UK PILOT SCHOLARSHIP

So I do not really post enough on whats available out there but this hit my inbox and I had to Share so no one misses this opportunity. Please share and get the word to those young want to be pilots as the window is very short. .

There are criteria to be met but check out the page for helicentre below and register your interest.

https://www.flyheli.co.uk/training/scholarships/

They currently (15/08/2019) have 15 Scholarships available for Helicopter training so for all those that want to have a career flying, this is your perfect opportunity.

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Upgrade to 360 Video Cameras

So we are all familiar with action cameras and taking video on our smart phones but what should we do and when? Why not just use a smart phone for everything? Actually some phones do have the ability to clip on a 360 camera and share the video instantly – which is great if you have a modern mobile phone but I am a dinosaur and love dedicated units.

So lets go back to basics, First we had physical film as a recording medium, then we could digitize this in post processing. Soon we started recording in digital on the camera i.e. DVD-R camcorders which were then followed by Non Volatile memory storage like Compact flash. Up till recently it has only been the recording medium that changed but the capture device has remained fairly unchanged in principle i.e. Film SLR cameras became Digital SLR etc.

Although the size of 1 GB storage medium physical size has been reduced through advancements in storage formats (not the same as recording format) and the actual physical media, which is impressive but the biggest advancements have been through the actual fixed lens development.

So why is this important?

Today we use photography and videophotography for so much from AI, Traffic enforcement, Policing, 3D modelling of the natural and built environment while also detecting environmental problems with drones. All of this is only possible because of good photographic capture and recording to be processed. It really is true that if you put bad data in then you get bad data out and a digital picture is exactly that – DATA. So the better the lens, the better the data.

So I love my DSLR but it is getting old now and 24 Megapixel is just about cutting it these days so I am looking into other ways of capturing Good quality Images with less moving parts. This Brings me to Action Cameras.

So I have a GoPro Hero 5 and it is amazing. I use it for my job to capture asset data but struggle to get good photogrammetry results,that rival the DSLR, with many software packages and have been reluctant to get into spherical (360) photography due to the past issues with inability to measure and scale accurately. These problems have, in the main, and continue to be ironed out with modern image stitching techniques and equirectangular processing/conversion.

So from my perspective, I am upgrading my GoPro with a forward looking light so I can improve the reliability of the focus on close up captured image data in low light conditions, for the short term, but I can’t help but think, how useful will it be to capture everything in 360 for total environment capture, even if it requires 360 fill lighting, and let it all get straightened out in post processing and there is my problem – POST PROCESSING.

Post Processing normaly requires lots of power and it is recommended to have something like an Intel I7-6700 (equivalent or better) and NVIDEA GTX GPU (equivalent or better). So although entry cameras are affordable, you also have to think of your computing power to process the 360 images into equirectangular (normal) video. This is normaly completed by the manufacturers own software but once converted, you can use your normal equipment and video editing suite.

However – The benefit of never missing anything when you leave a job is worth it alone but when you think you can re-use the data for photogrammetry (results dependent on processing software/hardware and the images also need to be processed into equirectangular format) or even many manufacturers support an app to display in many VR headsets which is cool and a great way to save money on hazard or industrial site familiarisation training.

Obviously Action Cams are always thought of as the Adrenaline Junkie tool on the end of a selfie stick, but they really do have a productive side especially when upto 5.7k video is paired with some lateral thinking, software and IT skill.

Some 360 cameras out there include:

  • Insta360
  • Insta 360 nano
  • GoPro Fusion 360
  • Garmin Virb 360
  • Ladybug 5
  • NCTech iStar
  • Ricoh Theta
  • Ricoh Theta S

There is so much more to say about the advantages of 360 which are obvious like –

  • Being able to take a panoramic with one click and not have to worry about setting up and leveling a tripod.
  • Having one security camera unit cover a 360 view reducing the amount of camera positions to remove blind spots.
  • Driver cam – capture the road and the drivers mental state reflected in his body language
  • Photogrammetry time saving.
  • Work Site/job familiarisation and safety training.
  • Contractor insight – Being able to give a contractor an eye into say your plumbing issue while also being able to see you might be a bonus.
  • Incident/accident/Crime investigation – The ability to capture everything in relation to each other will be able to give investigators i.e. crash or accident investigators perspectives that only Laserscanning would have been able to do previously. Imagine the evidence that could be captured on a wet rainy night that would normally have been washed away.
  • Finally – that awesome one in a million wave or pipe.

