UC ANR's IGIS program hosted 36 drone enthusiasts for a three day DroneCamp in Davis California. DroneCamp was designed for participants with little to no experience in drone technology, but who are interested in using drones for a variety of real world mapping applications. The goals of DroneCamp were to:
- Gain an broader understanding of the drone mapping workflow: including
- Goal setting, mission planning, data collection, data analysis, and communication & visualization
- Learn about the different types of UAV platforms and sensors, and match them to specific mission objectives;
- Get hands-on experience with flight operations, data processing, and data analysis; and
- Network with other drone-enthusiasts and build the California drone ecosystem.
The IGIS crew, including Sean Hogan, Andy Lyons, Maggi Kelly, Robert Johnson, Kelly Easterday, and Shane Feirer were on hand to help run the show. We also had three corporate sponsors: GreenValley Intl, Esri, and Pix4D. Each of these companies had a rep on hand to give presentations and interact with the participants.
Day 1 of #DroneCamp2017 covered some of the basics - why drone are an increasingly important part of our mapping and field equipment portfolio; different platforms and sensors (and there are so many!); software options; and examples. Brandon Stark gave a great overview of the Univ of California UAV Center of Excellence and regulations, and Andy Lyons got us all ready to take the 107 license test. We hope everyone here gets their license! We closed with an interactive panel of experienced drone users (Kelly Easterday, Jacob Flanagan, Brandon Stark, and Sean Hogan) who shared experiences planning missions, flying and traveling with drones, and project results. A quick evaluation of the day showed the the vast majority of people had learned something specific that they could use at work, which is great. Plus we had a cool flight simulator station for people to practice flying (and crashing).
Day 2 was a field day - we spent most of the day at the Davis hobbycraft airfield where we practiced taking off, landing, mission planning, and emergency maneuvers. We had an excellent lunch provided by the Street Cravings food truck. What a day! It was hot hot hot, but there was lots of shade, and a nice breeze. Anyway, we had a great day, with everyone getting their hands on the commands. Our Esri rep Mark Romero gave us a demo on Esri's Drone2Map software, and some of the lidar functionality in ArcGIS Pro.
Day 3 focused on data analysis. We had three workshops ready for the group to chose from, from forestry, agriculture, and rangelands. Prior to the workshops we had great talks from Jacob Flanagan and GreenValley Intl, and Ali Pourreza from Kearney Research and Extension Center. Ali is developing a drone-imagery-based database of the individual trees and vines at Kearney - he calls it the "Virtual Orchard". Jacob talked about the overall mission of GVI and how the company is moving into more comprehensive field and drone-based lidar mapping and software. Angad Singh from Pix4D gave us a master class in mapping from drones, covering georeferencing, the Pix4D workflow, and some of the checks produced for you a the end of processing.
One of our key goals of the DroneCamp was to jump start our California Drone Ecosystem concept. I talk about this in my CalAg Editorial. We are still in the early days of this emerging field, and we can learn a lot from each other as we develop best practices for workflows, platforms and sensors, software, outreach, etc. Our research and decision-making teams have become larger, more distributed, and multi-disciplinary; with experts and citizens working together, and these kinds of collaboratives are increasingly important. We need to collaborate on data collection, storage, & sharing; innovation, analysis, and solutions. If any of you out there want to join us in our California drone ecosystem, drop me a line.
Thanks to ANR for hosting us, thanks to the wonderful participants, and thanks especially to our sponsors (GreenValley Intl, Esri, and Pix4D). Specifically, thanks for:
- Mark Romero and Esri for showing us Drone2Map, and the ArcGIS Image repository and tools, and the trial licenses for ArcGIS;
- Angad Singh from Pix4D for explaining Pix4D, for providing licenses to the group; and
- Jacob Flanagan from GreenValley Intl for your insights into lidar collection and processing, and for all your help showcasing your amazing drones.
Esri has been holding these Imagery and Mapping Forum days prior to the main UC. I was here for the day, as an invited panelist for the Executive Panel and Closing Remarks session on Sunday. During the day Ihung out in the Imaging and Innovation Zone, in front of the Drone Zone (gotta get one of these for ANR).
