What Sets a Commercial UAV Apart from a Consumer Model?

Ten years ago, UAVs were almost strictly within the purview of commercial applications. Today, many households have UAVs at home. UAVs are everything from toys for children to highly advanced, professional machines. But where is the line drawn? What are the differences between a commercial UAV and a consumer model? How can you tell the difference?

Here’s everything you need to know about what distinguishes commercial UAVs from consumer models.

The Commercial UAV

Today, commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are being used in everything from construction to the energy industry. UAVs are used for surveying, maintenance, and safety. But the UAV that is used for commercial use is a far cry from those that are in the standard home. An aerial mapping UAV will be much more technologically advanced than an at-home toy or hobbyist quadcopter, and much more expensive. 

Still, there’s no strict delineation between commercial UAVs and consumer UAVs for a very simple reason: UAVs have become more and more advanced. Just as there is a sliding spectrum of cameras, from a simple phone camera to a professional grade model, there’s also a sliding spectrum between commercial and consumer UAVs. Between the two are “prosumer” (professional consumer) UAVs that are very similar to commercial models, but still are not generally used for commercial use. Consumer-grade UAVs in use today may very well have been commercial-grade UAVs 10 years ago.

Here are the major differences between today’s commercial and consumer UAVs:

  • Cost. Let’s begin with the most obvious difference. A commercial UAV is very expensive, with the cheapest being a few thousand dollars. More commonly, a commercial UAV is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, a prosumer UAV is likely to cost about a thousand dollars, while a recreational, consumer UAV may only cost a few hundred. Recreational UAVs are getting cheaper every day, but commercial UAVs are getting more technologically advanced, and thus more expensive.
  • Support. A commercial UAV is more likely to come with in-depth support. While many consumer or prosumer UAVs will still have customer support available, the customer support will be more along the lines of offering a refund if the UAV is defective. Meanwhile, commercial UAVs have support services that can help them with both technical and operational issues.
  • Durability. UAVs crash all the time. It’s just a fact. UAVs are extremely stable in most conditions, but during heavy winds, they simply may not be heavy enough to maneuver themselves. But when commercial models crash, they’re usually fine. Prosumer models are going to be very durable and will be able to take a lot of hard hits. Cheaper, consumer models could break on the first crash.
  • Sensor control and integration. Commercial UAVs allow for sensor control on a granular level and integration with precision solutions. Some UAVs are used for surveying, and others may be used for things like film production. Either way, they need to have the right level of sensor control. They have to be able to capture their exact location and maintain consistency.
  • Customization. Commercial UAVs can be used for many purposes, and consequently, must be built so that they can be altered and customized. Consumer UAVs are usually built for a single purpose. They may be built to carry a GoPro, or to carry small packages. Commercial UAVs are more commonly used for things such as surveying, but an aerial mapping UAV is likely to be a commercial UAV tailored for that purpose.

There are also some practical differences. Using a UAV for commercial flight requires different licenses and permits than using one for recreation. Consumer-grade UAVs are going to be billed as being good for consumer needs, whereas commercial UAVs are going to be billed for specific industrial applications. Consumer UAVs cannot be used for most of the things for which commercial UAVs can be used.

What Are the Similarities?

Of course, there are still similarities in commercial and consumer UAVs. In fact, at their core, they’re almost identical. Commercial UAVs have specifically been improved upon for commercial use. That means they’re better in virtually every way. They have longer battery life, they’re larger, they have more features, and they’re easier to control.

Both the consumer and commercial UAV markets are steadily growing. On the recreational side, people are enthusiastic about the opportunity to operate their own UAVs. On the commercial side, the applications for industrial UAVs are expanding by the day. For more information about the difference between consumer and commercial UAVs, contact the experts at Landpoint.

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How Does LiDAR Work, and What Are Its Limitations?

LiDAR is one of the leading options for surveying today, and it’s easy to see why. As a technology, it’s advanced, highly accurate, and fast. Compared to competing technology, it’s more effective and accurate a greater percentage of the time. To fully understand the benefits of LiDAR, you need to understand how LiDAR works, and why new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) technology is helping it really take off.

What exactly is LiDAR? How does LiDAR work?

LiDAR releases very fast pulses of light towards a target and then measures the amount of time it takes for that light to travel back. As a LiDAR unit moves, usually on an aerial vehicle, it’s able to continuously scan an area using these small bursts of light to see how the terrain is changing around it. LiDAR units will take many points of data, which are then turned into a 3D mesh. 

For LiDAR to work effectively, its data must be analyzed. LiDAR data on its own is simply a number of disconnected points in space. But once processed and analyzed, this data will form a consolidated topographical map. 

LiDAR data is often gathered via sensors placed on vehicles such as UAVs (drones), helicopters, and planes. The method by which LiDAR data is captured does have some impact on its quality. Planes fly much higher than drones or helicopters, and consequently the data will not be as high resolution as it otherwise could be. However, that also means data can be captured much faster. 

