SlantRange & DroneDeploy Part III: The SlantRange App
|The SlantRange app in the DroneDeploy App Market provides a custom flight planning experience for SlantRange multispectral sensors for agriculture.|
In this final post of our 3-part series covering our partnership with DroneDeploy, we'll provide a step-by-step guide to using our app in the recently launched DroneDeploy App Market. The DroneDeploy App Market allows 3rd party developers to provide apps that live within the native DroneDeploy interface and provide additional functionality to support custom workflows for a variety of commercial drone industries.
The SlantRange app provides a customized flight planning interface for SlantRange sensors that allows you to create flight plans based on inputs about your crops and the data you need about those crops. This ensures that you'll be getting the best quality imagery from your sensor and the best quality data products in our analytics software, SlantView. The app also provides the ability to export your field boundaries from DroneDeploy so you can use them to crop your completed maps in SlantView.
After reading this post, you'll have everything you need to get started using DroneDeploy and the SlantRange app for simple, fast, and efficient flights for your agriculture drone business. If you're not already using DroneDeploy, you can download their mobile app and set up your account here:
Important Note: The flight planning capability described in this post was developed after we posted Part I of this series so the content of that post is no longer relevant.
We often get calls from our customers after setting up their shiny new sensor and they ask questions like, "So what altitude should I fly? And how fast should I fly?" And our answer is always the same, "It depends on what you want to measure."
One of the major advantages of drone-based imagery is the very high resolution you can achieve, which we've leveraged to enable the unique data products we produce in SlantView, such as plant counts, plant size, separation of crops and weeds, and many others. But there are some rather complex relationships and trade-offs between resolution, altitude, speed, and area coverage, such that you may not always want to collect data at the highest resolution achievable with your sensor. And more importantly, some data products don't require the same resolution as others. For example, to count plants you need to fly low enough to achieve the resolution required to separate one plant from its neighbors along a row. And of course, plants have different sizes at different growth stages. Similarly, you don't need as much resolution to measure general stress conditions on a more mature crop.
This is a good point to quickly mention the confusion that often arises around the word "resolution". We'll provide a full blog post on this soon but for now, it's important to note that resolution is often used to describe the number of pixels in a camera ("I'm using a camera with 12 Megapixel resolution") but is also used to describe the spatial clarity of an image ("My SlantRange sensor provides 4.8 cm resolution at 120 meters altitude.") These are clearly two very different concepts. For the latter case, we prefer the term "Ground Sample Distance" (GSD), which describes the spatial dimension represented by one pixel in an image. But for the purposes of this article, and to be consistent with the usage in DroneDeploy, we'll stick with "resolution".
Prior to the release of the latest version of our app in the DroneDeploy App Market, we provided an offline flight plan calculator that would compute recommended flight parameters based on inputs about the size of the plants to be measured and the data products to be generated. This was effective but required yet another software tool in the field and values had to be manually copied over to a flight planner.
Taking advantage of the powerful tools provided to developers in the DroneDeploy App Market, the latest version of our app incorporates all of this functionality and provides a seamless, integrated flight planning experience for agriculture drone data collections. Using our app, you'll get all the benefits of DroneDeploy, the industry's leading flight planning app for DJI drones, which includes offline planning, plan sharing, and many other great features. But in addition, your flight plans will be optimized for the specific conditions of your crops and the specific data products you need to support your decision making. No more guessing. No more trial and error. And no more wasted time on flights that produce bad data. It's like you have one of our remote sensing experts built right into your flight planner!
So with that introduction, let's get started on a detailed walkthrough of how to use our app. Note that, unless stated otherwise, all of the following steps can be done in the DroneDeploy mobile app or on the DroneDeploy web interface.
Step 1: Install the SLANTRANGE App
From the DroneDeploy Dashboard, select App Market at the top of the left hand sidebar. Make sure All Apps is selected at the top then scroll down and select SlantRange to view our installation page. Or you can just click this button to go directly to our app!
Click the blue Install button at the bottom of the sidebar, review the description and app permissions, then click the second blue Install button to install the app. You should see an "App Added" message at the bottom of the screen.
Note that a blue Uninstall button is now present at the bottom of the sidebar. You can return to this screen at any time to uninstall the app. Click App Market then Dashboard in the upper left of the sidebar to return to the Dashboard.
Step 2: Enable 3rd Party Camera
This is an important step and worthy of a quick explanation. When using DJI cameras, DroneDeploy will automatically detect the camera connected to your drone and will load the appropriate camera parameters to compute image footprints, overlap, resolution, etc. However, DroneDeploy now supports flying with "3rd Party Cameras", meaning cameras from other vendors that don't require a connection to the drone (like SlantRange!).
To enable this functionality, click Settings at the top of the Dashboard, then turn on the toggle labeled "Use 3rd Party Camera".
Note that the appropriate camera parameters will be loaded when you select which SlantRange sensor you're using in Step 4 below.