Notes from the day: Saw demos from a range of vendors, including:
- Aldo Facchin from Leica gave a slideshow about the Leica Pegasus: Backpack. Their backpack unit workflow uses SLAM; challenges include fusion of indoor and outdoor environments (from transportation networks above and below ground). Main use cases were industrial, urban, infrastructure. http://leica-geosystems.com/en-us/products/mobile-sensor-platforms/capture-platforms/leica-pegasus-backpack
- Jamie Ritche from Urthecast talked about "Bringing Imagery to Life". He says our field is "a teenager that needs to be an adult". By this he means that in many cases businesses don't know what they need to know. Their solution is in apps- "the simple and the quick": quick, easy, disposable and useful. 4 themes: revisit, coverage, time, quality. Their portfolio includes DEIMOS 1, Theia, Iris, DEIMOIS-2, PanGeo + . Deimos-1 focuses on agriculture. UrtheDaily: 5m pixels, 20TB daily, (40x the Sentinel output); available in 2019. They see their constellation and products as very comparable to Sentinel, Landsat, RapidEye. They've been working with Land O Lakes as their main imagery delivery. Stressing the ability of apps and cloud image services to deliver quick, meaningful information to users. https://www.urthecast.com/
- Briton Vorhees from SenseFly gave an overview of: "senseFly's Drone Designed Sensors". They are owned by Parrot, and have a fleet of fixed wing drones (e.g. the eBee models); also drone optimized cameras, shock-proof, fixed lens, etc (e.g. SODA). These can be used as a fleet of sensors (gave an citizen-science example from Zanzibar (ahhh Zanzibar)). They also use Sequoia cameras on eBees for a range of applications. https://www.sensefly.com/drones/ebee.html
- Rebecca Lasica and Jarod Skulavik from Harris Geospatial Solutions: The Connected Desktop". They showcased their new ENVI workflow implemented in ArcGIS Pro. Through a Geospatial Services Framework that "lifts" ENVI off the desktop; and creates an ENVI Engine. They showed some interesting crop applications - they call it "Crop Science". This http://www.harrisgeospatial.com/
- Jeff Cozart and McCain McMurray from Juniper Unmanned shared "The Effectiveness of Drone-Based Lidar" and talked about the advantages of drone-based lidar for terrain mapping and other applications. They talked through a few projects, and wanted to demonstrate the economies for drone-based lidar. The main advantages are in the data, not in the economics per se. They partner with Reigl and YellowScan from France. Showcased an example in Colorado between lidar (DJI Matrice was platform) and survey - the cost was 1/24th as expensive as the field survey. They did a live demo of some of the ArcGIS tools: classification of ground, feature extraction, etc. http://juniperunmanned.com/
- Aerial Imaging Productions talked about their indoor scanning - this linking indoor to outdoor - making data truly geo - is a big theme here. Also OBJ is a data format. From Wikipedia: "The OBJ file format is a simple data-format that represents 3D geometry alone — namely, the position of each vertex, the UV position of each texture coordinate vertex, vertex normals, and the faces that make each polygon defined as a list of vertices, and texture vertices." Used for 3D graphics, but increasingly for indoor point clouds in our field.
- My-Linh Truong from Reigl talked about their new static, mobile, airborne, uav lidar platforms. They've designed some mini lidar sensors for smaller UAVas (3lbs; 100kHz; 250m range; ~40pts/m2). Their ESRI workflow is called LMAP, and it relies on some proprietary REIGL software processing at the front end, then transfer to ArcGIS Pro (I think). http://www.rieglusa.com/index.html
We wrapped up the day with a panel discussion, moderated by Esri's Kurt Schwoppe, and including Lawrie Jordan from Esri, Greg Koeln from MDA, Dustin Gard-Weiss from NGA, Amy Minnick from DigitalGlobe, Hobie Perry from USFS-FIA, David Day from PASCO, and me. We talked about the promise and barriers associated with remote sensing and image processing from all of our perspectives. Some fun things that came out of the panel discussion were:
- Lawrie Jordan started Erdas!
- Digital Globe launched their 30cm resolution WorldView-4. One key case study was a partnership with Associated Press to find a pirate fishing vessel in action in Indonesia. They found it, and busted it, and found on board 2,000 slaves.
