Drones have become increasingly popular in various industries for their ability to capture high-resolution imagery and survey hard-to-reach areas. However, one of the significant challenges in using drones for precision applications like mapping, surveying, and inspection is their limited accuracy in positioning. Normal GPS (like the ones on your smartphone) accuracy is correct to a few meters, which is ok for everyday use. However, for industries like construction, agriculture and mining, the GPS accuracy needs to have centimetre-level accuracy. This is where GPS correctional technology like RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) comes into play. This article will explore RTK, the benefits of using RTK GPS technology, drones that come with RTK GPS, industries that benefit from RTK technology, and alternatives to RTK.
What is RTK GPS Technology?
RTK is a method of accurately determining a person or object’s location on Earth by using GPS technology. It works by using two or more GPS receivers, one of which is stationary and known as the “base station,” while the others are mobile and referred to as “rovers.” The base station receives signals from GPS satellites and records information about them. This information is then transmitted to the rover through a radio or cellular network, and it is used to correct errors in the GPS signals received by the rovers. The result is that the rovers can determine their precise location with much greater accuracy than using standard GPS technology, down to the centimetre level.
Watch the video below to understand better how RTK technology works.
Benefits of Drones With RTK GPS
Increased Accuracy: RTK GPS technology provides sub-centimetre level accuracy, which is significantly more accurate than standard GPS technology. This increased accuracy allows for more precise and reliable data collection, particularly in applications where high accuracy is critical.
Faster Data Collection: RTK GPS technology allows for faster data collection as the drone can fly at higher speeds while maintaining accuracy. This is particularly useful in large-scale surveys and mapping projects where time is of the essence.
Improved Efficiency: RTK GPS technology requires fewer ground control points (GCPs), typically used to improve the accuracy of aerial surveys. This reduces the time and cost associated with ground-based surveys and enhances efficiency.
Reduces Survey Time: RTK GPS technology enables the drone to fly on autopilot and collect data in a fraction of the time required for traditional surveys. This reduces the time and resources required for surveying and improves the project’s overall productivity.
Drones With RTK GPS Technology
DJI Phantom 4 RTK: The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is a highly popular drone among surveyors and mappers due to its high-accuracy RTK GPS and 20MP camera. It is designed to provide centimetre-level accuracy and can work with D-RTK 2 mobile station, providing real-time differential data for accurate positioning. The drone also has a TimeSync feature that aligns the controller, camera, and RTK module to ensure metadata accuracy. The drone has a flight time of 30 minutes on a single battery charge and has a maximum transmission range of 7km. The Phantom 4 RTK also features obstacle avoidance and intelligent flight modes to make flight planning easier.
DJI Matrice 300 RTK: The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is a professional-grade drone that comes equipped with RTK GPS technology, a 55-minute flight time (with no payload), and a 15km transmission range. The Matrice 300 RTK is designed to handle complex missions and comes with advanced sensors, intelligent features, and a rugged design that can handle extreme weather conditions. The drone features a 6-direction obstacle sensing and avoidance system that allows it to fly safely even in challenging environments. It is compatible with multiple payloads, including the Zenmuse P1, Zenmuse L1 and the Zenmuse X7 full-frame camera.
SenseFly eBee X RTK: The senseFly eBee X RTK is a lightweight fixed-wing drone that comes equipped with RTK GPS technology, up to 90 flight time, and can survey 500 ha with one battery charge. The drone is designed to provide highly accurate and efficient mapping and surveying capabilities and is compatible with a range of sensors, including a high-resolution RGB camera and multispectral camera. The eBee X RTK is also designed to be highly modular, with the ability to swap sensors and payloads easily. The drone also comes with various intelligent flight modes that make flight planning and execution easier, such as terrain following and point of interest.
