We often get calls from our customers after setting up their shiny new sensor and they ask questions like, "So what altitude should I fly? And how fast should I fly?" And our answer is always the same, "It depends on what you want to measure."
One of the major advantages of drone-based imagery is the very high resolution you can achieve, which we've leveraged to enable the unique data products we produce in SlantView, such as plant counts, plant size, separation of crops and weeds, and many others. But there are some rather complex relationships and trade-offs between resolution, altitude, speed, and area coverage, such that you may not always want to collect data at the highest resolution achievable with your sensor. And more importantly, some data products don't require the same resolution as others. For example, to count plants you need to fly low enough to achieve the resolution required to separate one plant from its neighbors along a row. And of course, plants have different sizes at different growth stages. Similarly, you don't need as much resolution to measure general stress conditions on a more mature crop.
This is a good point to quickly mention the confusion that often arises around the word "resolution". We'll provide a full blog post on this soon but for now, it's important to note that resolution is often used to describe the number of pixels in a camera ("I'm using a camera with 12 Megapixel resolution") but is also used to describe the spatial clarity of an image ("My SLANTRANGE sensor provides 4.8 cm resolution at 120 meters altitude.") These are clearly two very different concepts. For the latter case, we prefer the term "Ground Sample Distance" (GSD), which describes the spatial dimension represented by one pixel in an image. But for the purposes of this article, and to be consistent with the usage in DroneDeploy, we'll stick with "resolution".
Prior to the release of the latest version of our app in the DroneDeploy App Market, we provided an offline flight plan calculator that would compute recommended flight parameters based on inputs about the size of the plants to be measured and the data products to be generated. This was effective but required yet another software tool in the field and values had to be manually copied over to a flight planner.
Taking advantage of the powerful tools provided to developers in the DroneDeploy App Market, the latest version of our app incorporates all of this functionality and provides a seamless, integrated flight planning experience for agriculture drone data collections. Using our app, you'll get all the benefits of DroneDeploy, the industry's leading flight planning app for DJI drones, which includes offline planning, plan sharing, and many other great features. But in addition, your flight plans will be optimized for the specific conditions of your crops and the specific data products you need to support your decision making. No more guessing. No more trial and error. And no more wasted time on flights that produce bad data. It's like you have one of our remote sensing experts built right into your flight planner!
So with that introduction, let's get started on a detailed walkthrough of how to use our app. Note that, unless stated otherwise, all of the following steps can be done in the DroneDeploy mobile app or on the DroneDeploy web interface.