The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XL-3/W4
17 Mar 2016
 | 17 Mar 2016


O. Mian, J. Lutes, G. Lipa, J. J. Hutton, E. Gavelle, and S. Borghini

Keywords: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV, Direct Georeferencing, GNSS, Inertial, Mapping, Photogrammetry, Integrated Sensor Orientation, POSPac UAV, APX-15, Single Strip Corridor

Abstract. Efficient mapping from unmanned aerial platforms cannot rely on aerial triangulation using known ground control points. The cost and time of setting ground control, added to the need for increased overlap between flight lines, severely limits the ability of small VTOL platforms, in particular, to handle mapping-grade missions of all but the very smallest survey areas. Applanix has brought its experience in manned photogrammetry applications to this challenge, setting out the requirements for increasing the efficiency of mapping operations from small UAVs, using survey-grade GNSS-Inertial technology to accomplish direct georeferencing of the platform and/or the imaging payload. The Direct Mapping Solution for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (DMS-UAV) is a complete and ready-to-integrate OEM solution for Direct Georeferencing (DG) on unmanned aerial platforms. Designed as a solution for systems integrators to create mapping payloads for UAVs of all types and sizes, the DMS produces directly georeferenced products for any imaging payload (visual, LiDAR, infrared, multispectral imaging, even video). Additionally, DMS addresses the airframe’s requirements for high-accuracy position and orientation for such tasks as precision RTK landing and Precision Orientation for Air Data Systems (ADS), Guidance and Control.

This paper presents results using a DMS comprised of an Applanix APX-15 UAV with a Sony a7R camera to produce highly accurate orthorectified imagery without Ground Control Points on a Microdrones md4-1000 platform conducted by Applanix and Avyon. APX-15 UAV is a single-board, small-form-factor GNSS-Inertial system designed for use on small, lightweight platforms. The Sony a7R is a prosumer digital RGB camera sensor, with a 36MP, 4.9-micron CCD producing images at 7360 columns by 4912 rows. It was configured with a 50mm AF-S Nikkor f/1.8 lens and subsequently with a 35mm Zeiss Sonnar T* FE F2.8 lens. Both the camera/lens combinations and the APX-15 were mounted to a Microdrones md4-1000 quad-rotor VTOL UAV. The Sony A7R and each lens combination were focused and calibrated terrestrially using the Applanix camera calibration facility, and then integrated with the APX-15 GNSS-Inertial system using a custom mount specifically designed for UAV applications. The mount is constructed in such a way as to maintain the stability of both the interior orientation and IMU boresight calibration over shock and vibration, thus turning the Sony A7R into a metric imaging solution.

In July and August 2015, Applanix and Avyon carried out a series of test flights of this system. The goal of these test flights was to assess the performance of DMS APX-15 direct georeferencing system under various scenarios. Furthermore, an examination of how DMS APX-15 can be used to produce accurate map products without the use of ground control points and with reduced sidelap was also carried out. Reducing the side lap for survey missions performed by small UAVs can significantly increase the mapping productivity of these platforms.

The area mapped during the first flight campaign was a 250m x 300m block and a 775m long railway corridor in a rural setting in Ontario, Canada. The second area mapped was a 450m long corridor over a dam known as Fryer Dam (over Richelieu River in Quebec, Canada). Several ground control points were distributed within both test areas.

The flight over the block area included 8 North-South lines and 1 cross strip flown at 80m AGL, resulting in a ~1cm GSD. The flight over the railway corridor included 2 North-South lines also flown at 80m AGL. Similarly, the flight over the dam corridor included 2 North-South lines flown at 50m AGL. The focus of this paper was to analyse the results obtained from the two corridors.

Test results from both areas were processed using Direct Georeferencing techniques, and then compared for accuracy against the known positions of ground control points in each test area. The GNSS-Inertial data collected by the APX-15 was post-processed in Single Base mode, using a base station located in the project area via POSPac UAV. For the block and railway corridor, the basestation’s position was precisely determined by processing a 12-hour session using the CSRS-PPP Post Processing service. Similarly, for the flight over Fryer Dam, the base-station’s position was also precisely determined by processing a 4-hour session using the CSRS-PPP Post Processing service. POSPac UAV’s camera calibration and quality control (CalQC) module was used to refine the camera interior orientation parameters using an Integrated Sensor Orientation (ISO) approach. POSPac UAV was also used to generate the Exterior Orientation parameters for images collected during the test flight.

The Inpho photogrammetric software package was used to develop the final map products for both corridors under various scenarios. The imagery was first imported into an Inpho project, with updated focal length, principal point offsets and Exterior Orientation parameters. First, a Digital Terrain/Surface Model (DTM/DSM) was extracted from the stereo imagery, following which the raw images were orthorectified to produce an orthomosaic product.