LiDAR differs from the other major surveying method, which is photogrammetry. Under photogrammetry, photos of terrain are taken in quick succession, also often from an aerial vehicle. These photos are then analyzed to create a 3D model. Photogrammetry is not as accurate because it relies on 2D pictures to create a 3D model, but it is fast and cheap, and it does produce models that are usually fairly easy to understand; unlike LiDAR, these photos have color and realistic texture, so it is easy for the untrained eye to recognize things like fields, rivers, and roads.

  • Before-Oil & Gas Facility
    After-Oil & Gas Facility
    Laser Scan Oil & Gas Facility Model

What is a LiDAR drone?

LiDAR can be used on any aerial vehicle, but drones are becoming far more popular. A LiDAR drone is more maneuverable, able to capture higher resolution images, and can be deployed very quickly. Comparatively, other methods of LiDAR scanning require additional permits and licenses, and there is always the risk, no matter how minor, of something happening to a manned aerial crew.

What are the major benefits of LiDAR?

There’s a reason why this technology has seen such widespread adoption. The benefits include:

  • It’s fast. LiDAR captures quick bursts of light and can scan virtually as quickly as the aerial vehicle is able to move. Large swathes of land can be covered by LiDAR units.
  • It’s accurate. When paired with UAV, LiDAR scans can be conducted very low to the ground, taking high-resolution images of even very complex terrain. LiDAR scans can be taken in areas that would normally be too dangerous to survey, and drones are able to operate with precision to get the most accurate scans.
  • It’s in-depth. Photogrammetric imaging won’t show you what’s beneath brush or cloth, but LiDAR can. LiDAR can see through thin cloth and overgrown plants and leaves, thereby providing better topographical data.

However, there are few situations in which a LiDAR drone won’t be the optimal method for surveying.

Are there any limitations to LiDAR? 

Every technology has its limitations, even LiDAR. Though LiDAR has many benefits, there are also some downsides, which is why some projects choose to use photogrammetric imaging instead. A lack of color and texture means it can be difficult to interpret LiDAR data without training or additional pictures overlaid on the data.

LiDAR also requires in-house processing to get the most accurateresults. Because LiDAR data is very complex, outsourcing data analysis can lead to inaccurate data. Further, LiDAR is more expensive than other solutions like photogrammetry.

It can be beneficial to work with a company that offers both LiDAR and photogrammetric imaging. When used together, LiDAR and photogrammetric imaging can be extremely effective. 

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of LiDAR? Do you want to know the differences between LiDAR and photogrammetry? Contact the experts at Landpoint.


Why Accurate BIM is a Construction Company’s Dream

From preserving historic museums to developing new condominiums, building information modeling (BIM) is changing the face of architecture, design, and construction. Through accurate BIM, construction companies are able to plot out their projects in virtual space, anticipating issues, reducing re-works, and otherwise improving their return on investment.

Here’s why accurate BIM is a construction company’s dream.

BIM Construction = Reliable Construction

First, how is BIM used in construction? The construction industry has always relied upon data to make decisions. Recent advancements in technology have made the construction industry far more reliable. Decades ago, construction companies found themselves suddenly able to improve upon their product cost and deadline management through the power of computers.

In the very early days, having spreadsheets available made it easier for construction companies to produce more accurate bids. From there, construction planning solutions made it possible to streamline and improve upon the entire process, from start to finish.

Today, BIM is making construction data even more accurate. Construction companies are now able to plan their projects down to the millimeter, from showing clients how the finished product will look, to determining how different materials may interact with the surrounding environment. The better the data model, the less likely it is that companies will encounter surprises, and the better the company can plan for the future.

Improved Data Means Reduced Reworks

The construction industry spends approximately $178 billion a year on reworks — and that doesn’t include the cost of unsatisfied customers and damaged reputations. To a certain extent, some reworks are going to be expected in any project. But with better data, reworks can be vastly reduced. 

Modern building information modeling is so advanced that construction companies can even assess a project’s interactions with the surrounding environments. BIM is becoming an important part of solar panel farms and wind farms. They can determine what the solar or wind output will be depending on the weather and the season.

Furthermore, building information modeling can be used to keep clients engaged, and to ensure that clients have a picture in their mind of the completed project at all stages of development. Clients will be able to determine whether there are things that don’t work for them at the beginning of the project, instead of at the end, and consequently are less likely to request changes.

Alleviating Environmental Concerns for New Construction

Today, construction companies are more conscientious than ever about the impact that their buildings can have on the surrounding environment. Will glass potentially reflect damaging rays into the surrounding area? Could a change of water flow increase the natural erosion?

Construction companies aren’t just able to simulate the environment’s impact on the buildings, such as seasonal sunlight changes, but also the building’s own impact on the surrounding environment. This goes a long way towards building construction projects that will last a long time and that will make responsible use of the surrounding land.

