Compared to classical methods of obtaining geographic data, such as topography or photonometry, FREEdron is a device that combines different sensors to capture that georeferenced information. In addition, it provides a modular and complete hardware-software solution that allows greater control in the collection of information, as well as its integration and basic processing.
The project is based on LiDAR technology, through which a signal is sent that, at a certain distance, bounces and returns to the receiver. Then, by joining that distance to positioning systems, a georeferenced vector is obtained in the air, thus knowing the coordinates of that point thanks to a device capable of reading up to 600 thousand points per second. Moreover, and with regard to other techniques, LiDAR has certain advantages when it comes to mapping spaces, according to Marcos López, manager of Cartogalicia: “Imagine that I want to have the digital model of the terrain of an oak grove. By photonometry, if I don’t see the terrain, with just the photo I can not extract information from the latitude elevations that are below those trees. The LiDAR allows us that penetration into the vegetation, and we could get the digital model of the terrain and the surface, which would be the top of the tree. And, from that, calculate many other things”.
Multisensor and multiplatform
To this sensor, where LiDAR is the center of everything, other sensors can be added and synchronized, to merge the point information with other data of interest. Thus, for example, in precision agriculture, LiDAR could be merged with a multispectral camera, which provides phytosanitary information on vegetation.
Moreover, the system can be mounted on multiple platforms, such as a land vehicle, an airplane or even a boat. A differentiating feature that, according to López, is not so simple: “multiplatform is not just taking it out of one place and putting it in another. The behavior of the sensor will be different depending on the type of vehicle, so development is needed for the calculations to differentiate between land, air or sea”.
Along with this interpolation of multiple capabilities, which make FREEdron’s LiDAR a more valuable device, is also the containment of weight and dimension parameters, fundamental determinants of the autonomy of an equally configurable and scalable end equipment. An optimization of the existing technology that allows, in turn, the optimization of the results of their customers, including companies in the industrial sector and the measurement of forest forest masses services, as well as companies of topography, cartography or urbanism, both public and private. For these, and at the post-processing level of that data, there are two options: payment for use, in which they are provided with an information processing platform, or the sale of a permanent license.
RAWLIDAR and the BFAero
On the occasion of the award of the incubation phase of FREEdron, RAWLIDAR was born, in reference to obtaining “raw” data from LiDAR. The firm, which has earned the qualification of technology-based employment initiative, is owned by two companies. Cartogalicia SL are experts in geomatics and pioneers at the state level in the creation of cartographic products through the use of unmanned platforms, bringing to spin-out their expertise in cartography and mechanical engineering. For its part, and in response to the knowledge in the field of telecommunications and software required for the development of the project, RAWLIDAR is also formed by Ingeniería INSITU, a Lugo-based technology company that has a long history in field disciplines, as well as in electronics and software applied to the geomatic field.
The spin out participates in the second edition of the Business Factory Aero (BFAero), an accelerator for SMEs in the aeronautical sector of Galicia that need to systematize and consolidate their business model. Driven by the Xunta within the Civil UAVs Initiative (CUI), a strategic and pioneering initiative in Europe with the aim of attracting investment in the aerospace sector and proposing innovative solutions in the field of systems and unmanned vehicles, BFAero is the accelerator of the sector that it has the largest financial endowment at European level. In this way, projects such as FREEdron, in the incubation phase, can count on support of up to 100,000 euros at a loss.
“Obviously, the reach of the BFA is limited to a temporary space, an economic amount and some milestones. But being under the wings of BFAero is positive, because it allows us not only funding that, although not enough, it is a it helps, in addition to giving us visibility and providing us with tutoring”, explains López. The accelerator also participates in the elaboration of a complete plan for the development and commercialization of its product at local, national and international level, with a duration of 24 months for the incubation stage. It also offers tutoring with industry experts and access to CUI facilities and equipment, as well as its own office and coworking or training spaces on all those issues that affect their business idea.