COMPARISON OF A FIXED-WING AND MULTI-ROTOR UAV FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MAPPING APPLICATIONS: A CASE STUDY
The advent and evolution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and photogrammetric techniques has provided the possibility for on-demand high-resolution environmental mapping. Orthoimages and three dimensional products such as Digital Surface Models (DSMs) are derived from the UAV imagery which is amongst the most important spatial information tools for environmental planning. The two main types of UAVs in the commercial market are fixed-wing and multi-rotor. Both have their advantages and disadvantages including their suitability for certain applications. Fixed-wing UAVs normally have longer flight endurance capabilities while multi-rotors can provide for stable image capturing and easy vertical take-off and landing. Therefore, the objective of this study is to assess the performance of a fixed-wing versus a multi-rotor UAV for environmental mapping applications by conducting a specific case study.
The aerial mapping of the Cors-Air model aircraft field which includes a wetland ecosystem was undertaken on the same day with a Skywalker fixed-wing UAV and a Raven X8 multi-rotor UAV equipped with similar sensor specifications (digital RGB camera) under the same weather conditions. We compared the derived datasets by applying the DTMs for basic environmental mapping purposes such as slope and contour mapping including utilising the orthoimages for identification of anthropogenic disturbances. The ground spatial resolution obtained was slightly higher for the multi-rotor probably due to a slower flight speed and more images. The results in terms of the overall precision of the data was noticeably less accurate for the fixed-wing. In contrast, orthoimages derived from the two systems showed small variations. The multi-rotor imagery provided better representation of vegetation although the fixed-wing data was sufficient for the identification of environmental factors such as anthropogenic disturbances. Differences were observed utilising the respective DTMs for the mapping of the wetland slope and contour mapping including the representation of hydrological features within the wetland. Factors such as cost, maintenance and flight time is in favour of the Skywalker fixed-wing. The multi-rotor on the other hand is more favourable in terms of data accuracy including for precision environmental planning purposes although the quality of the data of the fixed-wing is satisfactory for most environmental mapping applications.