Skyward recently released Automated Flight Modes for our InFlight mobile app. It’s our latest feature designed to help customers fly missions with confidence. We designed these automated drone flights to be an intuitive tool for capturing data without having to leave Skyward. With InFlight, all your flights — automated or manual — are automatically logged to the cloud.

As much as I love talking about our new features, I’d rather show you how they work. I recently flew a surveying mission to demonstrate Skyward’s automated survey mode in action. Afterward, I ran the photos through a post-processing platform to produce deliverable results.

Let’s take a look!

Step 1: Plan your flight area in Skyward

Flight Area in Skyward

Before I left my home office, I planned an area of operation using Skyward’s browser-based app. Since my flight area wasn’t in controlled airspace, I didn’t have to submit a LAANC request. If I’d needed to, I could have requested LAANC with a few clicks. I also could have created my flight area and requested LAANC directly from InFlight. 

Step 2: Plan an automated drone survey

Operation View and Automated Flight Mode Selection

After arriving on site, I reviewed my mission details. Then I tapped “Add Automated Flight,” selected “Survey” and entered my aircraft and camera details. (Automated Flight Modes are currently compatible with select DJI drones, with more makes and models planned for the future.)

Automated Survey Grid in Skyward

Next, I refined my survey area. By default, InFlight creates a grid that fills your planned area of operation. Since I only wanted to survey a portion of that area, I resized the survey grid as needed.

Drone Survey in InFlight

With my survey area set, I used the built-in settings to fine tune my flight. I adjusted the altitude of the drone and rotation of the grid for optimal results. InFlight dynamically updated the flight path and parameters as I moved the sliders. Once I finished making adjustments, I saved the automated flight and made preparations for takeoff.

Step 3: Fly your automated drone mission

Start Automated Drone Flight in Skyward

I connected my drone to InFlight and ran through pre-flight checklists. Then I selected the automated survey I had just created. After a quick review of the details, I started the flight.

Automated Drone Survey in Progress

Now all I had to do was stand back and keep watch as the drone took off and flew the route automatically. As it traced the grid, it collected a few hundred images I could use to create an orthomosaic map. At the conclusion of the flight, the drone automatically returned to its home point and landed.

Step 4: Process the drone data you’ve collected

Orthomosaic Map from a Drone Survey

Once I returned to my home office, I uploaded the photos from the drone’s memory card to a major drone data processing platform. This is standard practice — nearly every post-processing platform requires drone data to be uploaded from a memory card rather than live during the flight. (One of the potential use cases we’re looking forward to with cellular-connected drones is to send this information for processing while the drone is in the air, building maps in near-real time.)

Zoomed View of Othomosaic Map

I created a 2D orthomosaic map with the survey data. These maps are very helpful in use cases like shoreline restoration. While satellite imagery may show you the general layout of the shoreline, those images may be outdated, and they may not provide you the resolution you need. An orthomosaic map provides granular detail and current data. You can capture conditions exactly as they are and plan your restoration efforts. You can also fly the same mission periodically to measure changes over time — just pull up the automated flight from the old mission and run it again.

Using drones for 3D mapping, LiDAR surveys, and more

Orthomosaic maps are only the beginning. With the right processing tools, you can also create 3D survey maps, and InFlight’s survey mode can be optimized for LiDAR surveys. InFlight also enables orbital and point-to-point automated flights.

Drone surveys save time and money across many industries. Media companies use drones to scout and map potential filming locations. Construction companies use drone surveys for Building Information Modeling (BIM). Electrical utilities can use point-to-point missions to fly along and inspect power lines.

Interested in how you can put drones to work at your business? Check out our ebook, Adding Drones to the Enterprise.

Skyward eBook: Adding Drones to the Enterprise