Drones have enabled our society to conduct a multitude of projects in a safer, more efficient manner. One has to look back over the past decade to see the rapid growth of the UAS industry, and a few of the players within this market have made a name for themselves and stood out from the rest.
One of these industry leaders is Wingtra, a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft manufacturer.
SurvTech Solutions is a surveying firm, first and foremost, but with one thing that makes it stand out from most other companies within the surveying industry – the willingness to try out new technologies and integrate them into surveying practices.
The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Department focuses solely on drones and how they can augment traditional survey methods to increase productivity and provide a greater degree of detail than what is typically produced by conventional survey crews. While heavily involved with LiDAR projects, SurvTech also utilizes photogrammetry in many of their projects, and the Wingtra drone shines when called upon to capture that data.
A few details set the Wingtra apart from many of the other fixed-wing drones on the market today. First and foremost, especially when it pertains to providing services to various Department of Defence (DoD) and other government entities, is the fact that the Wingta was included in the Blue sUAS 2.0 list – this is enormously helpful when trying to get flight approval in restricted areas where data security is of concern to the client.
While many would argue that depending upon the payloads, the data is not transmitted or recorded, but the payload data stick itself, the added security of utilizing a drone that has been vetted and approved for governmental use adds a level of comfort to the client.
Another benefit to the Wingtra is the Post-Processing Kinematic (PPK) module and license, which creates a great workflow that drastically reduces the time spent in the field. With the PPK module upgrade, users are able to reduce (some will say eliminate, but from a surveying aspect, the greater the accuracy, the better) the number of ground control points, which reduces the time and effort involved with the survey crew setting targets or finding suitable photo-identifiable data (PID).
SurvTech has found this technology to be of the greatest use while collecting imagery for ortho mosaic images of power transmission corridors as well as when flying to larger areas where there are lakes or heavily wooded areas where it is more difficult for the processing software to stitch the individual images together. With the Wingtra utilizing the PPK module, fewer aerial targets are needed for ground truthing, which also helps to reduce the need to extend flight paths to incorporate an area that may be more suitable for target placement.
The Wingtra is the perfect tool to utilize for power transmission corridor mapping, especially when paired with LiDAR collection efforts. While the industry is excited about the advancement of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) technology, the current LiDAR offerings for fixed-wing drones that fall under the sUAS Part 107 rules do not meet the accuracy and point cloud density requirements that one typically sees in the scope of work for transmission line mapping.
This is where other drones come into play – SurvTech is unique in that it has a large fleet of different types of drones to work together to accomplish the task at hand. Each drone serves its purpose much like other tools in the toolbox that have different uses. The Wingtra is SurvTech's go-to for nearly all photogrammetry projects. Having multiple payloads that are explicitly configured for the Wingtra makes swapping between camera systems a breeze.
Another benefit is being able to quickly create a flight plan back in the office utilizing the WingtraHub and then export it and email it directly to the pilots in the field, which is also a plus. The battery life allows the drone to collect large areas without having to land and swap out the batteries every 20 minutes, like many of the rotocopter drones.
SurvTech has used the Wingta on projects ranging from Department of Transportation (DOT) work and power line corridors to mapping jetties and construction projects for the US Army Corps of Engineers. After over two years of usage that averages around one flight a week, we have not had any maintenance issues with the Wingtra.
The lack of downtime for maintenance is impressive, to say the least, and the company has enjoyed flying the Wingtra so much and anticipates the usage to increase over the next year, so a second Wingtra was purchased to ensure that the demand for services can be met.