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White Paper V2.

PAMS
Personal Aerial Mapping System

Ola Friström

SmartPlanes AB

1. Introduction
“A picture paints a thousand words”. This is a well known saying. Images of our earth's
surface not only enrich our actual knowledge of the places concerned, they often
represent, as geospatial information, the fundamental basis for manifold planning tasks
and decision making processes. Additionally, they serve as documentary records of the
status quo at a given time.

Until now the generation of this sort of geospatial image information was the exclusive
domain of specialized commercial or governmental entities. To a certain extent, it will
continue like this. However, technological progress paves the way for new endeavors and
thus new fields of applications. One such application involving miniaturization permits the
integration of consumer digital cameras into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which,
equipped with special electronics, can execute survey flights over relatively small areas in
a fully autonomous manner. The system delivers georeferenced aerial images, and
automatically derives the corresponding OrthoMosaic or its Digital Surface Model (DSM).

In what follows below we describe a system which automatically collects aerial images and
automatically processes them to produce the aforementioned geospatial image
information. Since the overall system includes highly integrated hardware and software,
we assign it the term UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System)

As it is possible for our UAS to be operated by a single person, the appropriate naming for
it is “Personal Aerial Mapping System or PAMS“. It introduces and is the first known
instance of commercial “UAV-Mapping”.

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2. System and Operations Description
PAMS is a hardware and software system. It combines image generation (hardware) and
image processing (software) into one application system. It thus combines the processing
steps of automated image generation and image processing in such a way as to produce
map-like OrthoMosaics and Digital Surface Models see further below.

Figure 1: PAMS – SmartOne UAV with groundstation hardware and transport case
The hardware consists of an unmanned aircraft, SmartOne UAV, capable of fully
autonomous flight according to preprogrammed mission plans, Figure 1. The aircraft
carries a calibrated compact camera and weighs in total close to 1.1 kg. The wings are
detachable, and the UAV is transported in a case measuring 85 x 40 x 15 cm3, Figure 2.
The groundstation consists of a telemetry unit, a remote control for manual flight modes,
and a ruggedized computer with software for mission planning and automated image
processing. It generates, fully automatically georeferenced imagery and mosaics covering
the survey area. The image data of a flight mission can be further processed using the
PAMS Internet service to derive a high resolution OrthoMosaic and/or a high density
Digital Surface Model (DSM).

With a typical mission altitude of 200m above ground level (AGL) and a 7 Mpix calibrated
camera the resulting pixel size in the derived OrthoMosaic, also called ground sampling
distance (GSD) of the ortho, is 10 cm, and from 100 m AGL the corresponding GSD is 5
cm. The internal precision of the OrthoMosaic in X and Y (measured planar distances) is
typically better than 10 cm and thus in sub-pixel magnitude of GSD. The precision of
computed heights is better than 20 cm. With the addition of accurate ground control,
sub-decimeter accuracy can be achieved in both, position and altitude. The electrically
powered SmartOne UAV, has an operation mission endurance of 45 minutes.

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Figure 2: PAMS – SmartOne UAV packed in its transport case

The system is designed for operation by a single person and does not require prepared
runways for takeoff or landing. The aircraft is launched either by hand, Figure 3, or with a
bungee catapult, Figure 4.

Figure 3: Hand - launch sequence of a PAMS – SmartOne UAV on a forest mapping mission

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A very low kinetic energy combined with shock absorbing structures and an aft mounted
propeller minimizes the risk of personal injury or property damage in case of an
uncontrolled impact. PAMS UAS complies with strict aviation safety requirements and thus
is applicable for commercial use in several European countries e.g. Sweden, Finland,
Germany and the UK.

Figure 4: Climb-out after bungee launch from a mission site in Germany


A flight mission consists of four phases; pre-flight planning and preparation, take-off,
survey and landing. Although the PAMS SmartOne UAV can execute the entire flight in full
autonomous mode the pilot often takes over during landing for precision landing.

Pre-flight preparations include specifying mission parameters such as survey area, mission
altitude, photo overlap and resolution requirements etc. The parameters are transferred
to the autopilot at power-up using the wireless data link. After pre-flight check-out and
camera setup have been carried out the aircraft is ready for launch.

At launch the on-board sensors detect the take-off, and the aircraft commences a rapid
climb to mission altitude. It then proceeds to the survey area and systematically flies
parallel photo strips. The system automatically senses and compensates for the current
wind conditions so that the correct spacing between exposures is achieved.

During flight the pilot monitors the progress visually either by line-of-site or on the real-
time ground station display. One can temporarily suspend the mission or aborted it at any
time. There is also a manual direct control mode for precision landing and take-off.

