RICS Draft Global Guidance Note: Earth observation and aerial surveys, 6th edition

RICS Draft Guidance Note: Earth observation and aerial surveys, 6th edition

8 Future developments

8.1 Sensor miniaturisation

UAVs have gained acceptance in the aerial survey industry due to the improvement in their ability to carry more complex survey grade sensors. The trend of miniaturisation of navigation and LiDAR sensors for UAV deployment is set to continue.

8.2 Sensor fusion

Along with the trend of sensor miniaturisation has come the reality of sensor fusion, where aerial survey instruments incorporate more than one data type. A common option is the combination of nadir and oblique cameras with a high-powered LiDAR sensor in the same instrument. The flying advantages are clear: three data types are captured on a single mission, each co-registered with the others using the same navigation dataset.8

This multi-sensor approach also offers advantages during the data processing stage, with the combination of dense point cloud DSM generation fused with LiDAR data offering better quality height and 3D modelling products.

8.3 Beyond visual line of sight operation

The development of safety cases to enable beyond visual line of sight operation (BVLOS) is another key area of development. True BVLOS flights should occur once UAVs are able to communicate autonomously with other airspace users and automatically sense and avoid other flying objects. The benefits of BVLOS will be fully realised once the flight times of UAVs are increased through improved battery technologies. This capability is expected to benefit fixed wing UAVs more than multi-rotor UAVs as they have a much longer flight time.9

8.4 High-altitude pseudo satellites

The development of high-altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) offer a different earth observation platform, at altitudes of between 20 and 50km AGL. These unmanned lightweight platforms use the latest in sensor miniaturisation and are powered by solar power. They have a flight endurance of three months.10

8.5 Developments in satellite technology

Owning and operating an earth observation satellite constellation is no longer the preserve of nation states. Modern satellite technologies are much smaller, enabling increased capture options at additional times and places and the ability to undertake repeated observation and monitoring daily.

An increased number of earth observation satellites in orbit, together with improving sensor capabilities, will increase the number of use cases from space in the future.