UAV technology and trends: “UAVs have come of age”

Karlsruhe/Berlin, 26 August 2014-- UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are taking over the surveying industry thanks to their ever-improving sensors and the fact that they are getting lighter and can therefore remain in the air for longer. They complete surveying and inspection tasks that would otherwise be difficult to tackle and do so with impressive cost-efficiency. UAV trends and technology will be amongst the focal points at the INTERGEO conference in Berlin on October 7, 2014.  

Jan Denzel is a research assistant at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Aircraft Design (IFB). He is part of the UAV research group that developed a fully electric helicopter UAV some time ago as part of a project funded by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research). The team investigated how a UAV of this kind can support disaster management by helping with reconnaissance following major incidents such as earthquakes or floods. “We developed the electrically powered helicopter UAV with a high payload for this particular deployment scenario,” says Denzel. The UAV developed by the team is currently being used in a new research environment. In the LIDAR complex project ( funded by the BMWi (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy), scientists at the University of Stuttgart are investigating how UAVs can be used to identify the best possible locations for wind turbines. Once the UAV is in the air at the site, the measuring equipment starts recording time-synchronised and geo-referenced data. 


While Denzel is involved in basic research, Jörg Lamprecht, Managing Director of Aibotix GmbH (, has long been manufacturing commercially successful UAVs. “UAVs are coming of age,” he says, pointing out that these geo-mapping devices now carry high-resolution digital single-lens reflex cameras, multispectral cameras or laser scanners and supply highly accurate data that is used in an increasing number of applications. In the agricultural sector, for example, multispectral cameras ascertain the condition of crops so that farmers can act quickly if necessary. This airborne surveying equipment is also becoming established in the energy industry and disaster management. “UVAs are taking over wherever access is impossible for conventional surveying equipment,” says Lamprecht. The surveying flights produce photos, videos, orthophotos or digital 3D models. According to Lamprecht, Aibotix is currently working on improving the workflow – from flight planning and data acquisition all the way through to preparation of 3D models and their integration in geoinformation systems.

Automating processes

Stephan Fick, a graduate engineer and Managing Director of div-gmbh, gesellschaft für datenverarbeitung, informationssysteme und vermessung (, believes this improvement is essential. “Much of the workflow, from the actual flight to preparing digital terrain models or orthophotos, is still not automated,” he says, adding that there is still a big gap between the theory and reality of UAV surveying.

Fick nonetheless uses UAVs in numerous jobs, even though a great deal of manual work is still required to provide customers with the products they want. On the positive side, he indicates that the results of the surveying flights are often even better than promised by the manufacturers.

There is plenty more scope for further UAV developments. The “UAVs in practice” part of the conference programme on Thursday, 7 October 2014 at INTERGEO 2014 in Berlin will look at the state of the art, application trends and legal principles.


Stefanie Wegers
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Review Article
  • Unmanned Drone (UAS) inadvertent hazards and nefarious uses August 28, 2014
    Reviewed by 'Eric Kant'
    By now you have heard some discussion, news reports and hype on Drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Specifically, amateur devices, that are readily available and easily flown. Under the law as it stands, any unmanned, remotely piloted vehicle in the United States flown for hobby or recreational purposes is a model airplane. Per the 2012 FAA re-authorization act. In 2015, the FAA will suggest new, drone-specific regulations, at which point model airplane law and drone law will probably diverge.
    Good, bad or indifferent this technology is advancing quickly. At some point these devices will need to be incorporated into operations. In many cases to advance the operation, as a useful tool, in some cases to defend against nefarious use. As a way to better understand the technology we purchased one from Amazon.
    It arrived a few days later and this footage was shot within 15min of opening the box. 400 up, 1500ft down the road It is remarkable technology, basically a flying smart phone but until you see one first hand it’s hard to understand the real risk either inadvertently or by nefarious uses.
    As a casual user we could of misused this device very easily, it comes out of the box with a 1600ft ceiling and can easily be flown into roadways or other hazardous locations. If purchased for a teenager the liability could be worse than driving. With an additional 200$ we can add way point and AI capabilities. The FAA said recreational drone use is generally permitted as long as pilots don't fly recklessly. Voluntary guidelines for model aircraft created in 1981 suggest flying at safe altitudes and distances away from airports, and avoiding crowds.
    Recent examples of inadvertent hazards include:
    •at the large fire, a small civilian drone crashed into an trooper car, narrowly missing the trooper
    •In St. Louis a drone was found on the 30th story of a building, owner/operator unknown
    •Journalist using a drone to film a car accident flew in the path of a life flight helicopter
    •Raging Hockey Fans Destroyed A Drone In LA
    •Aerial Drone Camera Over DUI Checkpoint

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