The remaining big issue is sharing the data as cloud data space, on many sharing forums, can be costly so you could set up your own website or private cloud. Alternatively you could social media it but there could be a good little mutualy beneficial thing here.

If there was a central cloud service that was free to store as much data as you liked from action cam and especially 360 video capture, we could pretty much model a vast part of the traveled world in a decade at zero survey cost to business. We could speed that up if customers of utility companies were given something like a 360 action cam.

Why – Photogrammetry and Feature recognition with cloud hosted AI. We have the technology and can ramp up the cloud to handle the data. Someone once said to me – no one will pay to survey the country, I say we do not need to. Vloggers and the general public will – just give them something mutually beneficial i.e. a 360 action cam and unlimited storage and sharing space for those videos with the proviso that the host can extract the built environment data which would satisfy any privacy concerns. Imagine Google Earth VR in one year.

So before we become batteries in the Matrix (showing my age) I will end this but give it thought and get on the 360 train.

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TEXT EXTRACTION WITH FreeOCR

Optical Character Recognition software has been around for a while now and is used in many applications from number plate recognition to document scan to text. The big opportunity comes when incorporated into Surveying and robotics. For this, many companies turn to big Cloud Computing Products such as Google Cloud or Azure but there is a cheaper way if you are prepared to do some computer legwork and are not after a one stop shop solution. If you want one stop then GCP or Azure is the place to go but you will pay for it.

Rescue deleted files or photos - O&O DiskRecovery

Alternatively you can combine smaller products as below to achieve similar great results for efficiency in mass processing. I have remained generic and not to mention brands as either the open source or proprietry products will return good results.

The big hold up has been getting GOOD free opensource/freeware OCR software. We now have it in the form of FreeOCR downloadable from paperfile http://www.paperfile.net.

FreeOCRIcon

This software allows you to scan all documents into word format extracting the text automatically and works with pictures too. It uses the tesseract OCR engine which is at the following GitHub page http://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/ and can be compiled into your own software creation for the aspiring coders amongst us.

Lets say you want to scan CCTV footage for registrations of people coming and going through a gate, Simply turn the video into images (maybe using VLC) and load the saved images into FreeOCR. Hit the OCR button and it will convert any text in the images to a text file.

This might be a good idea for automated scanning of CCTV footage after a crime to find witnesses.

Another alternative use would be for BIM and scanning asset tags or data plates. Lets say you have some georeferenced images taken with something like a SPECTRA SP20 you would be able to cross refer the OCR recovered Model and Serial number with the GeoTag in the images Metadata in an automated way to geolocate the asset data in the database.

You would already have to have an asset database to query but  you could add assets like this too.

Maybe you could automate cheaply using a GoPro Hero5 (or later) set to Linear or Medium Field Of View, 50 Frames Per second and good forward lighting. You would also need a piece of software that uses tesseract and will record the frame or picture number against the OCR output and image metadata including GPS data.I mention this method with a GoPro example as you could use the same video footage as you take for photogrammetric modelling where the results would improve with the better camera and also records the Geolocation. If you need a GoPro, they now supply the Hero7 12MP on Amazon. Click the image below to see the listing and the Specs.

This Photogrammetric modelling would provide the basis for the 3D virtualised world engine for self operated robots later.

Now Moving on from data collection, imagine if robots could read languages and understand, orientate and operate themselves with OCR or feature extraction with 360 cameras, then we are talking that we are close to robots automated operations in changing environments.

Now lets combine other work with driverless cars and the virtualised world engine, we are talking about fully autonomous vehicles or self operated machines in a variable world.

The helps the Future to be Exciting as we change how we apply current technologies to deliver futuristic capabilities today.

Insta360 Air (Micro USB) 360 Camera

Mapping Underground Assets

The vivax metrotech system for mapping underground assets like pipework and cable runs with a relatively high accuracy.

The equipment that has inspired this idea is the VIVAX METROTECH vSCAN range which can be viewed here. https://www.vivax-metrotech.com/

Like many utility detectors, It locates wires and buried metalic objects but what is so great about the direction of this product range is that it can combine with locating a sewer Inspection camera head which brings the ability to reality capture, with photogrammetry, inside of pipework or cable runs. Not the best result as it is only in one direction but there is nothing stopping this being developed into fore and aft cameras.

To do this, you send the vCamMX camera up the pipe or chamber  which records all the image data while someone walks above the ground with the vLocCam2 Locator. This will provide the depth relative to the locator which records it geolocation.

