Thursday, February 11, 2016

Droning on about Unmanned Aerial Systems

The DJI - Phantom 3 Advanced

There might not be a more exciting and buzzworthy area of commercial technological advancement than that of the small Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) platforms; commonly referred to as “drones”.  In the last ten years, advancement in radio controlled (RC) technology and many of the inner-working components of commercial drones has seen exponential growth and development, which has truly opened the door for the general public to assist in the exploration of the role(s) that small UAS will have in the future of unmanned flight.

People often forget how far drone technology has come since the early years of unmanned piloting. It’s hard to believe, but unmanned aerial systems were first developed in the 1850s!  Largely used during wartime for military reconnaissance, early platforms involved slow moving balloons, tethered kites, and later, remotely piloted planes.

Civil War era Balloon "Intrepid" and Kettering Aerial Torpedo "Bug"

Thankfully, the desire to push boundaries was not lost due to the limited capability of these primitive drone examples. The continued innovation in the design and technology of unmanned piloting has ushered in a new era of functions and uses – specifically for non-governmental or non-military applications.  Accessibility to more affordable parts and manufacturing has made commercial drone production economically viable for a wider range of companies.  So you might be wondering, what does all of this have to do with camp planning and architecture?  

Well, even when unmanned piloting was first being developed over 160 years ago, the creators had a particular idea in mind:  how can we provide a perspective that few people have seen before?  This might be the most significant benefit that commercial drones present to the greater public.  As is often the case in large scale architectural planning and design projects, it is difficult to provide the client (and also the community at large) with a wide enough perspective of a site that illustrates just how complex and involved a given project is.

Specifically, as it relates to camp architecture; property size and accessibility to remote areas on some properties can present unique challenges – not least of which being difficult terrain that can make documentation time-consuming, uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous. 

So what are some of the tangible benefits that drones can provide to the camp architecture market?  With the advent of inexpensive and easy-to-fly commercial drones, tasks such as aerial photography, surveying and mapping, and videography can be completed with ease...and with a single operator.  Other industries such as agriculture, movie and film production, and professional photography have already begun utilizing drone platforms for business purposes.

Before commercial drones were really a viable option, the best way to capture a true bird’s-eye perspective was through the use of small airplanes.  However, this type of resource is expensive and often unreliable due to the higher altitudes and higher speeds with which the aircraft must operate…not to mention having to hire a trained, professional pilot to get the job done!

Downtown Brevard, NC

This is not the case with many of the off-the-shelf drone models available today, as they are easily maneuverable and incorporate an intuitive, smart-phone interface along with savvy, video-game like controls that most people can learn quickly.  Some of these same drone platforms also come fitted with the latest GPS technology that can be used to generate a mapped flight path through the use of “waypoints”.  This could be a great tool for capturing a consistent, repeating bird’s-eye view of larger construction projects, and for generating time-lapse photography or video segments to illustrate the before and after conditions of a particular site.

Domokur's own Stefan Young making a test flight

Domokur Architects is always looking to the future, and searching for new and improved ways to enhance the client experience.  We are thrilled to announce that we will officially take to the skies with our own commercial drone platform, with services available beginning in the summer of 2016!  Stay tuned - and in the meantime, check out this preliminary training video we recently recorded.

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