Elevating Innovation! Our KOREC Drone Sector Specialist puts the WingtraOne through its paces

Following a number of recent test flights, KOREC's Darrell Theobalds reports back on where the WingtraOne Gen II scores high, what's on his wish list and what he truly rates.

Following a number of recent test flights, KOREC’s Darrell Theobalds reports back on where the WingtraOne Gen II scores high, what’s on his wish list and what he truly rates.

For KOREC’s sector specialists, the good news is that they always get their hands on a new addition to the KOREC portfolio before anyone else! This time it’s the turn of our drone specialist, Darrell Theobalds, who has been putting the WingtraOne GEN II through its paces.

KOREC has recently become a Wingtra partner to further strengthen the existing KOREC fixed wing portfolio and Darrell, with his extensive experience supporting and training our drone users, understands better than anyone the challenges drone operators face in the field as well as what’s required to overcome them.

Developed in Switzerland, the WingtraOne GEN II is a premium drone aimed at those who seek consistent high-quality drone data and comes with the tag line ‘Map Faster, Map Larger, Map Anywhere’.

Does it deliver? Darrell reports back on his testing:

How I tested the WingtraOne GEN II

I’ve completed six flights in two separate locations so far with the WingtraOne; three with the new LIDAR payload and three with the RGB61 high-resolution mapping camera. Two of the flights with the LIDAR were in wet conditions and the other was on a very windy day. With the RGB camera, we undertook two flights on sunny, calm days and again, one in very wet weather.  

A flight with the WingtraOne and LIDAR payload lasted 4mins 40 sec producing a 183 pt/m2 point density cloud and coving an area of 13ha. The point cloud size was 470mb whilst processing time in the Wingtra LIDAR app took 10 minutes.

First Impressions

Before we get into what’s included with the WingtraOne, it’s worth mentioning the case itself – this is professional packaging! The drone comes in a robust, thoughtfully designed container guaranteeing the safety of both the drone and its sensors during transport. The inclusion of a hardcase for shipping and soft backpack carrier for easy transportation means you’re equipped to take it on a plane, or venture across remote countryside.

With the case open, the first thing to note is that the Wingtra is bright orange for easy spotting and has a sleek and modern design reflecting its professional-grade capabilities. It’s also extremely compact. This is good to see because power lift drones can be complicated instruments, so this sleek design definitely showcases the ingenuity that’s been put into its development.

What’s in the box?

Once you open the box it’s a comprehensive set up. The standard WingtraOne GEN II  package comprises not only the drone itself but also a complete set of essential accessories. This includes four batteries, a smart charger, a ground control station Samsung tablet, communication modules, an anemometer, and various accessories for data transfer. Altogether, it’s a carefully curated selection of accessories that are essential for the field data collection. 

Getting set up

Setting up the WingtraOne for flight is typically straightforward, thanks to user-friendly instructions, an online knowledge base resource repository of eLearning  tools and intuitive design.  To start up flights with the Wingtra, you need to set down on a level surface parallel to the wind, insert the middle stand, insert the payload and connect the battery. Then plan your flight, go through the Wingtrahub check list and off you go.  

Preparing to fly – intuitive software

WingtraHub is the Windows software for PPK image geotagging and desktop flight planning and has a simple flight check wizard. This means there is limited chance of error as you would not be able to take off if the initializing process was compromised or if you missed a step.

The Wingtrahub allows the user to plan area and corridor flight import mission parameters from KML and view this mission plan against the terrain. Again, a well-engineered thought-out application.

VTOL! Abolutely one of my Top 5 features

The benefits of fixed-wing and multirotor drones with VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) capability always appeal to me as I have had a fair number of challenges with sites that are extensive but have limited take-off and landing location.  

Powerlift drones like the Wingtra enable vertical take-off and landing like a multirotor drone while also having the efficiency of a fixed-wing aircraft during flight.  I have flown fixed wings for the past 12 years and the challenge has always been landing and taking off at confined sites, especially when the landing location has obstacles and you are restricted because you need to land into the wind.

The time spent trying to find the safest location to take off and land can now be spent flying. With the additional functionality of pausing and manually landing like a rotary, it’s really the best of both worlds. Only last week, at a Yorkshire racecourse, I had a flight planned with winds gusting at 30mph and averaging 17mph. I was able to take off and land with no issues. The updated Wingtrahub software and manual override for land, made landing in these type of winds very controlled and safe. 

High precision mapping – sensor choices

WingtraOne is equipped with high-resolution cameras like the RGB61 and advanced sensors like the multispectral mica sense and Wingtra LIDAR  to capture detailed imagery and data for real-world mapping and surveying purposes. This combined with the PPK base data can provide users with deliverables up to 1cm accuracy. I used both the RGB61 and the new LIDAR and was impressed with the results, they both performed remarkably well in windy conditions with no downwash or blurry images. Their solid performance also gave me total confidence that I was achieving one of the things that can save the most time on a job, ‘getting it right first time’.

In the air – what I liked

Thanks to its impressive flight range and endurance, the Wingtra can efficiently map vast areas without the necessity for frequent battery swaps or recharges. Moreover, it’s not limited to large expanses; it’s versatile enough to capture smaller sites as well. 

