Team members from Wingcopter and UAVenture traveled to a remote location in the north of South Africa to complete training and run mapping trials with the Wingcopter Mapping Package for Smops SA as they prepare to launch their mapping services across Africa.

The Wingcopter Mapping Package consists of a Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift with a full-frame camera, such as the 42MP Sony a7R II, providing a GSD of 1.3cm and a high accuracy PPK system from Klau Geomatics. In a single flight the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift is capable of covering more than 500 hectares with a battery reserve of 30%. It is powered by UAVenture’s AirRails Hybrid VTOL flight control and Ground Control System which provides it with powerful terrain following mapping capabilities.

While previously employed as RPAS pilots by a Mozambican company, Robyn and Jacque, the co-owners of Smops SA, carried out extreme mapping jobs in very remote and poorly accessible locations with a conventional flying wing mapping system.

Robyn explained that “Fixed-wing drones perform adequately in completing large mapping missions, takeoffs and landings have proven to be hazardous due to the fact that small clearings or rocky areas are the only option available. The results were often catastrophic and the lifetime of these drones were limited, requiring frequent and expensive repairs. As a result they began looking towards vertical takeoff solutions that still brought extended flight times with moderate cruise speeds.

With the acquisition of the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift, Robyn and Jacque are now able to achieve automated vertical takeoffs and landings with as little as 5 – 10 meters clearance and safely transition to forward flight. Stress-free and with zero damage.

Due to the multi-kilo payload capacity of the Wingcopter, they are able to carry a larger high-quality camera (Sony a7R II) and acquire very high-resolution images with centimetre precision using an onboard PPK system. Their future-proof Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift allows Robyn and Jacque to start surveying today with the option to upgrade to a 4kg LiDAR system when required.

The AirRails Ground Control Station complements Wingcopter’s AirRails autopilot, by providing a tightly integrated and highly intuitive process for creating sophisticated terrain adjusted surveys in a few simple steps. In addition to time and distance based camera triggering there is an option to automatically pause triggering during turns which excludes all unnecessary photos. This reduces both the processing preparation effort as well as the final processing time.

Once uploaded to the Wingcopter, starting the mission is as easy as the press of a button. Transitions from multicopter mode for vertical takeoff to fixed-wing flight and back are fully autonomous, as is the rest of the mission, and the Wingcopter’s progress can be followed in real-time in 3D on the Ground Control Station tablet. Camera trigger counts and ground coverage estimates from each photo taken are shown on the map in real-time.

During the training period, Robyn and Jacque were able to complete the mapping mission and obtained high-quality imagery, resulting in an impressive orthomosaic of the expansive rural property. Wingcopter and AirRails are ready to deliver a Hybrid VTOL solution to solve your challenging mapping needs.

Smops SA is a newly registered company run by two South African women who will commence commercial operations as soon as their RPAS Operators Certificate has been approved. For more information see their company profile, or contact them at or

For further details on the Wingcopter Mapping Package contact or visit the Wingcopter website.

Heralding a new era of clean technology in the aircraft industry

In a world first, a team of researchers from Sydney have successfully powered an unmanned aircraft flight with a triple hybrid propulsion system featuring one of the cleanest energies on Earth – hydrogen.

Led by University of Sydney aerospace engineering PhD candidate Andrew Gong, the team of researchers – including Dr Dries Verstraete from the University’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering (AMME), Dr Jennifer Palmer from Defence Science and Technology Group, and support from Northrop Grumman Australia – successfully piloted test flights late last month using a hydrogen fuel cell/battery/supercapacitor triple hybrid propulsion system.

The recent tests follow on from four test flights using hydrogen fuel cells at the end of last year. The new results show that the supercapacitor improves the dynamic response of the overall propulsion system and also provides load smoothing for increased fuel-cell life.

The team’s overarching goal is to improve the flexibility and robustness of hydrogen fuel cell-based hybrid power systems in remotely piloted aircraft, also known as ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ or drones.

“Hydrogen power provides much greater range and endurance compared to existing small electric unmanned aircraft. In the future, this may be useful for extended-duration inspection or surveillance tasks, such as surveying large agricultural properties or inspecting pipelines and other infrastructure,” Mr Gong said.