It is also handy to be able to Geolocate all detected power lines and utility services like CATV, telephone and pipework over 50mm. I think thats a safe bet as the diameter of the smaller head is 18mm so might be able to be used in smaller bores to confirm the laying of a water pipe for instance but the manufacturer states 50mm.

There really is not much to say about this process as it is just amalgamating a current CCTV of sewers process with an upgraded utility detector with GPS but it is more the tool that makes it easy to process the data in an automated fashion.

Having said that, with the potential to 3D model the video, it can also aid non destructive computer based testing and defect detection of underground utility services.

The geolocation aspect of this also provides a way to satisfy much of the financial risk of PAS256 and the geographic linking between non-infrastructure assets.

 

Indoor Drone Flying

Indoor Drone Flying has its disadvantages regarding autonomous flight but has many benefits including

  • No CAA Licence required – The CAA is only interested in external airspace and has updated its ANO (Air Navigation Order) to reflect this – in short, if it cant escape into an external airspace then it now falls under Health and Safety and not the Airspace legislator. This also goes further to include netted structures. Having said that, your Health and Safety may want you to have a licence as a competency requirement much like a driving licence but this could also be an in-house course. https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft/Recreational-drones/Recreational-drone-flights/
  • Small drones can reach places for inspection where it may be impractical to send a person i.e. confined spaces or into tall buildings to alleviate the working at height risks or cover search areas with thermal imaging to look for people or faults.

So I am liking this concept and sure enough there is a solution on the market – Enter the ELIOS 2 from Flyability. At this point I will say that I am not on commission and have only seen one of these on display by COPTRZ at the GeoBusiness day.

Image of ELIOS 2 Indoor Drone
An Image of ELIOS 2 indoor Drone (photographed from the COPTRZ brochure)

So this drone is in the realms of £25k but it boasts the following:-

  • Collision resilient cage (Carbon Fibre 40cm Diameter)
  • GPS free Stabilization
  • Distance Lock from object if monitoring one object – i.e. an automated process or inspecting structures – I am thinking visual inspections of aircraft skin joints in a hangar would be one great application with the oblique lighting. Thermal imaging of composits in-situ (an authorised work process would be required of course) etc
  • 4k Camera
  • Thermal Camera (FLIR)
  • 180 degree tilting camera pod
  • Adjustable and Oblique Lighting upto 10k lumens. This is also Dustproof.
  • FPV without line of sight
  • Flight and Reporting is performed via the Cockpit 2 software
  • 1 day of training to get the most out of it.
  • Transport case
  • Remote Control (2.4GHz) and Samsung Tablet
  • IATA approved for carry on Luggage

 

All that with a 10 minutes flight time but with a 1 min battery change time, you could inspect whatever you wanted and send the video or images to the relevent qualified person to study.

One minute a 737 Bulkhead inspection, the next an A380 paint inspection after a storm – One person on location and the expensive engineers at home base for the time duration required – no more or less. Maybe even some post maintenance inspections can be performed remotely this way reducing senior engineers physically onsite.

What does this mean – No more flying teams of engineers with every tool for every eventuality or erecting scaffolding to inspect/appraise faults. You just need a drone operator and a remote engineer.

Imagine the time resource this will free from travel as well as the carbon footprint. This is Proactive Workforce management but of course Regulations and best practices apply and as always I am trying to start a conversation with ideas for you to debate not go ahead and act based on what you have read. Please see site usage terms and conditions for more information.

For more information or Demo please visit the flyability or COPTRZ websites.

If you do, please let them know you saw it here and they may let me review one.

 

Rotating Videos With VLC Media Player

When you are out and about and just want to capture that moment, you are not thinking about which orientation you need to record in so often you start in portrait (vertical) mode and rotate the phone for a better shot later. Unfortunately this looks great on the phone as the screen rotates automatically but often the video is locked in the original orientation that you started recording in and when played back you find that the video is now playing at 90 degrees on the screen as below.

videorotate1.PNG

This is easy to correct with VLC media Player, for free without watermarks, as detailed in this video but I have also detailed the steps below the video.

First of all you need VLC media Player which can be downloaded here https://www.videolan.org/vlc/

Once Installed, Open it up and select MEDIA -> OPEN FILE

videorotate2.PNG

Select Your File and Click OPEN

videorotate3.png

Now the Video should auto play and let it play till you get to the part where it needs rotating. I will say at this point that it converts the whole video file so I suggest you save a copy and trim only the parts you need rotating in a video editing suite. If you have Windows 10, you have the Video Editor tool located in the menu under V. You can easily cut up a video and stitch it back later with this free tool. Alternatively there are other free tools out there.

