ASTRALiTe Inc., a Colorado-based manufacturer of LiDAR systems, successfully integrated is 2-in-1 Topo-Bathy LiDAR with a DJI Matrice 600 Pro drone during three separate missions over the course of a month.
According to the company, the LiDAR runs on its own self-contained battery – in turn, saving the drone’s batteries and enabling more air time. Even with medium-to-high winds, the M600 was able to handle the 5 kg (11 lb.) LiDAR payload and was able to collect centimeter-level bathymetric LiDAR data during 13 different flights, says ASTRALiTE.
First, remote pilots from Juniper Unmanned conducted two 15-minute flights at a reservoir in Colorado.
A second demonstration was conducted at high elevation in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey in Kremmling, Colo., at the confluence of the Colorado and Blue rivers. Four flights were conducted with flight times of 10-12 minutes. River transects were made to document volume flow of the two rivers, including depth profiles, vegetation mapping and underwater object detection.
A third set of demonstrations was conducted at the Applied Research Lab (ARL) MANTAS II 2018 Tech Demo at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) on Coconut Island. Over three days, the LiDAR was put to the test on the windward side of the island in conditions that included salt spray and significant surf. The ARL staff piloted the Matrice 600 Pro in these conditions, collecting near-shore bathymetry, dune, inlet and lagoon profiles and mapping underwater coral reef structures at centimeter-level resolution. A total of seven flights were conducted, the longest of which was 17 minutes.
“This is a significant achievement in miniaturization. Bathymetry from a medium-sized UAV platform is now just as easy to perform as topographic LiDAR surveys,” states Gerald Thompson, ASTRALiTe’s vice president of operations. “It’s a breakthrough to have a bathymetric scanning LiDAR system capable of working on the widely available DJI Matrice UAV. It opens up whole new business areas.”