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Precision Landing in 7 Steps and Coding Challenge…

Part 2 of my Tutorial about Precision Landing, using a Raspberry Pi, OpenCv, Arducopter and Dronekit.

> Plus my first Shout Out... at the very end!

> Plus the first Coding Challenge: submit your precision landing video and the best one will be in my next shout out!

Watch Part 1 here

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Gas imaging camera for drones – second generation

At Workswell, we come with a new drones camera system designed to detect dangerous gases. The aim of the system is to provide information on the occurrence of hazardous or noxious gas at a safe distance, using drones. We used standard infrared optical metohod for gas leakage detection - cooled thermal imaging camera.

Thermal imaging camera Workswell GIS-320 can detect a wide spectrum of gases, which are invisible to a human’s eye.

The GIS-320 has a high sensitivity with a cooled MWIR (Midwave Infrared) sensor with a range of detection between 3.2 – 3.4 µm. Cooled quantum detector’s resolution is 320×240 pixels which is a perfect for this thermal camera. This detector operates on a very low temperature which increases its detection capability. Its operating temperature is about -200°C which increases its temperature sensitivity (15mK). This enables it to detect gases of very small concentrations.

Ie. camera is capable to detect gases for instance (at a distance of tens of meters):

  • Benzene
  • Ethanol
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Heptane
  • Hexane
  • Isoprene
  • Methanol
  • MEK
  • MIBK
  • Octane
  • Pentane
  • 1-Pentane
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • Butane
  • Ethane
  • Methane
  • Propane
  • Ethylene
  • and more

Princip of gas detection based on MWRI thermal imaging camera is very well described here.

The dimensions of the camera are 201 x 150 x 105 mm and it weighs under 1.6kg.

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Drone with ground-penetrating radar for mine detection

From Hackaday:

Most civilized nations ban the use of landmines because they kill indiscriminately, and for years after they are planted. However, they are still used in many places around the world, and people are still left trying to find better ways to find and remove them. This group is looking at an interesting new approach: using ground-penetrating radar from a drone [PDF link]. The idea is that you send out a radio signal, which penetrates into the ground and bounces off any objects in there. By analyzing the reflected signal, so the theory goes, you can see objects underground. Of course, it gets a bit more complicated than that (especially when signals get reflected by the surface and other objects), but it’s a well-established technique even though this is the first time we’ve seen it mounted on a drone. It’s a great idea: the drone allows you to have the transmitting and receiving antennas separated with both mounted on pole extensions, meaning that the radio platform can move. Combined with a pre-planned flight, and we’re looking at a system that can fly over an area, scan what is under the ground, and store the data for analysis.

This team includes [J. Rodriguez], [C. Castiblanco] [I. Mondragon] and  [J. Colorado] at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotoa, Colombia. This team attached an Ettus URP B210 SDR card with two Vivaldi antennas to an Astec Firefly drone, linked via WiFi to a Linux server for the heavy data analysis in GNURadio. The two antennas were located on either side of the drone,  attached to a crossbar that separated them and also held the Ettus SDR device.

The trials on the device look promising: the team was able to detect several metal objects in a number of different soil types. The soil type and moisture level is a big part of the problem here: it affects the transmission of the radio signal, and thus the object detection. It’s a promising project that has potential: as the writers note, the use of an SDR system means that the radio detection system can be reconfigured, literally, on the fly. That means it could be adapted to different soil types, and even to detect different sized objects.

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Enabling maritime operations with an amphibious fixed wing drone

A big fish in a small pond.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones which can safely land on water are a relative scarcity, and fixed-wing users working in the “splash-zone” could benefit greatly with a drone specifically designed to sustain this type of environment. Thus far, fixed-wing UAVs have been the industry model of choice for surveys which require power; long endurance times, substantial payload and extensive range, and the new Aeromapper Talon Amphibious delivers all that plus the ability to function 100% amphibiously by landing on water and being watertight.


The Aeromapper Talon amphibious has been extensively tested in challenging marine conditions by marine ecologists in London, who were the original inspiration for the design. Marine ecologists, and field biologists, have it tough. Their working conditions on vessels or in far flung remote island locations may appear idyllic but can present many logistical problems and constraints when it comes to gathering data. There can be waves, wind and rain at any given moment and the scientists needed a UAV which could stand up to this harsh environment. We were fortunate enough to not only train two scientists in our UAV handling and piloting, but to send two of the amphibious units to the field, to be tested, proving that the system can be quickly taught and implemented.


The UAV was successfully flown in the British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT) as part of a scientific expedition led by the Zoological Society of London. This is the first time that a fixed-wing amphibious UAV has been used in the UK Overseas Territories and the applications of a water landing unit in marine ecological surveys, fisheries management and maritime surveillance are vast. 


The amphibious UAV was piloted and trialled by an MSc student from Imperial College London, who described the unit as “An incredible tool for gathering vast amounts of ecological and habitat data, safe in the knowledge that we can easily land anywhere near the main vessel, on the ocean. In the tropics, rain clouds can often hit out of nowhere, and with this amphibious UAV, we no longer have to worry about rain water leaking in, either.”. Over 25,000 images were collected during the ecological surveys and the scientists were able to analyse the images to calculate the abundances of sharks and birds. Their camera of choice was the Garmin VIRB which allowed for geotagging of each image. The UAV is already gathering a lot of interest in the research world after being showcased at a marine symposium in London, with scientists and managers from around the world, looking to implement it into their coastal project operations.

The UAV is quickly assembled and deployed by hand (easily done by anyone), from the shore, from a small boat or from large steel vessels, without disruption to the GPS system; an issue which can affect multicoptrers and VTOL drones. What makes this system unique to life on the water, is the fully waterproofed fuselage and internal components, using marine grade parts which will avoid corrosion from salt water.  The UAV can also be equipped with a live camera system (excellent for monitoring and surveillance) as well as a 20Mp camera which will take crystal clear stills or film. The UAV is simple to retrieve from the water using a small boat or you can land it near to, or on a beach. With a cruise speed of 60kph, communications range of +30Km and flight endurance of nearly 2 hours, it is possible to cover a huge area, saving money and time.

The range of industries that can benefit from a UAV of these characteristics is quite wide: aquaculture, marine sciences and conservation, coastal management and enforcement, freshwater body management, flood zones, fisheries, disaster areas, around oil rigs, dams; in fact, anywhere where water was once a hindrance to your UAV surveying.


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New book release: Optimizing Small Multi-Rotor Unmanned Aircraft: A Practical Design Guide

A summary of ten year's research in the area of Drone Design and Development. Written as a design guide to inform and educate future generations of Aeronautic Engineers, RC Enthusiasts and DIY citizen scientists:




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