Drone Versus Airplane Mapping in Remote Alaska
Having personally developed maps in remote Alaskan villages with both Drones and Airplanes, it has changed my perspective on how efficient drones can be applied. Drone mapping as a service in small communities in Alaska is in my opinion not an efficient business model. Years ago, I held the belief that drone mapping would be the most efficient method of mapping remote Alaskan villages, and if you live in the community and fly your own drone, it can be the most efficient method. Most communities in Alaska are "bush" villages, only accessible by airplanes, so the transportation to the villages to provide drone mapping service requires expensive logistics. First, you load probably 2+ people and equipment on the airplane, fly to the village and land, setup ground control aerial panels, then fly drone mission. Depending on the type of drone and the size of the community, this project will likely take a few hours. One consideration is the Charter Airplane; Is that airplane going to drop you off? Are you paying standby for the aircraft and the pilot? The cost of airline to a regional hub airport and then the chartered airplanes for 2-3 people to most villages in Alaska can cost $6,000, and you haven't even begun to acquire a single image. But lets not forget, each village has airplanes arriving and departing, rapidly changing weather and a few other factors that can easily turn a 5 hour project in to a couple of overnights. So, with these unknowns, the equipment you needed to bring to remain overnight in a remote village just quadrupled and the airplane is now bigger and more expensive particularly if you are bringing a drone the size of a DJI Matrice 600. We better make that airline and charter budget more like $10,000. At AlaskaUAV our Decision Making Imagery and & GIS Products for small communities can be less than $15,000 delivered.
This is why AlaskaUAV.com is now combining a drone with a Cessna 182 with a 5 camera system. We carry a small RTK drone for situations where we want do develop sub-centimeter GSD imagery. Logistically, we fly our aircraft from village to village acquiring imagery using the airplane's camera system on a speculative basis. Our business model allows us to offer Decision Making Aerial Imagery & GIS Products at about 25% of the traditional aerial survey imagery services. We don't see this as being a direct competition with the companies such as Quantum Spatial and Kodiak Mapping. We are focused on the communities who currently are not receiving these decision making products because they don't have the budget for the traditional methods. Our business model uses the drone for small projects (< 5 square miles) and the airplane for medium size (5-25 square miles) projects. Alaska Bush communities are the perfect size for our aircraft's camera system and our processing capabilities. AlaskaUAV's goal is to bring affordable imagery to remote communities in Alaska. This includes teaching them to use drones to acquire the imagery, then if the community desire we can either process the imagery and work with their engineering company for the GIS, or we will teach and support them doing any portion or the entire process. We can provide the the Decision Making Aerial Imagery & GIS information either as a Product or as an educational opportunity to train young people in their community to do the work. What makes our business different from other companies is that are in the villages each year either acquiring aerial imagery and providing on-going mentoring in the use of these technologies.