DJI Phantom 4 RTK is a game-changer for mapping and surveying
A new standard for drone accuracy. That’s the bold statement made by DJI upon the release of its eagerly-anticipated Phantom 4 RTK.
It’s a big claim. But it’s a promise that the Chinese-based technology giant can most certainly back up.
With its high-precision mapping capabilities, providing the ability to capture centimetre-accurate RTK (real-time kinematic) data, this impressive newbie looks set to transform the landscape in the world of construction. In many ways, DJI has struck gold with the Phantom 4 RTK.
MEETING INDUSTRY NEEDS
As the commercial drone industry continues to gather pace, one of the fastest-growing applications has been mapping and surveying, with UAVs providing significant efficiency and safety improvements over more traditional methods.
Yet, for all of these benefits, there has been a pesky fly in the ointment – concerns raised in some quarters about the accuracy of the deliverables from drone data.
But these trials and tribulations look set to be a thing of the past, thanks to the new kid on the block. Step (or should that be fly!) forward the Phantom 4 RTK, which appears to be something of a game-changer.
Described as DJI’s most compact and accurate low-altitude mapping solution, this recently-released state-of-the-art piece of kit has very much been designed with the mapping and surveying market in mind.
And it seems as though DJI has listened to the industry’s needs and desires, delivering a model which is small, neat and tidy in its design and with a high-resolution camera and the ability to capture centimetre-accurate RTK data to boot. Plus, there’s that added bonus of real-time data collection.
To go into specifics, this custom-built quadcopter, crafted from the ground up for enterprise use, provides 1cm+1ppm RTK horizontal positioning accuracy, 1.5cm+1ppm RTK vertical positioning accuracy and 5cm absolute horizontal accuracy of photogrammetric models.
This is on par with some of the most advanced equipment available, but in a much easier to use, compact and more reliable package. And costing £5,070, it is also a cheaper alternative to what is already out there.
There’s a sweet little cherry on top too – the new technology in the Phantom 4 RTK means that fewer ground points (GCPs) are required to achieve the same high level of accuracy, saving time and becoming less labour-intensive.
Other Benefits of the Phantom 4 RTK
Another major advantage to those in the surveying game is that the Phantom 4 RTK has a long battery life of up to 30 minutes, making it capable of mapping large areas during a single flight. But those needing to gather information over a longer period of time or across an extended area needn’t worry, because if a project is too large to map on a single battery charge, the clever Phantom 4 RTK automatically resumes the mission at the same point after the battery has been replaced/charged.
It doesn’t stop here either, and the benefits keep coming.
Sitting just beneath the RTK receiver is a redundant GNSS module, installed to maintain flight stability in signal-poor regions such as dense cities. Combining both modules, the Phantom 4 RTK is able to optimise flight safety while ensuring the most precise data is captured for those complex surveying, mapping and inspection needs.
The Phantom 4 RTK can be fitted to any workflow, with the ability to connect this positioning system to the D-RTK 2 Mobile Station, NTRIP (Network Transport of RTCM via Internet Protocol) using a 4G dongle or WiFi hotspot, or store the satellite observation data to be used for Post Processed Kinematics (PPK).
NEW TIMESYNC SYSTEM
Meanwhile, a new TimeSync system has been created for the Phantom 4 RTK to continually align the flight controller, camera and RTK module.
Additionally, TimeSync ensures each photo uses the most accurate metadata and fixes the positioning data to the centre of the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) – optimising the results from photogrammetric methods and letting the image achieve centimeter-level positioning data. On top of this, pilots will enjoy stable and reliable HD image and video transmission at distances of up to 7km, which is great for mapping larger sites.
Users will also discover that they can capture incredible image data thanks to a one-inch, 20 megapixel CMOS sensor. The mechanical shutter makes mapping missions or regular data capture seamless as the Phantom 4 RTK can move while taking pictures without the risk of rolling shutter blur.
NEW GS RTK APP HELPS PILOTS
A new GS RTK app allows pilots to intelligently control their Phantom 4 RTK with two planning modes – Photogrammetry and Waypoint Flight – alongside a more traditional flight mode. The planning modes let pilots select the drone’s flight path while adjusting overlap rate, altitude, speed, camera parameters and more, offering an automated mapping or inspection workflow.
The GS RTK app has been built with its users in mind and therefore has a range of features built for specific mapping or inspection workflows. The app has implemented direct loading of KML area files for in-office flight planning, a new shutter priority mode to keep exposure consistent across all photos and a strong wind alarm to warn pilots of adverse conditions.
The Phantom 4 RTK is compatible with the DJI Mobile SDK, opening up its functions to automation and customisation through a mobile device.
Support your Phantom 4 RTK missions with the D-RTK 2 Mobile Station – providing real-time differential data to the drone and forming an accurate surveying solution. The Mobile Station’s rugged design and OcuSync 2.0 transmission system ensures you can gain centimetre-level accurate data with your Phantom 4 RTK in any condition.
PHANTOM 4 RTK IS ‘A STEP FORWARD’ FOR DRONE SURVEYING
They say that the proof is in the pudding and the prowess of the Phantom 4 RTK’s has been backed up by one of Europe’s largest construction companies, STRABAG.
The Austrian-based firm began using drones in 2015 for surveying and 3D data generation to allow efficiency gains for internal and external clients. And having added the Phantom 4 RTK to its fleet, the construction giant is already seeing the benefits.
Thomas Groeninger, Head of Business Unit Digital Object Survey and UAV, at STRABAG, said: “For us, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK is another step forward in making construction surveying with drones simpler. It is compact and flexible, therefore it can be a useful tool for our teams at STRABAG.
Setting up GCPs was always a time-consuming process. In the past, we needed 20-to-40 GCPs per square kilometre, which took several hours to place. By using the Phantom 4 RTK, we can reduce the number of GCPs to three-to-five, or even to zero in certain circumstances.
Drones are proving to be very efficient tools in the construction industry and I am convinced they will be integrated more and more in the construction process within the international stage.
As an innovation leader, it is our desire to execute complex construction projects of the highest quantity and deliver results on time. The Phantom 4 RTK contributes in many aspects.
James is Heliguy’s Blogger and Head of Digital Content Production. James keeps our readers up to date with drone news within the ever-changing industry.