Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Sensors: Exploring the Different Types and Uses

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of applications, from industrial inspections to mapping and surveying. To ensure that these operations are successful, UAVs must be equipped with a range of sensors that can provide the necessary data. In this article, we'll explore the different types of sensors used in UAVs and how they are used to facilitate operations. UAVs typically use a combination of sensors to collect data.

These include inertial measurement units (IMUs), which merge information from different sensors such as gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers to provide measurements that can be used to calculate the orientation and speed of the drone. The Phase One P3 payload is an example of a UAV sensor system that gathers information in as wide a field of view as possible while maintaining sufficient resolution to easily interpret the characteristics of the objective. With a back-illuminated sensor (BSI) with the highest dynamic range, an intelligent focus rangefinder and a wide range of objectives including 35 mm, 80 mm and 150 mm, the P3 can be configured to meet flight plans for inspection activities. The P3 Payload also takes advantage of the three main UAV ecosystems - DJI, Auterion and MAVLink - so that operators can integrate the best real-time inspection data into their existing applications and workflows.

LiDAR is another type of remote sensing technology used in UAVs. It relies on laser pulses to collect detailed measurements for maps and studies, making it especially valuable for microtopography because it can penetrate through vegetation and forest cover. Applications abound, including agriculture, forest planning, urban and building management, construction, mining, and environmental assessments. RIEGL manufactures a complete fleet of LiDAR sensors that specialize in providing higher laser pulse repetition rates, which increases performance and thus improves efficiency, accuracy and ease of use.

Thermography is another key capability for drone pilots for industrial inspection missions. It allows pilots to see in the dark or in difficult lighting conditions and to detect thermal anomalies that may indicate a fault or the need for repair. In addition to “seeing the heat”, thermal cameras with radiometric capabilities allow pilots to measure the surface temperature of objects in a scene. Two common missions based on thermal technology involve inspecting large sets of solar panels or industrial roofs, possibly in combination with RGB cameras.

Finally, optical gas imaging (OGI) technology for unmanned aerial vehicles is a cutting-edge tool for detecting greenhouse gas leaks, including methane, propane and butane. The Sierra-Olympics Ventus OGI is one of the smallest, lightest and least powerful OGI camera cores on the market today and integrates seamlessly into aerial, fixed and robotic platforms. UAVs are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to provide data quickly and accurately. To ensure successful operations, these drones must be equipped with various types of sensors that can collect data from different sources. IMUs provide measurements that can be used to calculate orientation and speed while LiDAR sensors collect detailed measurements for maps and studies.

Thermography allows pilots to detect thermal anomalies while optical gas imaging (OGI) technology is used for detecting greenhouse gas leaks. By understanding the different types of sensors available for UAVs and how they are used, operators can ensure their operations are successful.

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