Drone integration with the Routescene UAV LiDAR solutions

Posted on June 9, 2021 in Drone integration

Agnostic UAV LiDAR solutions

Rourescene LidarPod drone integration

The Routescene® UAV LiDAR solutions have been designed to fly on any aerial platform that can carry a payload of between 2.0kg (4.4lbs) and 3.3kg (7.3lbs) depending on the options you choose. This includes the LidarPod plus all the peripherals, such as the UAV mounting kit, cables and GNSS antennas.

1. Mechanical integration

The LidarPod has been flown on numerous models of commercial UAV drone and our specially designed vibration damping mounting kit allows for simple integration on any UAV. Made from carbon fiber it is lightweight to reduce the impact on flight times. Created to reduce the transmission of vibrations from the UAV to the Routescene LidarPod, it connects quickly and directly onto the drone.

The UAV mounting kit includes an equipment plate that is compatible with 12mm diameter UAV equipment rails, which is the standard for most industrial drones. The equipment rails are 150-155mm apart. The equipment plate can easily be modified to integrate with the mounting system on your chosen drone. The equipment plate includes quick-release clamps for easy deployment.

Mounting kit weight: 0.6 kg

Routescene vibration dampening drone mounting kit

Routescene’s vibration dampening drone mounting kit

Find out more about recommended drone platforms for the Routescene UAV LiDAR solutions

2. Electrical integration

The Routescene LidarPod is a self contained unit and is easy and quick to deploy. It is normally powered from the UAV via an XT60 connector, this is a standard plug to power drone mounted sensors. The LidarPod power requirement is low (28W) and so has negligible effect on the endurance of the UAV when powered directly. The LidarPod could be powered using a dedicated 3S battery but this battery adds to the total payload weight and so might prove to be the least efficient method overall.

Routescene LidarPod LiDAR solutions mounted below a drone

Routescene LidarPod payload showing via XT60 connector. A standard plug to power drone mounted sensors

The LidarPod supports a wide voltage input range (11-48VDC). This enables it to be compatible with drones that use a high voltage electrical system, this is more efficient and minimizes power losses.

3. Heading

For airborne LiDAR surveys, which includes UAV, the best heading method is dual antenna GNSS. A GNSS true heading is achieved by using two antennas on the same GNSS receiver. This method provides position, velocity and a true heading angle that is valid, even when stationary.

Advantages of dual antenna GNSS:

  • Works when stationary: you don’t need to move or to have accelerations
  • Calibration-free: you don’t need any calibration
  • You don’t have to worry about magnetic disturbances
  • It is the most accurate solution.

Dual antenna systems are much more sensitive to GPS/GNSS conditions than single antenna systems. It should be operated in open sky condition for optimal performance.

GNSS antennas

The LidarPod uses a dual antenna GNSS\INS system to provide position and orientation information. We incorporated a dual antenna solution to ensure that the heading accuracy is as good as possible. Analysis of single antenna GNSS\INS systems on the market concluded that a dual antenna system provides a heading accuracy that is up to 3 times more accurate. This heading accuracy gain ultimately ensures that the final point cloud is also more accurate.

Routescene LidarPod Lidar solutions dual GNSS antenna

Dual antenna GNSS antenna fore and aft on the Routescene LidarPod to improve heading

The Routescene LidarPod uses two lightweight survey grade GNSS antennas which are optimized for dual frequency GPS and Glonass signals. They are tuned to ensure optimum RTK performance and are designed to withstand extreme conditions. The antennas are mounted on aluminum plates which act as ground planes, further enhancing performance and reducing multipath.

GNSS antenna poles

The antennas used to determine the heading are mounted on two carbon-fiber poles extended in the fore and aft (or left-right) direction relative to the LidarPod and drone. Ideally, the poles should be as long as possible, as the greater the distance between the GNSS antennas the higher the accuracy of the heading. In practice, we recommend the distance between the GNSS antennas is around 1.6m for a typical industrial UAV. The GNSS antennas should be located within the rotor disk of the UAV’s propellers to reduce the effects of inertia and ensure that the handling characteristics of the UAV remain unchanged.