The drone that knows where to go


A drone capable of flying independently of an operator has cruised beneath the treetops of a Rotorua pine forest along a flight path it had mapped itself in what is thought to be a world first.

The use of drones to capture data like photographs and video from the air is common, but it relies on the operator keeping the drone in sight and the drone talking to a GPS system, so it knows where it is.

The drone that recently took to the air in the Scion forest trial area was different. It was an industry-standard DJI M200 carrying an Emesent Hovermap sensor unit that can create a map when GPS is unavailable by using simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM), and a laser-scanner that doubles as a collision-avoidance system to keep the drone safe while flying close to obstacles. The Hovermap sensor fully integrates with the drone flight control system.

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