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  • Chris Eshun, University of Mines and Technology

My Experience from Soko Aerial Professional Drone Piloting and Data Processing Program

My name is Chris Eshun, a third-year Geomatic Engineering student at the University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, Ghana. I am the Training Coordinator for UMaT YouthMappers Chapter, a member of OpenStreetMap Ghana and a drone enthusiast.

The Soko Aerial Training Program is a 5-day program for learning the drone technology extensively. The objectives of this program are to learn to control and maneuver drones, understand the flying safety and legal issues with drones, the career pathways of the drone technology in the industry.

The Training was scheduled to start on 17th June, the first day involved an introduction to the participants the world of civil drones. We learnt the basics of drone systems, the different types of devices and their main characteristics and functionalities. This also included the rules and regulations mandated by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to regulate the drone industry on areas where that are prohibited and restricted to fly over. We also dug deep into the basic types of drones (i.e. the Multicopter and Fixed wings), it’s basic maneuvers and available drone brands on the market. It was an eye-opener for the students to understand the type of drones and areas it can or cannot be used. Our instructor always made the learning an interactive one through discussions and questions throughout the lessons, expectations for the training were met even on the first day.

The Second day’s lessons featured the Multicopter system and Ground Control System, this included the airframe, the propulsion system, command, and control system of the drone. This lesson explains the mechanism involved in flying the drone. It goes into detail to explain the communication between the transmitter and receiver that is used to move the drone, technical terms used as the throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. Ground Control System explains tools for remote piloting interactions, this includes the transmitters and Software for telemetry. We quickly went on the field to have a hands-on practical lesson; we were given the opportunity to fly the drone around and test what we had been learning.

The third day was about the sensors the drones use to acquire data and the various areas it can be applied. We learnt about the RGB, Thermal, Multispectral, Hyperspectral LiDar and etc. We discussed it’s areas of application, we learnt RGB sensors are the most commonly used by drone for videography and image capturing, the Thermal sensors are also adapted to trap heat from an object and an area it can be used is for disaster responds, to find people that are trapped in buildings or cannot be found in a flood or earthquake disaster. Other sensors can also be used for agricultural purposes from NDVI to crop monitoring systems. Some sensors are also used for precise 3D information of the earth, generating elevation models and maps. The photogrammetry aspect of the drone technology was also elaborated on, this concept includes the mission planning and flight plan used before going on the field to acquire data. For this lesson we went to the field again to autonomously fly the drone, this was started by first planning the mission from Google Earth and using Pix4D alongside the smartphone to get our area of interest before the flight followed by the going to the field to execute the mission with the drone.

Day four was based on post-processing of drone data, we used Agisoft, a photogrammetry software to process data from our previous flights. We were taken through the steps involved in the processing of aerial images, from aligning of the images to creating a DEM or an Orthophoto. From this data, we went further to learn how to use other software to create contours, 3D model of the area and how we can interpret the data. Also, we used open source software such as Gdal and QGIS for processing of the data into its final product and how we can design our work to make the client’s requirement.

The final day was our graduation and we had the opportunity to access the program, after sharing of certificate to participants we discussed on how we can use the knowledge from the training and the drone technology to solve social problems, this was an opportunity for me to introduce Soko Aerial to how they can make aerial images available on OpenAerialMap so that OpenStreetMap contributors can gain asses to accurate and updated imagery. This initiative will ensure that the company can share some of its drone imagery onto OpenAerialMap and can be assessed and used for mapping.

This training was a resourceful one and I will like to extend my gratitude to the instructors Mr. Max, Loic, Akosa and the CEO Mr. Kofi Owusu-Adusei for such a knowledgeable training in professional drone piloting program

Chris Eshun is passionate about Open Source, Geospatial, Open Data. Making an impact, using GIS to solve problems. He is a third-year Geomatic Engineering student at the University of Mines and Technology,Tarkwa, Ghana. He is a member of OpenStreetMap Ghana and the current President of the Geomatic Engineering Students Association.

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