PingStation makes its debut from manufacturer uAvionix

uAvionix Corporation, the leading Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) avionics solution provider, recently announced the introduction of PingStation.

PingStation is an all-weather, networkable ADS-B receiver for low and high altitude aircraft surveillance.

Additionally, it is robust enough to permanently mount outdoors in harsh environmental conditions. It is also small enough for use as a mobile asset for roaming operations.

PingStation debut application

In its debut application, PingStation is a component in Phase 1 of Project UAS Secure Autonomous Flight Environment (U-SAFE). This program is part of a low-altitude Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) corridor. This corridor extends from Griffiss International Airport to Syracuse, NY.

A grant from Empire State Development Corporation provides funding for Project U-SAFE. Additionally, PingStation provides ADS-B receiver capability for the Gryphon Sensors Mobile UTM System – Mobile SkyLight.


Features of PingStation

PingStation is a dual band (978MHz and 1090MHz), networkable ADS-B receiver with a Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE) interface enclosed in an IP67 rated protective enclosure. Integrated is the TSO certified uAvionix FYX GPS receiver for high-resolution time-stamping for critical applications.

It provides ground, surface, or low-altitude ADS-B surveillance within line of sight of the antenna, with ranges exceeding 250NM depending on the transmission power.

PingStation has multiple uses within the aviation industry:

  • Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems
  • A component of UAS Ground Control Stations (GCS)
  • A component of UAS Detect and Avoid (DAA) systems
  • Airport surface and region situational awareness
  • FBO/flight school fleet tracking and management

Multiple subscription free software/data interface types allow easy integration directly into end applications such as UAS ground control stations, airport surface displays, or cloud-based situational awareness applications.

Natively, PingStation provides integration into Virtual Radar Server, an open-source situational awareness mapping display system, the Kongsberg Geospatial IRIS UAS Airspace Situational Awareness Display, and INDMEX Aviation’s Airboss airport situational display suite.

PingStation Range Plot in Virtual Radar Server showing 50NM Range Rings.

“uAvionix is excited to add PingStation to our product line of ADS-B transceivers and receivers,” said Paul Beard, CEO of uAvionix. “Our customers informed us for the need of robust and low-cost surveillance solutions to complement the airborne equipment used in their operations.”


Shop uAvionix entire line of ADS-B products, including the PingStation, at Unmanned Systems Source.


About uAvionix Corporation

uAvionix develops the world’s smallest, lightest and most affordable ADS-B transceivers, transponders, and GPS receivers. Based in Palo Alto, uAvionix has gathered a cross-disciplinary team of experts in embedded RF engineering, sUAS operations, avionics, hardware, software, and cloud services.


NuWaves Engineering Releases their Smallest, Lightest, Lowest Cost BDA

NuWaves Engineering recently announced the release of the NuPower Xtender VU4GX01 (OEM) & VU4GX02 VHF/UHF RF BDA. This release is NuWaves’ smallest, lightest, and lowest cost bidirectional amplifier (BDA).

The latest addition to NuWaves’ line of NuPower Xtender BDAs, these BDA modules feature high linearity performance, industry leading miniaturization techniques for small size and low weight, high adjacent channel leakage ratio (ACLR), and a broad supply voltage range.


A low-cost, powerful solution

At $1,850 each in quantities of 100, the NuPower Xtender VU4GX01 OEM BDA is the perfect low-cost solution for communications, telemetry, and electronic warfare applications.

The NuPower Xtender VU4GX01 provides 4 Watts of linear power over the frequency range of 225 MHz to 512 MHz, and greater than 10 Watts of saturated output power for applications where linearity is not required (i.e., constant envelope waveforms).

Measuring a tiny 2.34” x 2.34” x 0.61” at 1.92 ounces, this BDA module provides the system integrator with a small, lightweight assembly for highly embedded designs that offers rugged reliability under harsh conditions. Targeting an adjacent channel leakage ratio (ACLR) of -33 dBc at 4 watts average power output, this BDA is capable of achieving higher data throughput and a clearer reliable signal.

This BDA also features a broad supply voltage range of +10 to +32 VDC, capable of supporting an array of RF communications, telemetry and electronic warfare applications, including systems running on battery power.

“We are excited to add this bidirectional amplifier module to our NuPowerTM XtenderTM line of products. This product is targeted at the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) market, filling the gap in the market for small, linear VHF/UHF power amplifiers,” said Jeff Wells, President and CEO of NuWaves Engineering. “The NuWaves’ team takes pride in our ability to support our clients with best-in-class RF solutions, rapidly fulfilling the ever-changing needs of the Warfighter.”