“Hydrogen fuel cells are also more environmentally friendly because they produce zero CO2 emissions and are much quieter than other fossil-fuelled aircraft.”

Despite these benefits, Mr Gong said aircraft manufacturers had traditionally been reluctant to implement hydrogen fuel cells because they are costly, limited in power and respond relatively slowly to load changes.

The team had overcome these issues by developing a solution using hybrid systems – where fuel cells are combined with batteries and supercapacitors – to improve peak power and load response for better performance during take-off and manoeuvres.

“Conceptually, this is similar to a hybrid car where the battery is an auxiliary power source,” Mr Gong said.

“Our hybrid system improves the performance capabilities of existing fuel cell systems, and provides new options for quiet, long-endurance propulsion in the rapidly growing unmanned aircraft industry.

“The hybrid system enables greater flexibility and performance for drones compared to fuel cell-only propulsion, including faster take-offs, better ability to climb and manoeuvre away from obstacles, and increased fuel cell life.”

Mr Gong’s PhD research is supported by an Aerospace Engineering Industry Link (top-up) scholarship, jointly supported by Northrop Grumman and the University of Sydney’s School of AMME.

“Northrop Grumman remains committed to academic institutions, and the progression of research and development. The investments we make today can be seen in Australia’s future capability for decades to come,” said Ian Irving, Chief Executive, Northrop Grumman Australia.

“We take great pride in the investments we’re making to advance science and technology in the advancement of Australian workforce.”

This research was supported by DST Group through its Strategic Research Initiative on Advanced Materials and Sensing.

Aerial modelling and inspections using commercial-grade drones offer compelling advantages for the resource sector by increasing safety, saving time and reducing survey costs. Airscope*, a Perth, Australia-based inspections and asset visualization company, has used the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone to extend these benefits further by developing computer-generated 3-D models of entire hydrocarbon processing facilities off the North West shelf of Australia and in the Cooper Basin, effectively bringing the field into the boardroom for more effective asset management.

Industrial digitization or “Industry 4.0” is predicted to generate US$421 billion in cost reductions and additional revenue each year for the next five years worldwide, according to a report by PwC.1 3-D modelling of resource assets by companies like Airscope is one way of contributing to and driving this digital revolution that is transforming industry.

Airscope’s director, Chris Leslie, and its chief controller, Francois Alberts – both trained commercial airline pilots – saw the potential opportunities drone technology could offer to the resource sector. They reshaped their careers to work with software, survey and geospatial specialists to develop new ways for large resources companies to manage their physical assets.

“When people think of drones operating in industrial applications, they think of inspections collecting data from hard-to-reach places,” Leslie said. “Our business has evolved beyond this where the real efficiencies and return on investment for the client come from providing a digital 3-D representation of their physical assets.

“We made the transition to asset visualization because UAV inspection only gave clients a fraction of the story; without context, the full potential of images captured cannot be realized. So now we create a virtual canvas of the entire site using airborne photogrammetry, ground photogrammetry and laser scanning. Once the virtual canvas is created, you can paint any operational or planning data on it, to serve as a human medium to access and interact with big data.

“You could compare this technology to how our lives have changed with innovations such as the smartphone – the time savings and benefits are hard to quantify,” Leslie added. “The benefits are multiplied when looking at clients managing large-scale resource sites due to the number of employees and the potential cost to the business if decisions are made based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Early indications by clients currently implementing asset digitization into their operations suggest day-to-day cost reductions of between 3.6 and 10 percent dependent on industry, and capital works projects being reduced by more than 20 percent. We are entering a period where decisions are being determined by the data at hand and companies that haven’t started their transformation towards digitization will be left behind.”

Recently, Airscope worked alongside drone manufacturer, Intel Corporation, and local Australian distributor, Position Partners*, to deliver 3-D models of Santos*-operated facilities in Australia’s Cooper Basin. Santos enlisted Airscope to provide not only large-scale virtual models, but also inspection services of critical assets, which are challenging to monitor using traditional methods.

“When looking for the best drone for modelling these challenging landscapes, we compared 37 different aircraft that all claimed to be up to the specifications we needed,” Alberts said. “When Intel’s distributor, Position Partners, showed us the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, we found it to be the only aircraft which met our expectations, for its reliability, stability and true 3-D modelling capabilities.”