Making It Easier to Collaborate with Other Teams

Through BIM, construction companies are able to identify potential conflicts between systems. Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems can all be compared before any work is done. Teams, even those working for different contractors, are able to share data and models. This means they can collaborate and communicate with each other more effectively, since they will always be working off the exact same data, rather than potentially using different versions.

With BIM, construction companies can share data and documents through the cloud, and this information can remain persistent throughout the job. At the same time, the construction company can lock down and control changes, so there isn’t a risk of others overriding the essential data. 

Keeping Records for Completed Projects

Data is eternal. There’s a reason why BIM has been used on historic buildings: to preserve them forever. Through BIM, construction companies are also able to keep thorough records of their completed projects. Not only do they have the plans, but they can also use surveying to create models of the construction as it is completed.

Once the project is done, the company still has a complete record of the work, whether it’s needed in the future for renovations, or whether they simply want to make sure that their client has an archive of their project for legal purposes.

Adapting to BIM Construction

Business information modeling is constantly improving. It’s expected that the coming years are going to see some dramatic advances in the accuracy and ease with which BIM can be used. 

So why are some construction companies not yet using BIM? The use of BIM requires new systems and processes. Construction companies need to explore new advanced technologies and platforms, and engage in training employees. This takes time.

A partner can help. For more information about BIM and how to collect it, consult with the experts at Landpoint.


3D Architecture Modeling: How a Video Game Could Save Notre Dame

When the Notre Dame cathedral burned in 2019, the entire world watched with rapt, horrified attention. The Notre Dame cathedral has long been a major historical treasure. Since 1163, it’s been known as a superb example of architecture. It has stored valuable works of art and antiques, and has become one of the most common tourist destinations in the world.

But through technological advances such as 3D architecture modeling and drone 3D mapping, the Notre Dame cathedral can still yet be saved – or, at least, restored. Here’s how a video game, of all things, may help bring back this historical building, which is expected to have its reconstruction completed by 2024.

3D Scanning for Historic Architecture

3D architecture modeling is already one of the top methods of preservation for historic buildings. Buildings can be 3D scanned and the surrounding areas surveyed for many reasons, with one of the most critical being if they are damaged or destroyed in the future. If they are damaged, these models can be used to create period-accurate repairs. If they are destroyed, these models can live on forever in the form of a digital museum.

But it wasn’t a historical preservation society that took scans of Notre Dame. Instead, it was a video game, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, using drone 3D mapping. This unexpected source could become an incredibly important resource moving forward.

Video Games and Historic Art

Assassin’s Creed is a long-running video game series that is well-known for constructing highly accurate virtual reproductions of ancient locations. Players of the Assassin’s Creed series have been able to run through historic Egypt, Italy, Greece, and more.

Players are sometimes even able to view buildings at different stages of development, due to the game’s time-traveling plot. Each location is met with descriptive text that explains the historical, architectural, and other importance of the building. Of course, it’s also a game about assassins and aliens, but that part is less relevant.

During its development, Assassin’s Creed: Unity creators conducted a very accurate recreation of the Notre Dame cathedral. Since then, many have discussed how this digital model could be used to accurately reconstruct the cathedral itself. This isn’t as unusual as it may seem. The video game industry has been making rapid strides in 3D technology, just as the movie animation industry has been.

It’s also not unusual to use a video game. In the past, photographs, drawings, and other media were often used to aid in reconstructions. While no one piece of material can be thought to be the last say in a reconstruction, being able to see the commonalities between media gives a fairly clear idea of the original. For example, an archway seen on five photographs and ten drawings is likely to be fairly accurate.

Today, accuracy goes beyond the human hand and eye, and into the realm of digital survey and drone 3D mapping.

  • Before-Oil & Gas Facility
    After-Oil & Gas Facility
    Laser Scan Oil & Gas Facility Model

BIM and Historic Sites

Today, it’s a game that could be saving a major historic site. Tomorrow, there could be a vault that contains all the major historic sites in the world. Business Information Modeling (BIM) — the ability to capture and preserve information about a building and the surrounding area — is a non-disruptive, highly accurate way of taking snapshots of time.

Imagine a world in which every historic site has a corresponding accurate 3D model. It can never be fully lost. If an earthquake occurs and the building falls, the building can either be completely reproduced, or it can be visited in virtual space. Even if the building is still there in all its glory, BIM can be used to create simulations for those who cannot see it in person. BIM can even be used to determine how changes in the surrounding environment could eventually impact the buildings.

Think about historic Venice. Rising waters and continued degradation mean that Venice and its most historic buildings are in danger. BIM wouldn’t just immortalize these, it could also be used to simulate how long Venice will last under the current conditions, and what could potentially be done to slow the degradation.

BIM is truly an excellent opportunity to save priceless historic locations. While nothing can replace the original buildings, and everything held within them, BIM can make it possible to get extremely close in terms of historical accuracy. Even as buildings may fall and crumble, BIM creates an eternal digital world through which these great works will always exist.

Image Credit – Softonic
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