About NuWaves Engineering

NuWaves Engineering is a veteran-owned, premier supplier of RF and Microwave solutions for Department of Defense (DoD), government, and industrial customers. An RF engineering powerhouse, NuWaves offers a broad range of design and engineering services related to the development and sustainment of key communications, telemetry and electronic warfare systems, as well as a complete line of commercially available RF products. NuWaves’ products include wideband frequency converters, high-efficiency and miniature solid state power amplifiers and bidirectional amplifiers, high intercept low noise amplifiers, and miniature RF filters.

Shop NuWaves line of products at Unmanned Systems Source, including the NuPower Xtender VU4GX01 and NuPower Xtender VU4GX02.


Drones as Entertainment: what’s ahead for this emerging application?

From surveying and mapping to search and rescue efforts, drone technology is disrupting a host of industries. It begs the question: Is the entertainment industry next?

Large companies, such as Intel and Disney, have moved beyond drone entertainment as possibility…to reality.

Drone racing and aerial acrobatic displays may be some of the earliest forms of drone entertainment. However, with Intel and Disney entering the fray, the entertainment bar may be rising — literally.

In 2016, the companies revealed plans for a unique collaboration of a drone-based light show.


A flying light show…the beginnings

As one of the biggest tech companies in the world, it may come as no surprise that Intel developed its own UAV several years ago, dubbed the “Shooting Star”.

The frame of the Shooting Star is very lightweight due to its Styrofoam and plastic construction. And, most significantly, each drone is outfitted with LED lights which can produce billions of color combinations. This light versatility means the drones can create any number of images and displays; it makes them far more versatile than traditional fireworks.

Prior to the collaboration with Disney Resorts, Intel showcased its drones in a private light in Krailling, Germany. The show featured over 500 drones in the air at the same time. It was Intel Corp’s proof of concept and its entrance into the burgeoning drone entertainment market.

Then came its collaboration with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The two companies worked together to create a spectacular light-show for the 2016 holidays. Entitled “Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration”, the show took place at the Florida Resort location and was the public debut of Intel’s Shoot Star Drones.

The display featured everything from simulations of fireworks to the creation of holiday themed images like Christmas trees and snowflakes. Both companies claimed it was the biggest such display of its kind in the United States.


Drones: a cheaper way to entertain?

Drone-based entertainment may prove a cheaper and more exciting option once the initial outlay of required hardware and software is invested.

Traditional firework displays cost about $10,000 for a small town show. And for larger events, such as Macy’s Fourth of July show, the costs can soar to the millions of dollars.

Drone-based light displays provide a range of practical use cases including control by a single computer which cuts down on the manpower required to put on such a show. Another advantage is that, unlike firework displays, drones can be re-used over and over again.


Successful innovations multiply

As with any burgeoning innovation, drones as entertainment may also help research and development in other areas.

Though there are numerous companies working to develop new technologies, it helps when such a large company like Intel puts their resources behind funding such ground-breaking features. Eventually, such innovative advances also make their way to consumer grade drones once the technology becomes more affordable.

For example, in the past Intel manually pre-programmed each individual drone before it took to the skies. And when pre-programming involves hundreds of drones for just one show, it is simply not practical.

In order to address this inefficiency, Intel developed a software program and an algorithm that automatically determines each drones’ planned flight path.

The potential for this innovative software program and algorithm to benefit other drone applications, such as aerial photography, mapping or survey projects, is obvious.


Just the beginning?

Currently, Intel’s Shooting Star drone is not available for sale to the public. Intel does manufacture a commercial drone, the Falcon 8+, but the company may be keeping its shooting star drones to itself for now.

Only time will tell if shows like Intel and Disney’s UAV light show will gain momentum. However, it’s clear that particular event caused quite a stir. It is evident that unmanned aerial systems are becoming ever more versatile and for drones as entertainment this is just the beginning.


PV Solar Panel Field Inspection with UgCS Mission Planning Software

Solar panel fields, like any other artificial infrastructure objects, require periodical inspections. Usually photovoltaic (PV) solar panel field inspection requires use of two sensors – infrared (IR) and daylight cameras, to detect faulty panels. Solar panels may heat up because of connection issues, physical damage or debris.

A drone equipped with a thermal camera is the best choice for solar panel field inspection. This method saves costs compared to manned aviation and saves time compared to visual control with handheld IR camera.

Semi-professional drones with changeable cameras like DJI Inspire are an option. However, switching out cameras means flight time is doubled. The first is a survey flight conducted with a daylight camera. The flight is then repeated after changing to an IR camera. To minimize time required for inspection usually both sensors (cameras) are used simultaneously. Such a payload requires a drone with enough lift-off capability.


Detectable defects

The two major defects visible with IR camera are connection issues and physical damage.

Connection issues occur, for example, when a panel or a string of panels are not connected to the system. As a result, power produced from the panel(s) cannot flow through the system and on to the grid. That power is converted to heat and the entire panel(s) will heat up slightly.

