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SPH Engineering & UGCS SkyHub: Pushing the limits of altimetry and terrain following

SPH Engineering is a globally recognized provider of UgCS – UAV mission planning and flight control software solution. This constantly evolving software is used by drone pilots and professional surveyors worldwide – particularly in the areas of environmental, archeological, engineering, mining, agricultural and biological surveys. In fact, one aspect – UgCS educational program – aims to support universities with a safe and efficient tool to test innovative ideas around surveying and inspections using drones.

Another technology from SPH Engineering, Drone Show Software, is used to manage and coordinate the flight of dozens or even hundreds of drones. A recent example of Drone Show Software in use was the drone show at the US Super Bowl 2022.

UgCS Integrated Systems, one more business line of SPH Engineering, enables the advanced technological integration between a drone, various sensors, the UgCS SkyHub hardware, and the UgCS software. The company has developed integrated systems for their clients, some of which use nonstandard sensors like ground penetrating radars, magnetometers, metal detectors, gas detectors as opposed to more traditional LiDAR, or camera.

 A challenge to flight control systems

When flying a drone using a UAV mission planning and flight control solution, all aspects of the integrated system – RADAR or LiDAR – need to meet with the regulations of the place where the drone flight will take place. These days RADAR altimeters are prohibited from use in the United States and part of the EU. This has meant that SPH Engineering has had to explore other altimetry alternatives and their attention has thus turned to LiDAR.

 The number one requirement for an altimetry sensor is that they assist the drone with maintaining a constant altitude over the surface of water or the ground. In some instances, the altitude can be very low requiring fast readings to give the system and controller sufficient reaction time.

 LiDAR as the solution

A few years ago, SPH Engineering tested some of LightWare’s LiDAR sensors and as was typical of most LiDAR sensors of the time, the sensor had problems with effective readings over reflective surfaces like water, snow or even in direct sunlight.

However, fast forward a few years and the technology and sensors have evolved such that SPH Engineering is now able to use the LightWare SF30/D LiDAR, over water, at an acceptable flight altitude up to 12 meters. This is excellent as the standard flying over altitude over water should be approximately 1.5 to 2 meters only – so this LiDAR surpasses expectations!

Field trials and beyond

As of January 2022, SPH Engineering started integrating the SF30/D LiDAR sensor into their UgCS Integrated Systems business line. The product has already been delivered to dozens of their customers for field testing. Currently they await feedback from field trials, but the SPH Engineering team is hopeful and believe they are likely to see great results. Watch this space to hear more.

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