Replacing a 50-foot monopod and a tethered aerial blimp with a DJI Phantom has made Earth Forensics much more productive
Earth Forensics is using DJI Phantom drones to deliver on their mission in a much more efficient, and richer, manner. is an interesting company, here is a bit about them from their About Page:
“The Earth Forensics team is comprised of geoscientists and professional educators hired by public entities and private industry around the globe to investigate, identify, and implement solutions to geologic, hydrologic and environmental concerns. Earth Forensics specializes in outside-the-box thinking and applying advanced technology to resolve matters involving water resource protection and development, soil and groundwater contamination, flood and landslide assessment, coastal erosion and stabilization, and impact resolution of global climate change. Earth Forensics consults for clients throughout the United States and around the world.”
We wanted to learn more about how drones are making their business more profitable, here is the interview.
Q. Could you give our readers a sampling of the types of jobs you have worked on?
Our company is focused on the development of UAV applications to meet some of the needs of our projects. Some examples of projects that we are involved with are: Construction monitoring of a high-end residential development in the City of Malibu, CA. We are documenting the evolution of the site from grading to the construction of the homes. We have also been using our Phantom to obtain thermal Infrared images of soil remediation stockpiles in order to monitor active soil moisture. We have been using Pix4D photogrammetry software, along with our Phantom which has allowed us to create high resolution digital elevation models which we are using to monitor various debris basins and landslides.
Q. How do you see drones assisting you in your mission?
Before the acquisition of our Phantom we had been using a 50-foot monopod and a tethered aerial blimp to obtain aerial photographs for the past 20+ years. As a result we had some limitations such as long mobilization time, small coverage area and the rising cost of helium. Now with our Phantom those limitations have been lifted, we can now be up in the air and taking photographs in the matter of minutes. The quick and flexible mobilization time will be a benefit in the monitoring of landslide or other natural hazard which could potentially be a detriment to public safety.
Q. We noted you are using the Phantom 2 Vision +, what made this right for your goals?
The DJI Phantom was within our initial research budget. As our first venture in to UAV, it has met our needs thus far for the applications that we have used it for. We have been researching other platforms, including our recent purchase of the new Phantom 3.
Q. Have you had a chance to use the drone yet? How did it perform?
The Phantom 2 Vision + has met or surpassed all our expectations. Recently we have the new DJI Phantom 3 and have been very impressed with the transmission range and new features. Compared to the Phantom 2 Vision +, the Phantom 3 has outperformed its predecessor and is more stable overall.
Q. I know you work globally, do you have experience with drone usage outside of the United States Observations? Differences in how you approach your job?
At this time we have not used our UAV outside of the USA, but we always are looking for projects to arise. In the past we have conducted research in Mexico, where we mapped geologic features using our old aerial blimp and traditional surveying methods. If an opportunity developed we may try to map the area again using our UAV. We will be looking into the Mexican regulations.
Q. The FAA continues to discuss removing the line of sight requirement, if they do so, how would it impact your use of drones?
The line of sight limitations have not affected us, since most of the mapping or photographs are within areas that are readily accessible and within the line of sight. However, it would be nice to have that option open to use in case the need came where we needed to venture beyond the line of sight.
Here is a great example of the work being done. This is a 3D model of a landslide using images taken from the DJI phantom vision 2+ and processed in Pix4D.