After completion of the survey-phase the UAV automatically returns and circles above the

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take-off point until the pilot either commands an automatic landing or takes over to
perform a precision landing, Figure 5.

Figure 5: PAMS SmartOne UAV in landing phase


Figure 6 depicts a flight track plot from a typical mission. A 300 x 300 m 2 area was
surveyed from 150 m altitude using 8 parallel strips and two cross-strips. The total flight
time was just over 12 minutes.

Figure 6: Flight track from a 300 x 300 m2 survey flight


After landing aerial image data is transferred to the groundstation computer. Quickly an
overview mosaic is compiled in order to verify that the data capture was successful. At
this stage the individual images are available for direct analysis and field work. In a

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second step the image data is processed using advanced image processing and
photogrammetric techniques to produce a geo-referenced AirMosaic ready for use in
geographic information systems (GIS). The absolute external accuracy is determined
solely by the averaged accuracy of the GPS recordings of the autopilot. In an advanced
application mode, one flies several, adjacent blocks and combines them into one large
orthomosaic.

3. OrthoMosaic and DSM – the PAMS-Internet-Services


OrthoMosaics are image-maps compiled from multiple aerial images, and their attributes
include the geometric properties of a map, Figure 7. Digital Surface Models (DSM)
describe in a numerical manner the surface including natural and man-made objects such
as e.g. trees or buildings. This way a DSM assigns each planimetric map-location a unique
elevation value.

Figure 7: PAMS OrthoMosaic consisting of 211 aerial source images


The generation of an OrthoMosaic and / or a DSM is an Internet service provided by
specialized PAMS Processing Centers. Automatic generation of the DSM and the high
quality OrthoMosaic is a computationally very demanding and complex processing phase.
The processing centers maintain appropriate computers capable for distributed, thus
efficient, data processing at affordable costs. The user uploads the image data to a server
and orders the computation of an OrthoMosaic and/or a DSM. Upon completion, the user
receives email with result download instructions. The option to use PAMS computing

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services leads to a low-investment and to an appealing pay on demand solution.
Moreover, specialists for these complex computations are not required on the user side.

4. Uniqueness
The Personal Aerial Mapping technology applies a measurement methodology until now
exclusively used by manned survey aircraft image processing, but in a refined mode. Due
to the fully automated processing of AirMosaics, OrthoMosaics and DSMs, the technology
of PAMS represents a significant step ahead of the conventional, interactive methods of
aerial image processing. PAMS uniquely opens to everybody the access to do-it-yourself
style generation of georeferenced image products and DSMs.

There are two major differentiators to the traditional aerial mapping approach. First,
PAMS is efficient for mission areas several factors smaller than those flown with manned
aircraft. Everyone can fly it, often low below cloud coverage, and mobilization is simple
and short. Second, PAMS' ability of enabling everyone to fully automatically generate
geospatial image-based products is unique. Particularly these two properties open new
fields of applications such as in agriculture, forestry, civil engineering, utilities, rescue,
waste dump management, corridor mapping, open pit mines, archeology, golf courses,
real estate, and many others. PAMS thus differs significantly from charter aerial survey
services and is to be seen in a complementary manner.

Figure 8: PAMS AirMosaic (color) with indication of single aerial images, orthoimage backdrop (b&w)

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Additionally, system acquisition costs are several magnitudes below the costs and
investment of acquiring and maintaining a manned survey aircraft with trained crew
members in daily operation. This results in a very attractive pricing for both, PAMS
services or PAMS system purchase. The applications basically are up to the user.

SmartPlanes offers PAMS based services to the market. Furthermore, SmartPlanes


distributes the PAMS-UAS to end-users, and it offers, in addition, PAMS-Internet-Services.
It is envisaged that agriculture, forestry, corridor mapping and environmental monitoring
become the first fields of applications served with PAMS.

5. Examples
The following images show typical examples of PAMS applications, see Figure 8 to Figure
12.

Figure 9: PAMS AirMosaic (color) with orthoimage (b&w)


Figure 8 and Figure 9 show AirMosaics. PAMS' groundstation software takes the aerial
images of a flight mission and its logfile containing all relevant GPS and other information.
With this input it automatically georeferences the aerial images and automatically stitches
them into a single image, which is called an AirMosaic. It is georeferenced.

Figure 6 displays the flight path of a 300m x 300m block. It has been defined by use of
so-called waypoints prior to the start of the flight mission. PAMS comes with a variety of
predefined block shapes. So, the user just needs to select the appropriate shape for
download onto the autopilot prior to UAV start. During flight mission, PAMS' autopilot
attempts to pass through the given waypoints as closely as possible while exposing the
aerial images in equal distance intervals.