Figure 1

For example, (see Figure 1) the panel marked Bx7 presents little bit higher average temperature comparing to other panels and should be checked for both – defects and connection issues.

Another detectable defect is physical damage to the underlying panel. This causes small areas of more extreme heating as power flows around and backs up behind the damaged area.

Such defects are visible on sample – bright point in rectangle marked Bx3 with maximum temperature 169.4 F (76.3 C). Also, physical damages are visible in other zones.

Both kind of defects usually are clearly visible on images in IR spectrum what makes defects localisation relatively easy even on stitched orthophoto.


Figure 2

In visible spectrum, (using daylight camera) usually only debris on panels is detected. This information, though, helps determine if the hotspot is the actual panel heating up or if it is the debris (dirt, bird droppings, etc) heating up.

Figure 3

Glass breaks are usually not detectable unless drone will fly very low as the cracks are small. Only in case of severe damage situations glass breaks will be visible on photos.


Solar Panel Field Inspection Mission Planning in UgCS

In general, solar panel field inspection missions with drones are planned the same way as standard UAV photogrammetry missions. The survey area is set and the route and camera settings are optimized to obtain the best result for data processing.

Figure 4

GSD selection

For photogrammetry, mission ground sampling distance (GSD) is defined by client and it is the main characteristic of survey’s output data.

In case of solar panel inspection client has to define which defects have to be detected. To detect panels with connection issues GSD for IR images should be set 25 cm. To detect physical damage or hotspots smaller than whole panel the GSD should be set from 5-16 cm.

For survey missions, when a drone carries IR and daylight cameras simultaneously, the GSD for daylight camera isn’t relevant. This is because it produces pictures with much better GSD than IR sensor because of the low resolution of thermal cameras. For example, an optical camera with a 16 mm lens to match the 7.5 mm FLIR lens will produce images with 1.3GSD while the FLIR images are at 15.7GSD.

For solar panel survey missions, when a drone with changeable cameras is used set GSD > 2 cm – this will enable to detect even small debris on panels but will not produce thousands of images from flight.


Camera position

Mostly camera are set to nadir position. In situations where a tracker system can’t be positioned at a set angle or for some fixed array sites – based on the time of the day and sun position oblique setup can be used.

Optimal angle of solar panels for thermal images is from 5 to 30 degrees to avoid reflection and inaccurate temperatures. If such images can’t be acquired with nadir camera position, the camera angle has to be adjusted to ensure pictures of panels in range from 5 to 30 degree angle.


Data processing

Standard image data processing techniques can be used to stitch photos taken with daylight and IR cameras.

Figure 5

Orthophoto maps of relatively small solar panel fields can be analysed manually with different zoom level. To enable rapid evaluation for large fields with millions of panels automated defect detection should be used. Defected panels are marked and further inspections can be accomplished manually.

Figure 6

Without doubt the use of UAV for area surveying or infrastructure inspection saves on both time and cost. Drone mission planning features and tools of UgCS enable UAV professionals to customize each mission according to application requirements.


Find the right UgCS Mission Planner Software that is right for you at Unmanned Systems Source.

Article is written in collaboration with Industrial Aerobotics, Arizona-based company providing aerial inspection, surveying and mapping services using UAVs and reprinted with permission.


Researchers consider the possibilities of swarms of drones for mapping oil spills

Drones have transformed a number of industries and services in addition to creating many new ones. The growth of drones is proof of how advancements in technology help perform certain tasks better and more efficiently.

Today, engineers are developing software that allows a swarm of drones to map areas affected by oil spills. Their work is inspired by the swarm and communication behavior of insects and birds.

However, given the very location of these disasters, surveying and mapping oil spills at sea or along coastlines is a difficult task. Accurately assessing the level of damage can be a tricky proposition. Researchers believe drones could provide a solution.

Just as ants converge in the thousands to find and carry food to their colony, engineers believe a swarm of low-cost drones could aid in the mapping of oil spills.


Swarms of Drones

Souma Chowdhury, an assistant professor of mechanical and Aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied sciences, believes a swarm of drones for mapping applications is a possibility.

Chowdhury and his team are pioneering a program that directs a swarm of drones to map an oil spill quickly. Although, the engineer argues, nature may seem random, mathematical principles can help explain swarm behaviors. The key is identifying the right principles so humans can tap into swarm behavior to help solve a range of complex issues, including oil spills.

His team recently presented their vision in a paper at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Technology.

The study simulated the use of a swarm of five drones that mapped a kilometer long spill area. The drones completed this task in less than ten minutes — which is significantly faster than traditional oil spill-mapping methods currently in use. Plus, swarm mapping drones could provide other benefits.