Ok so we have a point where the video has rotated. Pause the video here and In the top Menu bar, select  TOOLS -> EFFECTS AND FILTERS

videorotate4.PNG

This Will display a pop up box as below. Select the Following Tabs

VIDEO EFFECTS -> GEOMETRY

videorotate5

You will now want to select the TRANSFORM check box and select how you want to rotate it from the drop down menu. See image below. You will note that the video rotates in the background to confirm you have the correct Transform applied. I have selected 270 degrees which is the same as -90 degrees.

videorotate6.png

Once you are happy, Click on Close.

Ok, we now have a rotated video but we need to export it ( Save into a new independent  file) so lets go to the Top Menu Bar and select

MEDIA -> CONVERT/SAVE

videorotate7.PNG

This will produce a pop up box. Click the ADD button

videorotate8

This will open the file explorer so select your file and click OPEN

 

This will return you to the Open Media Pop up so now at the bottom, click on the drop down menu (arrow) next to Convert / Save and select CONVERT.

videorotate10

Select the Profile (output format), I always leave as MP4 as this is widely used. Now in the Destination Section, Select the BROWSE button.

videorotate11

You now need to select the output folder (this is where your video will be found after conversion). I tend to put it in the same folder and filename but add what has happened to the file name. In this case rotated 270 degrees. Click the SAVE button.

videorotate12

Nearly there, You will be returned to the CONVERT pop up and now you simply click the START button.

videorotate13

You will now see a blank screen, as below, with the blue bar increasing from left to right to show progress.

videorotate14

Once complete, The screen will go back to the opening/launch blank screen.

You should now have a converted file in the file location specified but play it back in another media player or close VLC and re-open. If you try and play the video straight away, you may find it at the wrong orientation because you still have the Effects Transform set to rotate it. You could also go back to EFFECTS and Set the Transform to none or 0 degrees rotation.

If you liked this and found it helpful then please like, share and comment. Please also use the contact form with any suggestions of topics you want us to investigate.

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VISUALISATION WITH PANOPTIKON

PANOPTIKON – It is Swedish,  and as far as I can remember the translation means ‘to observe’ but comes from the Greek ‘all-seeing’ and in English refers to ‘a Prison with cells arranged around a central point so they can be seen at all times’ – Very Colonial, I prefer the Swedish as it is simply clear and just looks cool which is much the story with the PANOPTIKON visualisation software.

I saw these guys at the GeoBusiness 2019 and was blown away by the potential this has to engage with communities in an open and clear method across any language barrier. In short, it is a really good Video/Augmented Reality Communication/engagement tool for BIM.

We have all seen videos of proposed construction sites ‘this is what it will look like if we have the OK’ in dry architectural drawings but this incorporates all BIM model data so it releases all the power of the digital age to show a vision of exactly how it is to how it will be built exactly.

It Does this buy combining Drone footage with BIM Data and combining the two. The following 2 screen shots are from their video but it shows the effect. You can view the video on their website www.bjorkstromrobotics.com

The next applications I see are in farming and infrastructure development to aid positive engagement of communities to develop their land.

Imagine a community or utility has a sudden issue with over development i.e. too much home building (postage stamp houses) and blocks development, maybe there is no parking spaces or playgrounds. You need to address their concerns and convince them that there is a plan to resolve the issue.

This is the communication tool to do just that.

They also have another really useful tool for a tablet which shows where all the utility services run and will visualise in real space (on the tablet) everything that is proposed with accurate GNSS derived positioning.

So now if we combine the 2 products, we are looking at the ability to show a video demonstration of the project life cycle, at the build location, and then after the video you can engage with the audience in live augmented reality to answer any of their questions – maybe discover new ones but it is a full engagement system. They can even walk around with the tablet to see what the new area will look like and get a feel for it. I am hopeful that they will develop for full Mixed Reality soon but they seem keen to develop the product to fulfill their partners need – and I like that Partner attitude, not just customer, customer just sounds disposable to me.

The other use, I see, is in forensics, Health and safety or engineering to reconstruct events on site whether it be an accident and you need to investigate view points on site or an augmented reconstruction, or maybe you just want to maximise your aircraft parking in your hangar.

OK so I am not on commission so I will now refer you to their website for further information and videos www.bjorkstromrobotics.com/

I will however say that it was an insightful discussion I had on the day and they seem like a very helpful and positive group to deal with.