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The ability to generate an AirMosaic is part of PAMS-UAS. The flight mission planning
software belongs to PAMS-UAS as well. This enables every user to produce georeferenced
spatial imagery, just by pushing a button. The same aerial images used for the AirMosaic
can be uploaded to one of the PAMS Internet Service servers for generation of an
OrthoMosaic and/or a DSM.

Figure 10: PAMS OrthoMosaic composed of 7 PAMS flight missions, in total 1939 aerial images
Figure 10 shows an OrthoMosaic consisting of 7 overlapping flight missions and a total of
1939 aerial images and covers a golf course. The original ground sampling distance of the
orthomosaic is 10 cm, and the total file size of this orthomosaic is over 2 GB. This
OrthoMosaic was computed in a PAMS Computing Center. This is a typical application,
where the use of manned survey aircraft often is prohibitively expensive. Due to this,
such geospatial information generation remained unused, up to now. This changes with
PAMS. With only a few flight missions, in this case 7, and each covering approximately
500m x 500m, all of the area of above depicted golf course could be represented in a nice
looking and accurate overall OrthoMosaic. In addition, one can derive a high precision
digital surface model of the golf course, as well.
Figure 11 displays the hand start to a crop monitoring flight mission (left) and depicts a

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section of the OrthoMosaic of an agricultural test site with different plants originating from
different seeds (right). Specialists in agro-engineering use such images for monitoring
their various time series related exploitations.

Figure 11: Busy with crop monitoring (left); section of an orthomosaic of an agricultural test area (right)
In forestry one often is faced with fallen trees, insect infestation, difficult to reach areas
and the like, Figure 12. PAMS attempts to ease the handling of geospatial data acquisition
in forestry for a number of applications.

Figure 12: 1000 x 1000 m2 forest area with wind damages and insect attack
The PAMS-UAV can take-off and land on a clearing in the forest and observe the
surrounding terrain. An example shows Figure 13 when documenting e.g. wind damage
or insect infestation on the basis of an OrthoMosaic, which enables the forester to assign
coordinates to particular areas of interest and to upload the OrthoMosaic into his GIS.

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Figure 13: Close up of wind damage

In addition, the CIR capability of PAMS supports forestry and other applications. Figure 14
shows a color (left) and a CIR image (right) of the same forest area. Foresters often use
such image data for analysis and forest status mapping. With PAMS they georeference
such locations without having to approach them directly.

Figure 14: Insect attacked forest (bark beetle)

Another, environment related application is mapping of forest fires. Figure 15 Depicts the
pilot looking out for an appropriate clearing to start PAMS in oder to document and map
the effects of a fire in a national park. Often, such areas are too small to be mapped with
manned survey aircrafts. This is where PAMS can bridge the gap and deliver geospatial
imagery, quickly and done by everyone.

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Figure 15: On a PAMS mapping mission of wildfire in a national park

Yet another environmental application example is the monitoring of alpine tree dynamics,
Figure 16. Below example exposes an alpine forest at winter time. Low clouds prohibit he
use of manned aircraft and snow makes access often pretty difficult. With PAMS,
assessment and georeferenced documentation of such an the area becomes an easy job.

Figure 16: Environmental monitoring: Alpine tree dynamics

For skilled pilots even urban mapping becomes possible. Figure 17 depicts a snapshot of
a road crossing, where a road renewal activity is planned and the current status quo shall
be mapped. A skilled pilot can start and land a PAMS-UAV even in such an environment,
however, this requires some flight experience.

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Figure 17: Urban mapping: Helsinki, Finland

Of course, PAMS is applicable to construction as well. Bigger construction sites, e.g. train
track construction sites, maintain a number of construction sites with lots of equipment,
material, and storage. Keeping an eye on it is one of the many tasks the engineers have.
Figure 18 Depicts an OrthoMosaic of 163 aerial images (left) and a 3D view of it (right).
One easily can see the volumes in question. PAMS can help acquiring not only
georeferenced OrthoMosaics but as well DSMs. Latter ones can be further on used to
determine volumes of material.

Figure 18: PAMS OrthoMosaic (GSD 7.5 cm) of a Bottnia Train ballast quarry (left) and 3D view of it (right)
Determining volumes or deriving contours from the DSM are only some of many secondary
applications of the results delivered by PAMS. It shows the manifold applications possible.
Perspective 3D views are, of course, as well a result, which can be derived from
georeferenced PAMS data. For this, one drapes the OrthoMosaic over the DSM and views

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it from a preselected viewing position. Such examples illustrate Figure 18 (right image),
Figure 19 and Figure 20.