- The FIA is increasingly working on understanding uncertainty in their product, and they are moving for an image-base to a raster-based method for stratification.
- Greg Koeln, from MDA (he of the rad tie) says: "I'm a fan of high resolution imagery...but the world is a big place".
- Multi=sensor triangulation (or georeferencing a stack of imagery from multiple sources to you and me) is a continual problem, and its going to get worse before it gets better with more imagery from UAVs. On that note, Esri bought the patent for "SIFT" an automated tool for relative registration of an image stack.
- Space Junk!
Notes and stray thoughts:
- Esri puts on a quality show always. San Diego always manages to feel simultaneously busy and fun, while not being crowded and claustrophobic. Must be the ocean or the air.
- Gotta get behind the ubiquitous "analytics" replacement of "analysis" in talks. I am not convinced everyone is using the term correctly, but hey, it's a thing now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytics#Analytics_vs._analysis
- 10 years ago I had a wonderful visitor to my lab from Spain - Francisco Javier Lozano - and we wrote a paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003442570700243X. He left to work at some crazy company called Deimos in Spain, and Lo and Behold, he is still there, and the company is going strong. The Deimos satellites are part of the UrtheCast fleet. Small world!
- The gender balance at the Imagery portion of the Esri UC is not. One presenter at a talk said to the audience with a pointed stare at me: "Thanks for coming Lady and Gentlemen".
Good fun! Now more from Shane and Robert at the week-long Esri UC!
UC ANR was a sponsor for the FOODIT: Fork to Farm meeting in June 2017: http://mixingbowlhub.com/events/food-fork-farm/. Many of us were there to learn about what was happening in the food-data-tech space and learn how UCANR can be of service. It was pretty cool. First, it was held in the Computer History Museum, which is rad. Second, the idea of the day was to link partners, industry, scientists, funders, and foodies, around sustainable food production, distribution, and delivery. Third, there were some rad snacks (pic below).
We had an initial talk from Mikiel Bakker from Google Food, who have broadened their thinking about food to include not just feeding Googlers, but also the overall food chain and food system sustainability. They have developed 5 "foodshots" (i.e. like "moonshot" thinking): 1) enable individuals to make better choices, 2) shift diets, 3) food system transparency, 4) reduce food losses, and 5) how to make a closed, circular food system.
We then had a series of moderated panels.
The Dean's List introduced a panel of University Deans, moderated by very own Glenda Humiston @UCANR, and included Helene Dillard (UCDavis), Andy Thulin (CalPoly), Wendy Wintersteen (Iowa State). Key discussion points included lack of food system transparency, science communication and literacy, making money with organics, education and training, farm sustainability and efficiency, market segmentation (e.g. organics), downstream processing, and consumer power to change food systems. Plus the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods.
The Tech-Enabled Consumer session featured 4 speakers from companies who feature tech around food. Katie Finnegan from Walmart, David McIntyre from Airbnb, Barbara Shpizner from Mattson, Michael Wolf from The Spoon. Pretty neat discussion around the way these diverse companies use tech to customize customer experience, provide cost savings, source food, contribute to a better food system. 40% of food waste is in homes, another 40% is in the consumer arena. So much to be done!
The session on Downstream Impacts for the Food Production System featured Chris Chochran from ReFed @refed_nowaste, Sabrina Mutukisna from The Town Kitchen @TheTownKitchen, Kevin Sanchez from the Yolo Food Bank @YoloFoodBank, and Justin Siegel from UC Davis International Innovation and Health. We talked about nutrition for all, schemes for minimizing food waste, waste streams, food banks, distribution of produce and protein to those who need them (@refed_nowaste and @YoloFoodBank), creating high quality jobs for young people of color in the food business (@TheTownKitchen), the amount of energy that is involved in the food system (David Lee from ARPA-E); this means 7% of our energy use in the US goes to CREATING FOOD WASTE. Yikes!
The session on Upstream Production Impacts from New Consumer Food Choices featured Ally DeArman from Food Craft Institute @FoodCraftInst, Micke Macrie from Land O' Lakes, Nolan Paul from Driscoll's @driscollsberry, and Kenneth Zuckerberg from Rabobank @Rabobank. This session got cut a bit short, but it was pretty interesting. Especially the Food Craft Institute, whose mission is to help "the small guys" succeed in the food space.
