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From 3D Mapping to Data Collection: Digi XBee Gets Drones Off the Ground

Digi International Digi International
May 04, 2015
The commercial drone industry is still relatively young, but over the next decade, the civilian and commercial drone market is expected to more than double. Just this year, the FAA proposed legislation creating a process to allow the use of commercial drones in the US. These new rules would make the U.S. one of the most drone-friendly regions for commercial purposes. That Amazon Prime delivery via drone may be closer to reality than you think.
With multiple applications for drone technology like agriculture, public safety, photography, and a variety of industrial uses, a number of companies are emerging to capture these growing markets. In addition to the many commercial drone opportunities, researchers and makers are also turning to drones as the technology falls in price and becomes more affordable for small operations. Here are a few interesting companies and projects using XBee technology in their drones.
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Draganfly is a unique XBee user. Their claim to fame? The first human life saved by a drone. They specialize in public safety applications as well as industrial inspection by providing tools for high resolution imagery and precision 3D mapping. They even offer customers with flight training courses -- very important when youre a flying a valuable piece of equipment hundreds of feet in the air.
Earlier this year, they announced a new application designed specifically for precision agriculture. The drone is equipped with a camera that simultaneously captures five discrete spectral bands, which provides useful data for monitoring crops and environmental health. The image generated can help farmers identify areas invaded by pests or becoming overgrown with weeds. Click here to read more about Draganfly.
PlexiDrone
PlexiDronePlexiDrone, developed by DreamQii Robotics, is a drone platform for aerial photography. Initially developed for use in the film industry, but the company expects to expand into industrial applications as well. The companys Indiegogo campaign raised over 2 million dollars -- breaking the record for largest canadian crowd funded project.
The PlexiDrone is unique in that it can be controlled via an Android or iOS device rather than a specially designed controller - drastically reducing cost. The users smartphone/tablet controller communicates to a base station over Bluetooth and that base station connects to the drone over an XBee. XBee provides reliable long range wireless to the drone capturing video or photos from the sky. DreamQii also provides developers an entire development kit, so they can create their own custom drone application. Read more about PlexiDrone here.
Monitoring the Amazon Rainforest
We have also worked with quite a few students and makers implementing XBee into their drone designs. Last year a team of students from Peru built an entire monitoring system capable of creating an wildlife inventory of the rainforest. This is a unique drone application in that the drone is used as a vessel for data collection.
Screen-Shot-2014-12-12-at-2.37.27-PMThe network consists of multiple nodes containing a motion sensor and camera. Whenever a node detects motion, an image is captured and the file is stored locally. The drone is programmed to fly around to each of these takeout points. Once the drone captures the images it returns to the city for more in-depth processing. Another interesting aspect of this project is the team created their a custom Arduino board to maximize battery life. Click here to learn more about their project.