GEOG 892
Geospatial Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

UAS Market Survey


In this section, you will gain an understanding of the different brands and makers of the UAV, payload sensors, and processing software.

Market survey of the Air Vehicle (UAV)

Large UAS that are used mainly for defense purposes are around for a long time and have sophisticated technologies built into them. Examples of the manufacturers of such UAS are AAI Corporation, AeroVironment, Aurora Flight Sciences, BAE Systems, Boeing, Elbit Systems, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., Israel Aerospace Industries, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rotax, Sagem, Selex Galileo, and many others. Within the last decade, many startup companies started manufacturing low-cost UAS that are mainly used for civilian purposes. Examples of those manufacturers are Trimble, Altavian, Sensefly Ltd, American Aerospace Advisors, Prioria, Uconsystem, Idetec, and many more.

The following four resources contain good information on existing systems and manufacturers:

  1. Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Survey
  2. GIM International Volume 28 Spring 2014
  3. UAS Suppliers
  4. 24th annual edition of Shephard Media’s "Unmanned Vehicles Handbook"

Market survey of Payload Sensors

The sensors required for UAS that are utilized for mapping purposes are mainly limited to cameras (Visible, near-infrared, and thermal infrared). The second resource provided in the previous section offers a list of sensors manufacturers that are used for UAS payloads. UAS payloads used for the mapping community mainly include imaging cameras. Such cameras have a variety of spectral bands such as visible (Red, green, blue), near infrared (NIR) and thermal infrared. There is only one LiDAR system developed mainly for the UAS and that is the VUX-1 manufactured by Riegl, which was described in Lesson 2. The most obvious provider of digital cameras (without endorsing any of them) that are small enough to fit within UAS payloads are the following:

  1. Phase One, with their multiple models of aerial cameras.
  2. Imprex, with their latest model of Bobcat cameras 
  3. Nikon, with their multiple models of cameras
  4. Mecasense with their multiple models of multi-spectral cameras or Parrot for their Sequoia camera

Market survey of Processing Software 

For image-based mapping products generation, users will need efficient photogrammetric processing software. Such software should be capable of performing the following operations, among others:

  • organizing the input imagery, camera calibration reports, GPS-derived camera position, IMU-derived camera orientation angles, and ground controls data in a simple database;
  • having user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI);
  • having good data viewers, i.e. orthos and DSM;
  • handling tens of thousands of images per project in TIFF or JPEG formats;
  • image coverage verification through rapid data processing mode;
  • performing automatic aerial triangulation processing using simultaneous bundle block adjustment with viewing and manual editing capability;
  • accepting GPS-derived camera position and IMU-derived camera orientation;
  • camera self-calibration;
  • modeling GPS shift and drift;
  • producing quality control reports;
  • exporting exterior orientation parameters for photogrammetric work station;
  • performing ortho rectification;
  • automatic DSM generation through auto-correlation;
  • performing image mosaic and capability to edit mosaic lines;
  • exporting ortho tiles according to user defined layout in shape file format;
  • performing color balancing and radiometric enhancement;
  • distributed processing (parallel processing) using computing farm;
  • batch processing or scripting.

Among the most obvious data processing software that are optimized for UAS data processing in the market (without endorsing any of them) are the following:

  1. Agisoft Metashape 
  2. Pix4DMapper
  3. Menci APS
  4. CORRELATOR3DTM  by SimActive
  5. Trimble Inpho UASMaster

Each of these five software packages meets most of the capabilities listed above. However, some of them may be more suitable than others, depending on the situation and the nature of the project.

To Do

  1. Practice more with the use of Pix4D software to process the sample data. Produce ortho photo and DSMm and send me screenshots of the products.