The afternoon sessions included some pitch competitions, deep dive breakouts and networking sessions. What a great day for ANR.
Last week we enjoyed attending the CalGIS 2017 conference in Oakland. This year the meeting was co-hosted with LocationCon, so it was larger than usual and had a good mix of participants from government, non-profits, academic and consulting companies. As expected there were a lot of people from California, but we also met a lot of people from other parts of the US.
The first day of the conference was devoted to workshops, and IGIS gave a half-day version of our workshop on drone technology and data analysis. This was well attended, and one of several sessions focused on drone technology. For us, this was also more preparation for our upcoming Dronecamp at the end of July.
The following day, Andy gave a presentation on some of the issues for scaling up drone capacity within a specific institutional setting like ANR. We discussed some of the issues we've been dealing with, including matching the scale of the data to the scale of science and management questions, outreach and training, regulatory compliance, and tailoring off-the-shelf technology for specific applications and contexts. The Q&A period highlighted a number of common challenges facing many organizations striving to take advantage of drone technology. One of the most common needs is developing institutional level policies to ensure safety and compliance with a dynamic array of federal, state, and local regulations. This discussion reminded us how fortunate ANR is to be backed by the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety, because many local agencies and public utilities are still trying to figure it out.
Another common theme that came up was management of the massive amount of data that drones can collect, and how to share and find drone data. Managing drone data is challenging because of the sheer volume of data. This makes many traditional strategies platforms unworkable and even cloud based solutions difficult to use because of long transfer times. Like many programs, we started managing drone data by adapting existing tools and established practices from other fields like GIS and remote sensing, which we have been refining as we learn more and as our drone service program grows to include more people and projects. We recently started documenting our data management system in a recent Tech Note (more about that in an upcoming blog), and are currently exploring a new online platform for dissemination in collaboration with ESRI (stay tuned for more info about that also). What became clear at the conference however is that the tools and platforms for drone data management are still catching up, and we have a long way to go before we can reach the capabilities of portals for more traditional GIS data, such as the State of CA Geoportal or even the National Map.
Other highlights from the conference were the many excellent talks, including presentations on using drones to create a very precise digital elevation model of a wetland restoration site, techniques for machine learning classification of aerial imagery, and the US Forest Service's system-wide database called EDW. We also heard about some of the exciting new features of Cal-Adapt, including an API that will dramatically simplify the process of creating decision support tools and other applications that require downscaled climate forecasts. Many of the presentations are available through the conference website, all of which are well worth checking out.
The drone data will be used to create fine resolution vegetation and elevation maps, as part of a desert tortoise research project led by Dr. Brian Todd in the Dept. of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis. The study seeks to better understand how the threatened desert tortoise navigates in its landscape, which will help biologists and land managers responsible for protecting the desert tortoise make management decisions, such as where to place road fences that don't cut off important resources for this long-lived species. Researchers on this project track the tortoises with GPS and temperature sensors, which they will now be able to overlay on the highly detailed maps of the desert generated from the drone imagery.
How does the desert look to a tortoise?
A Large Study Area
The study area is approximately 3600 acres, which is extremely large for a drone. We mapped the area in two trips in 2016 and 2017, with significant improvements to our mapping methods in between.
The Solo+GoPro combo worked well, but the flight time of the Solo, its mediocre GPS receiver, and the lack of an integrated GPS module in the GoPro were limiting factors that required more time for both flying and processing the data.
New Drone Platform for 2017
Some lessons learned for mapping large areas include:
- Mapping large areas with a quadcopter is viable with careful planning
- The Matrice 100 is large enough has enough power to fly 100 acre flights with two cameras on board with two batteries and calm winds
- Heat can dramatically reduce flight time because the air is thinner and equipment less efficient
- Checking your data in the field and having backup plans for weather and equipment glitches are essential
- Having two or more people on the flight crew helps tremendously
- Developing individual mission plans before going to the field reduces time between flights and hence illumination differences between adjacent areas
- The dessert tortoise is a charismatic creature with amazing adaptations, and a great curiosity about the research equipment we were setting up alongside the road: