Planning A Surveillance Mission

Transcript: Planning A Surveillance Mission

Hi, this is the demonstration of mission planner flight software, just to give you a basic overview of how to use the program.

I encourage you to look over the documentation listed on the same page that you found the video to get a general understanding the different settings and configurations available for the software before you get started flying.

You can download a copy of the program at any time on the same webpage that the documentation is available.


You can actually do some the things that I’m showing you without physically having the UAV armed or linked to the program, just to get started, and so you can begin learning about the software itself and its functions.

So when you open up the program, the first thing you will notice is the telemetry information that is available to you.

You can see the altitude, the distance to your next waypoint, groundspeed, and so forth–things that aren’t necessarily going to be useful to you on daily basis, but are available and there lots of other different stats and configurations that can be found here, too.

The main function that you’re going to be using, however, is the flight planning tab, here.

Essentially, this section is used for planning a mission for when you want to use the UAV to go out into the field and gather data for you.

This video is going to demonstrate how to program a standard flight path that you would use for doing normal surveillance missions using the video camera’s ‘gimble payload,’.

To get started planning a mission, you need to use google earth to zoom in to an area that you would like to survey.

Here on the right, you can choose the type of map that you would like to use to find the area of interest for planning your mission.

Once you have zoomed in to the area that you would like to survey as close as you need to get the amount of detail that you want, you can right click on the map and program in a ‘takeoff waypoint.’


If you are using a bungee launcher, you would program your takeoff altitude to 10 meters, while for a hand launch, you would need about one meter.

As soon as the autopilot senses that UAV is travelling at least three meters per second in velocity and has reached its preprogrammed altitude threshold, the autopilot will kick in and the UAV will take on a life of its own.

So we’re going to go ahead and just select 10 meters here for the purposes of this video and the takeoff pitch will always be roughly 15 degrees, so we’ll just stick with that parameter for now.

Once you have programmed in the takeoff command, you will be able to see that, in the waypoints menu, here, you can switch that at any time, and then from there, you can go ahead and you can map your flight path.

Insert another waypoint after the first waypoint—which was our takeoff, so that after takeoff the UAV will automatically fly to this corner of the lot. If we click here again, we can insert another waypoint to this corner and another down here in this corner.

So as you can see, the waypoints are going to go in numerical order, and if we launch now, the UAV will first climb to the staring altitude, then hit points 2,3,4, and 5, and then from there, it will continue to circle in that order between the waypoints until you tell it to stop.

You can see here in the waypoints menu that the latitude and longitude is programmed in for each waypoint, and the altitude that it will be flying at can be adjusted.

You can also change the order of the flight path by using these arrows, here.

Overall, that’s the general premise of flying the UAV—for autonomous flight.

You’re also going to want to program in a landing waypoint so you can land the UAV automatically using a belly landing in a grassy area that has a decent clearing—preferably where there are no trees or any other obstructions around.

The UAV can then disengage the throttle, balance the wings, and land in an appropriate area. You’ll need about 100 meters of open space to do that.

To choose the preferred landing area, right click again and program a final landing waypoint—so if we want to land the UAV in this area, here, we can move the landing waypoint to this section of the map and it will be programmed in.

As you can see here in the waypoint menu, you have the parameters listed again, and at one meter in altitude, the UAV will disengage from automatic mode having completed its automatic flight path, and land safely on the ground.

If you would like to land the UAV manually using the included RC transmitter for higher precision, you can disengage from automatic mode at 10 meters or 50 meters—whatever your preference is.

We suggest that you use a flight simulator to get used to flying in manual mode before you try it yourself.

There are also some excellent and inexpensive motor gliders available on the market if you prefer a more hands-on approach to learning.

So that’s the general idea behind making an automated flight path for a normal surveillance mission.

Now I’ll show you some other menu options that are going to make your life much easier.

Since you have a live video feed back at your ground station, if you find something you would like to investigate more closely while you are flying, you can program the UAV to loiter around that particular point of interest.

at any time during the flight mission, you can also return the UAV to the point of launch, or where you connected the UAV to the ground station, by selecting RTL, or Return to launch.

The UAV will then return to its original launch waypoint without you needing to program in another waypoint or issue another command.

You can also save and load this flight mission if you would like to run it again at a later date without needing to re-plan it.

Additionally, you can set rally points so that, for instance, if you realize that you don’t have enough battery life to complete the flight path, or that you’re too far away from the return to launch area when you need to land, you can tell the UAV to land at a specified area or whichever rally point is closest to the UAV’s current location.

More information about rally points can be found in the accompanying documentation that is presented with the product, but this is generally used to compensate for a miscalculation in the flight time of the UAV if the mission has already been planned and saved into the UAV’s flight memory.

For example, when flying a very complex mission, you may not know with certainty how much distance you need to cover or how much distance you are able to cover because of changing wind or other variable weather patterns—whether or not you will be able to complete the mission, and will need to land prematurely in an area that you already know has proper clearing.

For this, you can program a rally point to ensure that you have a backup plan for the UAV to land on a moment’s notice.

You can also use the software to measure the distance between different waypoints to see how far you need to fly.

Until you are fully familiar with your hardware capabilities, it’s a good idea not to push the envelope too far and end up flying past an area where you cannot perform a manual landing if required.

So that is the conclusion of our video, feel free to ask us any questions about the operation of the software by email or by phone.

Thanks for watching and happy flying!

Marcus UAV Mentioned On Front Page Featured MSNBC Article

On Sunday March 24, Marcus UAV caught a mention in an MSNBC news article regarding the new wave of UAV technology hitting the air domestically. Namely, Marcus UAV was marveled as pioneering small UAV technology for use in firefighting applications, and was spearheaded through a partnership with the University Of Cincinnati  “The title of the article, The drones are coming … but our laws aren’t ready” implicates a drone starved US population with it’s eyes on UAV technology before commercial use permits. With 2015 being the new target date for commercial UAV regs, new companies are pre-positioning themselves now for what is to come.

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homepage featured

article mention

We have a lot of customers who are coming to use asking about the coming 2015 regulations, and our response is always, “Our UAV’s are currently legal, only illegal for use to deliver a commercial service in most circumstances in the US”.  According to current US law, small RC aircraft are unabridged in requiring any permits or other licencing to fly, even if they have full autonomous capability.  Current regulations allow the use of our product via direct line of sight, under 400 Ft in altitude, and with manual flight control capability (not restrictive of autonomous flight). Proof of these regulations can be found on the FAA’s website.


Recreational use of the NAS is covered by FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57, which generally
limits operations to below 400 feet above ground level and away from airports and air traffic.

Not only does the Zephyr2 system meet all FAA regulations, but our system explicitly allows for full compliance through optional manual control of the aircraft.

Each Zephyr2 system comes with a RC transmitter which allows for manual flight control of the Zephyr2, and can be used in sync with the autonomous features of the aircraft.  It is possible to take aerial video or imagery while flying the aircraft both manually or autonomously, switching between either flight mode at will.  Automatic flight control allows for precise overlap and geographical flight patterns for precise data acquisition while manual flight control allows for federal regulations compliance and safety.

If you are interested in starting a commercial use UAV business in 2015, there is no better time to start preparing.  By purchasing a Marcus UAV system, you can practice and master the art of flying before the new regs are signed into law, and establish yourself as an authority on the subject.  With new hot swappable payload capability, it is possible to master live video for surveillance activities, run air survey’s of land for 3D mapping purposes, and perform life crop studies all from a single platform.

Original article text:

When a fire broke out in a church in Mesa County, Colo., in September 2011, the police department was ready with its flight team. Strapping a thermal camera to a Draganflyer X6, they flew the drone above the burning building. Together, police and firemen identified hotspots in the structure, and traced the direction in which the fire was spreading.

In 2010, a 5-pound Marcus drone was loaned to forest rangers in West Virginia by University Cincinnati researchers, in order to monitor a controlled burn. Now the group is developing an unmanned system to help control wildfires.

Even the Global Hawk, used by the U.S. Army, has entered civilian life. NOAA and NASA have decked two out with all kinds of sensors to watch storms as they brew. The crafts can endure (comparatively) long missions, letting researchers study large-scale weather patterns, like how grains from a Sahara sandstorm can seed a new hurricane when they reach the ocean.

There’s no doubt drones can do a world of good. They can get to places humans can’t, and do many jobs quicker — for a fraction of the cost. Benjamin Miller, who manages the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office drone program, estimates that drones can do “30 percent of the missions of manned aviation for 2 percent of the cost.” The two Mesa County drones cost $25 for each hour they are used.

The Mesa County sheriff's office started using the Draganflyer X6 in 2009. It can carry a still camera, a video camera, or an infrared camera.

Draganfly Innovations

The Mesa County sheriff’s office started using the Draganflyer X6 in 2009. It can carry a still camera, a video camera, or an infrared camera.

But state-level bills cropping up across the U.S. could ground virtuous drones used in rescue and research. Meanwhile, privacy advocates and legal experts disagree over how effective the proposed legislation really will be.

In Oregon, one proposed bill requires that anyone who operates a drone, whether it’s a local police department or a hobbyist, get a license from the Oregon Department of Aviation first.


An Indiana state bill wouldn’t let a news station survey traffic on a highway, or let law enforcement send out an unmanned search party for lost hikers, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Allie Bohm explained to NBC News. And a Nebraska bill wouldn’t allow law enforcement to gather evidence or information via drone except in the case of a terrorist threat.


Two bills on the governor’s desk in Virginia propose drone restrictions, but exclude select cases, such as search and rescue. Same for a bill proposed in Massachusetts last December, which would require police to get a warrant before sending a drone to collect aerial photography or thermal data as part of a criminal investigation.

Privacy advocates told NBC News they support this type of drone law.

“With drones, we have arrived at a moment when it is technologically possible to engage in constant mass aerial surveillance,” the ACLU’s Jay Stanley told NBC News. But don’t surveillance cameras do some of that already? “We don’t like those either,” Stanley added, “But I think that drones raise the stakes considerably from there.”

There’s currently a trade-off between how maneuverable a drone can be and how long it can stay in the air. You can’t combine the endurance of the solar-panelled QinetiQ Zephyr — which stayed aloft in the Nevada desert for two straight weeks, but whose view can be blocked by clouds — with the steady gaze of thePentagon’s 1.8-gigapixel drone camera. Not yet.

The solar-powered Zephyr stayed in the air for 336 hours and 21 minutes.


The solar-powered Zephyr stayed in the air for 336 hours and 21 minutes.

One drone that captured the attention of Wednesday’s senate hearing was AeroVironment’s Nano Hummingbird, which can fly sideways or vertically by flapping two tiny wings. It weighs less than a AA battery, but records video. Not especially well, mind you, but cameras are always improving.

Regardless of current limitations, drones great and small still give law enforcement more reach than it had before. Yet while new legislation will surely be required, existing law may address some concerns.

“I believe that existing frameworks will provide more protection than is generally appreciated,” John Villasenor a policy expert with UCLA and the Brookings Institution, told NBC News via email. By that he means that, when drones start snooping, courts will uphold certain privacies thanks to the Fourth Amendment.

Others say that current laws may be insufficient, but targeting drones misses the point.

“Whether data’s being collected by Google or from cellphones or bank cameras or traffic cameras, I don’t think the medium is the essence,” Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which represents drone manufacturers, told NBC News. “The question is what’s being done with it, who’s using it, who’s collecting it, where’s it being stored, where is it being deleted.”

Toscano’s organization may wish to keep drones out of legislation, but legal experts agree with the premise.

“Privacy law is not keeping up with surveillance technology, and drones are helping us see that,” Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington told NBC News. “But it’s not limited to drones,” he said, citing street cameras and vans like the ones driven by Google’s mapping team.

“I think the good reason to get the privacy laws right here is to avail ourselves of this kind of technology,” Calo said. And there’s no time like the present, as the FAA has been asked to fully integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015.

More on drone policies: Lawmakers voice concerns on drone privacy questions

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.