During the first two weeks the primary focus of my project has been research. As I have yet to take a course in photogrammetry I am playing catch up; learning everything I can based on textbooks and journal articles under the guidance of my mentor Dr. Shahbazi. An integral component of photogrammetry is the camera used to collect the images.
As such, I have also been learning about cameras and their components; sensor size, pixel counts, lens selection, and settings such as focal length, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. All of these parameters can be mathematically selected based on the resolution of the images I hope to obtain and the constraints of the area I will fly the UAV in in order to capture them.
Site selection will be one of the next challenges I face; I will need to select sites that are both attractive and popular for climbers, but that are legal to fly in and that are physically accessible to the UAV. Meanwhile, work continues on the UAV itself as seen in the photo
The research from the first couple of weeks has been put to the test as I have been working on writing a C++ program to perform basic photogrammetry tasks. Given any image, you may have a number of features with known coordinates, the program I am generating will give the coordinates of other features based on available information; this is one of the core concepts in photogrammetry. The photo above shows a test field of targets (top right) that I am currently performing this task on. I know the 3D coordinates for the targets with the red boxes, and can compute the remainder from two images of the test field.
To take a break from programming, I have also been generating database and map in ArcGIS that features all of the climbing areas and what type of land they are located on (bottom right of photo). Depending on who owns the land, and how the government has specified its use, I may or may not be able to fly the UAV on it. This map will help me locate and rank climbing sites that are located in UAV friendly areas.
In week 5 I completed my computer program used to generate the 3D coordinates of points in a photograph. This exercise has enhanced my understanding of the photogrammetric process and will help decide which commercial software package to use for the remainder of my project.
Week 6 was an action packed week as I completed Professional UAV Pilot Compliant Operator Operator Training with MIR Aviation. This 40-hour course is designed to take students without any aviation experience and give us the tools we need to become a compliant operator in accordance with the Transport Canada Special Flight Operating Certificate application process.
The last two weeks have been paperwork intensive! Following the UAV course the next step was to complete an application to obtain a Special Flight Operating Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. This certificate will allow me to legally fly a UAV for research purposes. It is an intensive application covering all aspects of UAV operations; flight insurance, pilot roles and qualifications, ground crew roles and qualifications, UAV specifications and flight parameters; site surveys and airspace safety, site safety and security, and emergency planning.
With the application submitted to Transport Canada, I am back to practicing my flying skills, exploring UAV software, and planning GPS automated flight missions.
Over the last week I have been attending the 2017 ESRI User Conference in San Diego, CA. The ESRI User Conference was a week long event that attracted over 18,000 attendees representing nearly every commercial sector, government organization, and non-profit fields. ESRI as a company, develops Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software which is used to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present both spatially and non-spatially linked information.
Every year 60 assistants are selected from hundreds of applications, to assist with the conference while also having the opportunity to take in the sessions to see how innovations are being implemented in various industries, discover new best practices, and get hands-on training from ESRI technical experts. Each day, after helping in the morning, I was able to attend various technical workshops on how to best capture, represent, and share 3D data within a GIS and on the web. These skills will be directly applicable to be summer project as I look to share the models I have created.
The best news this period was the arrival of my Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate. This certificate is required to operate a UAV for commercial or research purposes. With this now in hand we can start collecting data in the field!
With my Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate in hand we made I made a handful of trips out to Kananaskis with the UAV and all of its additional required equipment. I have been focusing on an area called the Moose Mountain / Canyon Creek Climbing area. There are a number of crags about 4km from the parking area. With 5 batteries I have approximately 2.5 hours of flight time to capture the rock face both from a horizontal flying position and a vertical one.
Initial data processing has led to excellent models, with the resolution that I expected showing each individual climbing bolt and anchor.
Many loose ends came together during the final week of my project. The website, www.cragmap.com went live and all of the models were uploaded to the web map. Additionally, the online course to teach others how to create models was launched. Remaining time was spent putting together a final report. I am sad that the summer has come to a close but excited that I will get to continue developing models and helping other people develop models to contribute to Crag Map.