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Comparative Analysis of Consumer vs. Research Grade Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Authors: Lindsay Gutting*, University of West Florida, Phillip Schmutz, University of West Florida
Topics: UAS / UAV, Geomorphology
Keywords: UAS, UAV, Digital Elevation Model, DEM of Difference
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) research technology is constantly evolving as new operative
changes and documentative elements associated with these technologies continue to progress.
Strategic analysis of these enhancements at all prices would prove to be universally beneficial
amongst the scientific community in order to understand the ideal roles and cost-effective uses of
various UAV models. This study is designed to assess the capability of inexpensive UAVs to
collect research grade quality data. More specifically, this project will compare the differences
between constructed Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), created using Agisoft Metashape. Three
different UAV systems were tested, two inexpensive or consumer grade models, the DJI Mavic
Air and the DJI Spark, and one research grade, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Ultimately, we seek to
answer the question; can a less expensive UAV produce statically comparable data to a research
grade UAV? UAV flights were flown at an altitude of 100m over a 4-hectare area at the
University of West Florida beach property located in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Statistical
analysis is currently ongoing, yet preliminary data suggests that lower quality UAVs are capable
of producing similar DEMs as the research-grade UAV. Only some minute terrain features were
not detected by the consumer grade UAVs. Results from the study support the utilization of
consumer-grade UAVs for teaching applications, pilot research studies, or affordable land
assessment without substantial data loss. Finally, this study offers support to the development of
more affordable research and education programs focused on the use inexpensive UAVs.

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