Field Test and Review of Phantom II Quadcopter for Use in Scientific Field Research

[music]Hi, this is Karen McKee, the scientist
videographer and this is a review of the Phantom II Quadcopter, an aerial drone sold by DJI.
I had an opportunity recently to go out with some colleagues who are planning to use this
drone in their scientific research and consulting. So let’s take a closer look. The drone was field-tested in a coastal environment
in south Louisiana along the Gulf of Mexico. And here you see the quadcopter taking off
for the first flight. And in this view you can see the camera shooting
a 360 degree pan at an altitude of about 350 feet. The FAA restricts remotely operated
drones to 400 feet to avoid aircraft. This drone also has a warning system that prevents
operation near airports. And as you can see, one of the fantastic features of these quadcopters
is the ability to hover in position with little or no vibration and as you’ll see, the drone
will allow you to shoot really smooth video footage.Well, we purchased the drone because
we regularly do research in a number of field sites that are both marsh and beach sites
that are relatively remote. Uhm, and although we regularly use aerial imagery or down-looking
aerial imagery to get a view of these sites, what we’d often like to have is a little bit
different perspective at lower altitude or at angle. So that we can better Identify the
vegetation in the area, the densities of the vegetation, the type of changes that we’ll
see on the beach. And the drones seem to be a good tool to be able to do this.The quadcopter is relatively small
and lightweight, only a couple of pounds, and this one was equipped with a GoPro Hero
3 Black Edition camera, which can shoot spectacular action film. The drone is operated with a
remote control console and monitor that shows real-time video from the camera. It’s powered
by a battery that is good for about 20 minutes of flying time. The video footage looks like it was shot from
a crane dolly or some other professional setup because the camera is on a gimbel that produces
these smooth, gliding images. Although the top speed is 15 meters per second, this is
not recommended; you will get better footage by moving slowly and carefully. Notice how
well the drone hovers even in the wind. And the angle of the camera can be changed from
forward-looking to vertical while in flight. If communication is lost, there is a fail-safe
system that is supposed to return the drone to its starting position. The imagery is saved to a micro-SD card and
can be immediately reviewed on a computer. Oh, I see what you’r saying. We next experimented with running the drone
manually along a marked transect across the marsh, which seemed to work well. It’s also
possible to program the drone via GPS to follow a pre-arranged flight path. For this trial,
however, the drone was flown manually about 6 meters or 20 feet off the ground.We’re just learning about all the
different things that we can do with the drone. But certainly we have many other sites that
are similar to the one we shot today which is a marsh site down in south Louisiana and
a number of beach sites that are also offshore of this area. And we are going to those..we’re
going to use the drone in a number of these sites. To again better understand the changes
in geomorphology along the beach as it evolves through seasons of the year and also the vegetation
types and densities that exist in various marsh sites–both from freshwater on down
into saltwater marshes.The quadcopter was really a lot
of fun to watch, it performed extremely well, and was easy to fly with some practice; of
course, we had an experienced pilot operating the drone. Everyone in our group was impressed
and excited about the possibilities for its use in field research. We also tried a night flight in our hotel
parking lot, which produced surprisingly good footage. We have ten satellites now. We’re doing good there. So you just flipped it down to the
vertical? Yeah, yeah, exactly. Then I pushed it up.Well, that’s a brief look at the
Phantom II quadcopter. You can read my detailed comments about the drone on my blog. This
is Karen McKee, The Scientist Videographer. Thanks for watching. [music]

One Comment

  1. IllumiGraphic said:

    Nice to see a Phantom II used for scientific purposes!  Very cool

    October 9, 2014

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