Figure 19: 3D view of a section of the built up track bed of the new Bottnia Bana (Train), Northern Sweden
Below Figure 20 illustrates a higher resolution section of Figure 19 viewed from a different
location.

Figure 20: 3D view of a construction site, ca. 45 aerial images used for generated orthomosaic section

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6. Technical Data
PAMS-UAS
Airframe; span 1.2 m, disassembles into 3 pieces for transport
Propulsion: electric motor 200W, Li-Po cells 11.1V

Aircraft Mass: 1.1 kg incl. battery and camera


Performance: cruise speed 15 m/s, mission endurance 45 min
“SmartOne”
Autopilot: Autonomous mission capable
Flight modes: auto, suspend, abort, land, and manual
Cameras: Natural-color 7 Mpix or CIR 6 Mpix compact camera with calibrated optics
Ruggedized computer (Windows XP or Vista)
Ground station Datalink: 868 Mhz, 28800 bps
RC-control: 35 Mhz, 7 channels
Aluminum case
85cm x 40cm x 15cm (L x W x H)
Transport case 3 kg
6 kg with airframe, remote control, radio modem, accu packs, camera; notebook extra

Setup time ca. 10 min


Take-off and recovery: bungee or hand launch, skid landing
Operating range: 500 m – 2.5 km (depends on national airspace regulations)
Ceiling: 150 m – 600 m AGL (depends on national airspace regulations)
Operation Weather: Light or moderate winds, not during heavy rain fall, snow fall or similar
Temperature: -5°C – 30°C
Safety: Non-lethal on impact, bird-like mass
Airworthiness; approved for operational use in Sweden, Finland and Germany, complies
with small-UAV regulation in the UK
Flight planning
Flight monitoring and control
Software
AirMosaic
PAMS Internet processing services for OrthoMosaic and DSM and special requests
AirMosaic: georeferenced image mosaic
Products OrthoMosaic: high precision orthophoto mosaic (see below)
DSM: Digital Surface Model (see below)

PAMS Internet Services


High precision digital orthomosaic generation
Upload of PAMS aerial images, mission logfile camera calibration, ortho parameters
OrthoMosaic
Data processing on PAMS Servers – Download of OrthoMosaic
PAMS Data Processing Agreement required
High quality Digital Surface Model (DSM) generation
Upload of PAMS aerial images, mission logfile, camera calibration, DSM parameters
DSM
Data processing on PAMS Servers – Download of DSM
PAMS Data Processing Agreement required
Technical modifications reserved!

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7. Summary
PAMS is a quantum step in geospatial technology as it migrates highly specialized
procedures to simple and reliable personal aerial mapping actions for everyone. It offers a
new system solution for the capture of georeferenced aerial images and generates on-site
with georeferenced AirMosaics geospatial imagery solutions ready for delivery and use in
e.g. geographic information systems (GIS). The PAMS-Internet-Service opens easy
generation of high-quality OrthoMosaics and highly accurate Digital Surface Models.
Moreover, due to its simplicity everyone can utilize PAMS. Developed, manufactured, and
distributed by a consortium of small yet leading-edge European companies PAMS
possesses attractive price-performance ratios for the PAMS-Product as well as for the
PAMS-based services. It opens new possibilities for manifold applications and helps
satisfying public or private geospatial awareness needs. Early adapters with affiliation to
geospatial demands will offer new services in areas up to now hidden, and, due to their
small extents, too small to be covered economically by manned survey aircraft operations.
So far PAMS complements the existing aerial surveying activities of the respective
mapping industry. Moreover, it widens the geospatial aerial imaging domain, and it
appears that PAMS' technology will naturally give an additional lift to the geospatial
industry.

8. Acknowledgments
This White Paper bases on the valuable work of the creative engineers at SmartPlanes AB,
Skellefteå, Sweden, and PIEneering Oy, Helsinki, Finland. Particular thanks go to Olle
Hagner, SmartPlanes AB, Jan Heikkilä, PIEneering Oy, and Werner Mayr, CONPIE GmbH,
who contributed with manifold comments, figures, and fruitful discussions to the progress
of the PAMS project as well as to this White Paper.

9. Author
Mr. Ola Friström Email: ola.fristrom@smartplanes.se
SmartPlanes AB Web: www.smartplanes.se
Burträskvägen 20 Tel.: +46.91036261
S – 931 92 Skellefteå
Sweden

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