The Intel Falcon 8+ is a multirotor-style drone that, through pre-programmed flight plans, is able to capture hundreds of aerial images per flight. These images are then collated and stitched together to form a holistic 3-D model through the photogrammetry process. Due to the accuracy of images capture by the Intel Falcon 8+, Airscope can incorporate laser scanning data into photogrammetry to make the model accurate enough for use in detailed engineering design of major infrastructure projects.

“Intel is committed to producing high-quality, commercial-grade drones that will excel in challenging environments such as the Moomba Gas Plant,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Drone Group at Intel. “Looking ahead, we will see a greater focus on automation of both the data capture and more importantly data analysis. This will unlock the ability for greater analyses and inference of large data sets that will be captured entirely by drones, allowing businesses to reduce operational expenses by assessing and predicting maintenance needs.”

The quality and rate of data captured from systems such as the Intel Falcon 8+ drone increases efficiencies and lowers operating costs, while around-the-clock access to a full model of the plant on the Airscope Visualize* platform reduces preparation work and disruption to the operation. It also eliminates risks for activities such as working at height or exposure to hazardous working environments.

“The quality and quantity of data we’re able to access from the Intel Falcon 8+ drone just wouldn’t be possible with any other method or technology,” Leslie said. “Moreover, our clients can see every asset from every angle and perspective, providing better situational awareness, insight and increased accuracy for making big decisions.”

1PricewaterhouseCoopers 2016, “Industry 4.0: Building the digital enterprise”, p.4

DJI has earned its reputation as the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology and is bringing this expertise and innovation to enterprise sectors.

DJI Enterprise enables businesses to unleash the potential of drone technology today – with benefits seen across the agriculture, construction, infrastructure, energy and public safety sectors.

To find out more about how our drones increase safety and boost efficiency in the areas above visit the enterprise website or contact our EMEA Enterprise Communication Manager, Olivier Mondon at

Rocketmine, a South African based subsidiary of the listed Delta Drone Group (EPA:ALDR), has cemented it’s global expansion for 2018 with a number of new contracts signed across Africa, as well as new growth into Latin America.

One of the newly signed contracts sees Rocketmine break into the Latin American market with several projects for Mexican mining giant, Minera Autlán, covering at least six different sites across its operations.

The geography of these sites are challenging as the high altitude operations make for a particularly demanding environment. In fact, Rocketmine is breaking records with regards to flight altitude, and the project will allow the company to demonstrate their advanced capabilities and operational adaptability.

In Africa, Rocketmine has also secured its fourth contract in Ghana after receiving the first ever commercial Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Operating Certificate (ROC) in the country in 2017, making it the largest commercial operator in the country.

Rocketmine has been contracted to provide on-site drone surveys to assist Ghana Manganese Company (GMC) with their mining operations. Operations from this mine have a history stretching back to 1916 when the first manganese material was lifted from the site.  Although operational for over 100 years, GMC realise the added value that Rocketmine and drone technology will now bring to their business. Rocketmine was selected as the preferred service provider due to our strong brand principals which include; speed, cost, safety, professionalism and data accuracy.

The project will include the provision of full-time on-site Rocketmine pilots and drones, to survey the stockpiles, pits and waste dumps around the mine. In addition, Rocketmine will be developing and supporting local talent by hiring and training Ghanaian pilots and staff.

This expansion into new channels for Rocketmine once again demonstrates the varied and exciting deliverables that drone data solutions can provide.

These new projects will realise a total revenue of USD$ 230,000.00 over the next year.

Christopher Clark, Rocketmine’s Managing Director, explains, “We are excited about this incredible growth for Rocketmine in 2018.  Our clients see the value in our cost-effective and highly reliable data solutions and Rocketmine has demonstrated that these can be customised to address any need that clients may have.  We aim to continue this global growth trend for the remainder of the year, through providing accurate, safe and quality services.”

About Rocketmine: Rocketmine is Africa’s leading premier drone data service provider. Fully licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to provide professional and cost-effective services; while focusing on delivering, safe, reliable, and accurate data to clients. Rocketmine provides customized drone data solutions to improve operational efficiencies and systems. Clients trust Rocketmine’s experience and expertise with over 7 500+ flight hours in multiple sectors and owning the largest fleet in Africa. Rocketmine is a Delta Drone company.