Sensefly eBee AG : The eBee AG drone is a fixed-wing drone that comes equipped with RTK GPS technology and a dual system camera that includes a high-resolution RGB and multispectral camera. The drone is designed for high-accuracy surveying and mapping and can cover large areas quickly and efficiently. The drone can fly for up to 55 minutes on a single battery charge, allowing it to cover 160 ha on one charge. The eBee AG is robust and lightweight, can be operated in light rain and windy conditions and comes with autonomous flight modes for easier mapping and surveying.
DJI Mavic 3E : DJI has recently released the Mavic 3E, a new drone designed for enterprise use. The drone is equipped with a 4/3 CMOS camera that captures high-quality 20MP images and has a flight time of up to 45 minutes. While the Mavic 3E does not have an internal RTK module, an external DJI RTK module can be attached to the drone’s body.
The drone comes with advanced features such as an omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system, a more accurate return-to-home function and a video transmission range of up to 15km.
With its high-quality camera and extended flight time, the Mavic 3E is an excellent tool for various enterprise applications. Its ability to be paired with an external RTK module makes it even more attractive for surveying and mapping tasks that require high-accuracy positioning data.
Industries That Use RTK GPS Technology
Drones with RTK technology have become valuable in many industries, including agriculture, construction, mining, and oil and gas. By providing highly accurate data and imagery, drones with RTK technology are revolutionizing how these industries approach tasks such as exploration, surveying, and monitoring.
Drones with RTK technology are helping farmers to optimize crop yields by providing highly accurate data about soil health and moisture levels. This information allows farmers to make more informed decisions about when to plant, fertilize, and irrigate, reducing costs and increasing yields. Additionally, drones with RTK can precisely apply pesticides and fertilizers, reducing waste and minimizing the environmental impact.
Drones allow for more accurate data and imagery for surveying, enabling engineers to better understand site conditions and plan for infrastructure development. With RTK technology, drones can fly more accurately and safely, allowing for efficient data collection while reducing the need for manual labour and surveying equipment. This can speed up project timelines and reduce overall project costs.
Drones are used to identify potential mineral deposits and survey mining sites more efficiently and accurately than traditional surveying methods. Drones can also be used to monitor mining sites for safety hazards, such as unstable slopes or sinkholes, reducing the risk of accidents. With RTK technology, drones can fly more accurately and collect data more confidently and efficiently, ultimately lowering costs and improving project outcomes.
Oil & Gas
Drones with RTK technology are being used for exploration, infrastructure inspection, and environmental monitoring. By providing highly accurate data and imagery, drones can help oil and gas companies better understand a site’s geology and terrain and more efficiently plan their exploration efforts. Drones can also be used to inspect oil and gas pipelines, tanks, and other infrastructure, identifying potential issues before they become major problems. Additionally, drones can monitor the impact of oil and gas operations on the environment, enabling companies to track and manage their environmental impact better.
Overall, drones with RTK technology provide industries with a powerful tool for exploration, surveying, and monitoring, providing highly accurate data and imagery while also saving time and reducing costs. By incorporating drones with RTK technology into their operations, industries can optimize their processes, reduce their environmental impact, and improve their bottom line.
Alternatives To RTK GPS Technology
While RTK GPS technology is an excellent solution for high-precision positioning, some alternatives can be used in certain situations. One such alternative is Post-Processing Kinematic (PPK) technology, which is a positioning technique that relies on post-processing data from GPS receivers to achieve high accuracy. PPK technology works by collecting data from a base station and a rover and then post-processing the data to determine precise positioning information.
PPK and RTK both deliver similar results, the difference the two methods is when the GPS data is corrected. With the RTK method, the geo-referencing data is corrected in real-time, while with PPK, the data is processed afterwards.
In conclusion, using RTK GPS technology in drones has significantly enabled high-precision positioning for various applications. Drones with RTK technology have revolutionized the way we collect data, monitor resources, and improve efficiencies in agriculture, construction, mining, and oil and gas industries. The benefits of drones with RTK GPS technology, including increased accuracy, faster data collection, and improved efficiency, make them indispensable tools for many commercial applications.