Post-Processing Software Integration:

The exports from Wingthra Hub can be processed using various photogrammetry and GIS software packages, outputting the standard point clouds in LAS or Laz, the mesh  file in OBJ, your Orthomosaic in Geo tiff or jpeg. Typically, all I need is a combination of Pix4D and Trimble Business Center to accomplish my tasks. 

Impressive Performance:

I was impressed by WingtraOne’s performance in the field, including its long flight endurance, high-quality imaging capabilities, and reliable autonomous flight missions.  I flew in high gusts of up to 30mph and landed in winds over the max of 17mph which meant the unit can be pushed to its limits while still providing good data. As I mentioned, the lidar sensors and RGB61 sensors performed remarkably well in  windy conditions with no downwash or blurry images. 

LIDAR camera impressions

February of this year saw the introduction of Wingtra LIDAR. Integration of LIDAR systems typically involves mounting the LIDAR payload onto the drone’s payload bay and ensuring proper integration with the drone’s flight control system and data capture workflow. This will involve some calibration to prevent distortion and incomplete point clouds. 

Contrary to belief, LIDAR does not penetrate the leaf. Instead, the light passes through gaps in the foliage, reaching the ground through multiple scans. 

The Wingtra LIDAR sensor has 3 components: a Hesai LIDAR scanner, an inertial Labs IMU and a NovAtel GNSS. 

HESAI Technology, a renowned global provider of LIDAR sensor solutions, supplies sensors utilised in various fields including ADAS, autonomous mobility, trucking robotics, AI, and numerous industrial applications. The knowledge that the WingtraOne GEN II is powered by a Hesai sensor instills a certain level of confidence and trust, customers know they are investing in reliable and high-quality product.

Navigating the workflow was straightforward for me. I initiated my flight plan using Wingtrahub, executed the data capture with Wingtra Pilot within a 4-minute flight, processed the raw data in the Wingtra LIDAR app (taking approximately 10 minutes), and finally conducted further data processing in Trimble Business Center. Within 40mins I had usable deliverables from the flight data. 

The most common questions I get asked about Wingtra LIDAR and the answers!

The common inquiries I receive revolve around the flight duration, the extent of necessary editing, the processing timeframe, and the quality of data captured beneath tree cover. 

The responses are 3%-5% decline in flight duration due to the weight of the camera, minimal editing is required, and the data beneath tree cover results are better than average for a 3 return LIDAR sensor. 

One of the standout features of this LIDAR solution is its self-calibration capability. Unlike other units that require calibration during flight, resulting in lost flight time due to back-and-forth adjustments, the Wingtra ensures that you maximize your entire flight duration, allowing for a full flight.

You do lose some flight time because of the weight but because of the angle of coverage and overlap you can cover a wider area along the flight lines. So, transitioning between the RGB and LIDAR sensor does not impact coverage as it relates to flight time. 

With a wide angle of 90 degrees, coupled with extended flight times, it can cover more ground with each pass. For instance, during a 90-meter flight, the LIDAR can cover 360 hectares while maintaining accuracies of 3cm. This represents up to a 50% increase in coverage compared to sensors of similar range. 

There is no misalignment after processing with the Wingtra LIDAR so there is very little to do when processing the raw outputs. 

It took me a few minutes after flight to export the raw LIDAR trajectory data, clean the runs and export the Las file for processing in our Trimble Business Centre software. The Wingtra LIDAR app enabled me to select the end and start of runs processed and export to the required coordinate system. 

I do not think this is out to replace your LIDAR rotary solution as there are solutions where you will need to fly slower and require more returns to achieve that level of detail, but you lose the coverage and spend days in the field, all impacting cost, The Wingtra LIDAR solution has a strong place in the market and I was impressed by its performance.

In conclusion – my top five WingtraOne GEN II rated features

  1. The Wingtra’s VTOL functionality allows you to work at confined sites
  2. The speed and precision allow flight to cover larger areas than Rotary
  3. There is a wide selection of payloads for the WingtraOne GEN ll
  4. Wingtra LIDAR substantially reduces the need for labour-intensive post-processing strip alignment, providing precise terrain data immediately following each efficient flight.
  5. One of the notable advantages of Wingtra LIDAR is its ability to minimize field time, requiring no calibration and initializing in just one minute.
  6. The user-friendly Wingtra LIDAR app and automated experience empower users

And in a perfect world….

In all honesty the WingtraOne delivers high-quality data in demanding conditions and I’ve been extremely impressed, especially with its wind handling. Does it deliver on its promise of ‘Map Faster, Map Larger, Map Anywhere’, absolutely yes it does.

Is anything missing from the package? Not at all, the Wingtra is a premium drone and its performance, build and ease of use reflect that at every turn.  However, if you really pushed me, for a  wish list for future upgrades it would include live link flight mission updates or real-time viewing of data imagery, but that’s about it. Watch this space for future updates and in the meantime, for further information, please view my recent WingtraOne webinar here. or contact us for a demonstration at info@korecgroup.com