Step 3: Create A Plan
From the Drone Deploy Dashboard, click Plan a New Flight (mobile) or Plan (web). The map will default to your current location but you can click Search at the top of the sidebar to search for any location to create your plan.
After assigning a name to your plan, you can define the boundary, add/remove points, and move your plan using the map interface. You can also rotate your plan using the Flight Direction slider in the sidebar. Note that you can close the sidebar if needed.
Step 4: Customize Your Plan
This is where the magic happens! From the Plan screen, scroll down and click on SlantRange to expand the app. You can collapse the app at any time by clicking anywhere in the title bar of the app.
Begin by clicking Sensor and select which sensor you're using (3p or 2p). This will load the appropriate camera parameters into the flight planner.
To use our custom algorithms to determine the appropriate flight parameters for your crop and desired data, turn on the toggle labeled Calculate Parameters. Note that the information icon next to this toggle contains a link to this blog post if you ever need to review these instructions.
Next, select Type of Data Collection to specify the growth stage of your crop and the data you'd like to generate in SlantView, which will automatically present some additional inputs on the crop. Note that the SlantRange app will use the units you have selected in Settings (Metric or Imperial). Be sure to enter data in the appropriate units!
- Individual Plants - Population: Select this option if you intend to generate a Population Map (Stand Count) for row crops that still have space between adjacent plants along each row. Then enter the typical Plant Length and Plant Width of each individual plant.
- Individual Plants - Stress: Select this option if you intend to generate a Stress Map (and other associated data products) for row crops that still have space between adjacent plants along each row. Then enter the typical Plant Length and Plant Width of each individual plant.
- Closed Rows: Select this option if you intend to generate a Stress Map (and other associated data products) for row crops that have closed over along the row but still have space between the rows. Then enter the typical width of each plant along the row.
- Closed Canopy: Select this option if you intend to generate a Stress Map (and other associated data products) for a crop with a fully closed canopy. Then simply enter your desired image resolution.
Note: There is currently a known DroneDeploy bug where the units you select in Settings are not used throughout the app. If you don't see your selected units being used, just refresh the page on the web or go in and out of Settings on mobile. This bug should be addressed soon.
Next, select your desired Sidelap. We typically recommend 20% but you can adjust this as needed based on your drone, current weather conditions, or other factors.
Note that when the Calculate Parameters toggle is on, the Frontlap setting is disabled as it is calculated automatically based on the other parameters.
Based on your previous inputs, a Recommended Altitude will be computed. Use the Altitude slider in the upper section of the sidebar to input this altitude. You can adjust the Maximum Altitude in Settings if necessary but always be sure to follow local regulations. The Estimated Speed is displayed below the Recommended Altitude in the SlantRange app.
If you'd like to set your flight parameters manually, you can do so by simply turning off the Calculate Parameters toggle and setting your desired Sidelap, Frontlap, and Altitude. It's important to note that even if you plan to set your flight parameters manually, you still need to use the SlantRange app as this is the only way to load the appropriate camera parameters into the flight planner. Without the app, the flight planner will assume you're using a DJI camera and the flight parameters will be computed incorrectly.
Here are a few quick comments on the settings in the Advanced menu:
- Sidelap: This will be set automatically by the SlantRange app.
- Frontlap: This will be set automatically by the SlantRange app.
- Max Flight Speed: Set as needed based on your drone and conditions.
- Starting Waypoint: Set as needed based on your location and conditions.
- Automatic Camera Settings: Has no effect when using a 3rd party camera.
- Orbit at End of Mission: Set as needed based on your conditions.
Step 5: Export Your Field Boundary (Optional)
When you've completed your plan, you can export your field boundary and use it to crop your maps in SlantView or import it into any other tool where you'd like to track your fields. To export your field boundary, click the Export button at the bottom of the SlantRange app. This will download a text file containing the coordinates of your field boundary.
Note that this functionality is only available on the desktop web interface.
Refer to the SlantRange User Guide for instructions on how to import field boundaries.
Step 6: Complete Your Plan
Once you're happy with the flight plan, click the blue save icon in the lower right to complete your plan.
Step 7: Fly Your Plan!
Make sure to follow the SlantRange Flight Instruction Checklist detailed in our User Guide.
Connect your mobile device to your aircraft remote controller via USB. Turn on your remote controller and aircraft. In the DroneDeploy app, select your plan and click the blue airplane button in the lower right to initiate your Pre-flight checklist. Once your Pre-flight checks are completed successfully, the airplane button will turn into a check button. When you are ready to take-off, click the check and away you go!
We hope you find this new integrated flight planning tool useful for your agriculture drone business. We worked closely with our partners at DroneDeploy to provide an optimized interface that allows you to eliminate the guesswork from flight planning and ensures you get the data you need. The combination of DroneDeploy flight planning with the SlantRange app, data collection and rapid in-field processing with SlantRange sensors and analytics, and Map Uploads to DroneDeploy for sharing, syncing, and additional analytics provides a simple and efficient end-to-end solution for all of your agriculture mapping needs.