More efficient means

Mapping oil spills via drone swarms creates efficiency in a number of way. First, a drone swarm’s programmed flight pattern avoids areas previously mapped. In addition, drones are programmed to record whether they are over water or oil as well as assume that any space around the spill is also oil. All the while, information is shared among the swarm, in contrast to sharing images or video, thereby using less bandwidth and improving efficiency.

Drones also have the ability to take off and land from a boat and return autonomously when their batteries are low. The UAVs deploying to replace returning drones have the data they need to continue the mapping mission. This shared information is another trait borrowed from the animal kingdom, with the engineers stating that communication is the basis of any swarm.

Remarkably, if drone mapping proves feasible, it requires no human intervention throughout the whole process. Thus, oil spill mapping can take place quickly, even in treacherous conditions.


Low-cost, hi-tech solutions

Chowdhury’s approach tackles a complex problem using simple UAV technology. The engineers used low cost drones outfitted with $35 Raspberry Pi computers, oil spill-mapping software, and affordable cameras.

As far avoiding collisions in flight, Chowdhury looked to nature for inspiration. Researchers at the University of Queensland observed that parrots avoided collisions simply by veering to the right when flying. The engineers seek to implement this principle. The plan is to program drones to turn at a right angle if they sense another is too close.

This developing technology has wider applications for a variety of tasks. In the future, swarms of drones will quickly map forested areas or natural disasters unreachable by humans. Chowdhury’s swarms of smart drones could prove one of the most innovative and important uses of drone technology to date.


Aeromapper Talon successfully completes BVLOS mission over 30Km away

Recently, Aeromao’s Aeromapper Talon successfully completed an autonomous mission to a target located 30km away.

The Talon maintained strong communications and its control link throughout the entire mission.

This mission successfully demonstrated the potential for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations for the Talon.

The Aeromapper Talon costs only a fraction compared to systems with similar capabilities.


Aeromapper Talon Demonstrates BVLOS

The Aeromapper team carried out the mission in the Andes Mountains of South America. The location of the flight was situated at 2,800m above sea level. The flight had a cruise altitude of 250m agl. Fifty percent of the flight traversed a body of water. The Talon traveled a total distance of 60km in its one hour flight.

With a flight endurance of 2-hours, the Talon had enough flight time left to travel an additional 30km. However, the operators decided to bring the UAV back due to peaks in excess of 3,500 m above sea level in the flight path.

Currently, the team is planning a future mission to demonstrate 50km reach capabilities.

Aeromao’s Aeromapper 300 also uses the same long range communication system as the Talon.

The demand for BVLOS missions continues to grow throughout the industry. Applications for such missions include: power line and pipeline monitoring, roadways survey, surveillance and wildlife control, as well as long linear missions.


Powerful solution for linear mission challenges

“We receive many requests from clients who need to fly linear missions sometimes to survey thousands of kilometers of pipelines, power lines or roadways,” said Mauricio Ortiz of Aeromao. “We ourselves have completed hundreds of kilometers of linear projects, and know very well the challenges of these types of operations.”

The Aeromapper Talon is proving a solid solution given the specific capabilities demanded for these applications. Aeromapper Talon performs well in all:

  • Ability to operate in difficult terrain and with a mobile GCS with reliable and strong communications.
  • Quick deployment and easy operation: the Aeromapper Talon is flight ready in 15 minutes. It is one of the easiest UAVs to operate.
  • Several cycles of takeoff and landings per day from different locations: here the hand-launch and parachute landing are pretty much a MUST have. A large area survey needs the flexibility of operating from virtually anywhere.
  • Reliable and easy to repair in the field, as well as affordable with interchangeable spare parts.


Complete UAV solution, multiple fronts

Additionally, the Aeromapper Talon is also a multi-mission payload complete solution. It is a great choice for various applications, such as agriculture, centimeter accurate surveys, surveillance, and monitoring. Payloads available include:

  • 24 Mp RGB + with Parrot Sequoia simultaneously: complete full surveys at high resolution and get vegetation data in a single flight.
  • 24 Mp RG + Thermal Infrared: Ideal for pipeline or wildlife monitoring.
  • Forward looking day / night payload: An affordable surveillance and observation platform with long range video streaming. All systems are easily swappable.
  • Micasense RedEdge: A swappable payload option with serious agriculture power.
  • GNSS PPK: Eliminates GCPs and achieves up to 3 cm of accuracy for engineering projects. Also available as a swappable payload.
  • Pix4DMapper Aeromao Edition: serious post processing power with the most exhaustive power available. In an affordable bundle package with the complete UAV system.
  • Agisfot Photoscan Pro: Affordable and flexible post processing software to become a post-processing Ninja.


Shop Aeromao’s entire line of affordable UAV solutions at Unmanned Systems Source.