AN OVERVIEW OF THE TOP DRONE PAYLOADS FOR SEARCH AND RESCUE
Please note: the technical term for drones – ‘unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)’ – will be used throughout this blog post.
This section offers a brief overview on the top payloads for search and rescue (SAR) that were displayed at The Commercial UAV Show 2016 in London. For the thermal imaging products (excluding Opgal – explained later), this post addresses only the unique offerings of each individual thermal product, rather than its performance. The factors that affect the performance of said thermal imaging payloads will be discussed in the later ‘Thermal Cameras 101’ and ‘The Battle of the Thermals’ sections.
Cost: Included in cost stated for the Typhoon H PRO RS (£4,999)
Overview: Yuneec have combined a thermal imaging camera with a low-light camera to offer a cost effective all-in-one solution. The below information has been extracted directly from their brochure, which describes the benefits of this camera combination:
“While the infrared camera measures the temperature in the image and indicates relative temperature differences, the low light RGB camera has a twenty times higher light sensitivity compared to the human eye and takes excellent shots even in low light conditions. Both images are simultaneously streamed to the screen on your remote control and can be watched separately, as picture-in-picture or as an overlay”. (Yuneec, 2016)
Cost: €9,995 (£8,907.36)
Overview: The two below quotes have been taken from Workswell’s datasheet, which perfectly highlight their product offerings with the WIRIS 640.
“The main goal of the system is a simple transfer, storage and real-time analysis of radiometric (temperature) data directly from UAV (drone) and displays these data on an operator’s controller in real time.” (Workswell, 2016)
“The system can continuously record radiometric videos or images on internal 32GB memory that allows you to save up to 80,000 images or 200 minutes of video.” (Workswell)
Notably, as well as radiometric data (temperatures), the WIRIS 640 also gathers GPS coordinates for all points within an image – immensely useful for SAR applications.
Overview: Optris’ thermal imaging cameras have a high acquisition rate; meaning temperature distributions of an object can be precisely recorded at millisecond intervals. The PI Lightweight also wields automatic hotspot and cold spot search capabilities; objects can be thermally analysed and hot or cold spots can be found automatically. Nonetheless, the greatest advantage that Optris thermal cameras offer SAR is its high temperature effective range (-20oC to +900oC). Most thermal cameras would “white out” at 900oC, but the PI Lightweight can still distinguish shapes and temperature differences. Given that the average house burns at around 600oC, this product is perfect for fire fighting applications (NiFast, N/A).
Cost: Included in cost stated for the SkyRanger (£45,000)
Manufacturer: Aeryon Labs
Overview: The HDZoom30 offers a 30x optical lens, which could be an extremely useful tool to police forces that need to acquire evidence without being heard. For example, the UAV could hover high enough to be out of hearing range, whilst the police gather information such as number plates, accurate descriptions, and more. The below information, taken directly from Aeryon’s brochure, shows the potential that this payload holds for police usage.
“The optional Vector embedded computing platform employs advanced video processing algorithms to optimise target identification and acquisition. The tracking algorithm adapts in real-time to changes in target shape and maintains a hold on the target even when its position changes or another object obstructs the view. Initial applications deployed on the Vector-enabled HDZoom3D imaging payload include:
- Target Tracker: Automatically holds a stationary or moving target centrally in the camera’s field of view (FoV) by repositioning the gimbal and aircraft
- Moving Target Indicator (MTI): Automatically annotates up to 10 moving objects within the camera’s FoV”
(Aeryon Labs Inc., 2016)
Cost: Included in cost stated for the SkyRanger (£55,000)
Manufacturer: Aeryon Labs
Overview: Similar to the previous payload option, Aeryon have also included the vector embedded computing platform that offers the target tracker and moving target indicator capabilities. Moreover, with this payload, Aeryon have placed great attention on creating an all-weather product. In their words, it is “ruggedly, environmentally tolerant design tested to IP-53 standards, enabling all-weather operation” (Aeryon Labs Inc., 2016). IP-53 is an ingress protection standard, which indicates that the SR-EO/IR Mk2 is dust protected and protected from spraying water (Rainford Solutions, N/A). SAR operations happen in all weathers, in all environments, weather proofing of equipment is an important consideration.
This product also includes various usability features, such as the ability to click on an object of interest and automatically have it centred on your screen for closer inspection.
Finally, another useful characteristic for this particular payload with regards to SAR teams is its capability to stream HD 1080p30 video securely to remote viewers anywhere in the world – potentially to ground teams and/or command centres regardless of geographic location.
Opgal was not in itself present at the event, therefore this thermal imaging product has been excluded from the later ‘Battle of the Thermals’. However, its key features are listed below because this particular payload is included within Globe UAV’s system:
- Fast acquisition frame rate (300fps)
- Highly sensitive, NETD = <0.005oC
- Operational temperature = -40oC to 45oC
- Performs well in reduced visibility conditions, including thick fog, smog, heavy rain and snow
- Clear images of scenes at different extreme temperatures
If you have anything to add or questions to ask or recommendations for future research blog posts, please don’t hesitate to use the comment section below. AND don’t forget to email subscribe, so you’re always up-to-date with the world of SAR UAVs!
All references are located on the Introduction page.
All image sources are located on the Introduction page.
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