2013 and has been growing its use and integration into design workflows. He has been able to integrate UAS technology into aerial mapping, topographic survey and remote sensing workflow at Stantec

Stantec’s Kevin Grover goes over the advantages of surveying with flying robots.

Transcript of the video follows
skip transcript
<p>Geomatics got a drone two years ago when we decided to jump into a different tool for the surveying and mapping environment</p> <p>There’s a lot of safety risks inherent to manned aircraft collection. It’s very expensive. So unmanned aircraft is a natural progression</p> <p>We bought a fixed-wing system, decided to go with a fixed-wing like a traditional airplane. It’s three feet wide, only weighs about three pounds, so it’s very small and compact. It’s typically used for small data capture</p> <p>There’s a lot of advantages to using a drone to do survey capture or mapping capture.</p> <p>The biggest one is the fact that you can actually get up in the sky and do capture from the air, as opposed to doing it from the ground.</p> <p>It can get very fast data capture. We can cover much larger areas than we can with a traditional ground survey in the same amount of time.</p> <p>It’s got automated flight control, so you launch it in the air and it will actually fly a mission, it will take pictures at set intervals. You can integrate different sensors into it. We currently have an RGB camera, but you can integrate different sensors such as near-infrared, thermal, and allows for different types of data capture.</p> <p>So we can cover some large ground area just by using inexpensive sensors and a very lightweight capture system.</p> <p>The biggest purpose so far has been for mapping purposes and 3D topography. We do a lot of laser scanning and other conventional surveying, so we’ve integrated that into a lot of the workflow that we currently have, and we can derive terrain models and very nice high-resolution colour imagery using the drone.</p> <p>We’re looking at other ways of using drones within other disciplines at Stantec. We’ve set up a couple of groups within Stantec to look at applying technology to the environmental service field, mining, oil and gas. Everybody has data collection needs, so with unmanned aircraft, it allows us to capture data more cost-effective for our clients, and for a variety of applications.</p>
comments powered by Disqus

View A Project Near You

Find Stantec projects near you
End of main content To top