Surveying usually takes weeks — now a new autonomous 3D mapping drone developed by University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers will cut that down to a matter of hours with big savings for industry and the potential to save lives during disasters.
UNSW Engineering researchers partnered with Linke & Linke Surveys to develop an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) using technology that delivers fast and super accurate 3D maps of targeted areas and features.
The drone weighs about 12 kilograms and can fly for up to 18 minutes above any terrain, capturing data from 30,000 reference points per second.
One place where it will be most useful is in large construction projects, where waiting for accurate data is costly and time-consuming.
James Linke, director of Linke & Linke Surveys, said the UAV cut data capturing times dramatically.
“The cost savings would be in the region of 3,000 per cent, compared with a job being done by one person,” Mr Linke said.
“If you have three or four kilometres of stockpiles, it might have taken five to 10 days [to measure]. Now it can be done in 10 minutes, and you have the data ready to use instantaneously.”
Research leader Dr Johnson Xuesong Shen, Lecturer from UNSW’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the UAV could help the coal-mining industry keep its workers safe.
“We have a research project at the moment looking at the safety of open-pit coal mining,” Dr Shen said. “[With the UAV] we can map out the high wall, do some analysis and figure out the risk of collapse.”
Mr Linke said the UAV allowed surveying jobs to be done not only faster and cheaper, but also much more safely.
“You can take a drone and fly it where you can’t send a human surveyor, and easily bring it back,” he said.
“This is especially in situations like disaster relief, where there’s a need for real-time data capture.
“This initiative has an important role to play in taking our technology to the world,” said Professor Ian Gibson, Associate Dean of Industry and Innovation at UNSW Engineering.
“It’s very much aligned with our 2025 strategy to ensure we deliver real impact through our academic excellence.”
Read more about the survey drone here. Story credit: UNSW newsroom.
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