Skip to main content

mapKITE to market

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - M2M (mapKITE to market)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2017-09-30

The problem addressed by M2M (mapKITE to market) is that of transforming a TRL-7 technological solution named mapKITE (a GeoNumerics' patent), funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme under Grant Agreement no. 641518, into a commercial reality in the market of corridor mapping.

MapKITE is a new mobile tandem, terrestrial and aerial, geodata acquisition and orientation/calibration system and method that combines an aerial unmanned (drone) and a land mobile mapping system. In a mapKITE mission, the mapping drone follows the mapping land vehicle by means of a stream of waypoints generated in the vehicle and transmitted to the drone. The land vehicle carries metric targets to materialize accurate kinematic ground control points. In the mission, inertial, GNSS, odometric and imaging data are recorded. In post-processing, these data are combined in a new way for accurate georeferencing purposes. The Galileo signals and their unique ranging precision and multipath mitigation features are an enabler of mapKITE. Detail information is provided in

Corridor mapping is a social and market need, as well as a technology challenge. Corridors concentrate a significant part of human activity: they –and their environment– need to be mapped –and re-mapped– with higher spatial and temporal resolution than their counterpart “remote” land areas. Existing mapping methods are suboptimal for corridors: satellite image spatial resolution is too low; terrestrial mobile mapping does not cover the corridor environment and suffers from the weaknesses of old GPS signals –above all multipath–; aerial mapping is too costly and does not provide the required 3-dimensional detail; and modern unmanned –a.k.a. drone– aerial mapping is limited in its operational range by current and foreseeable regulations –resulting in low productivity. Corridor mapping is, now, a global problem of 66.000.000 km (97.3% roads, 1.7% railways, 1.0% watercourses) without an adequate technical solution.

Hence, the natural and current application of mapKITE is to corridor mapping of roads, highways, motorways, railways and watercourses. This includes: standard mapping for civil engineering, cadastre and cartography; pavement monitoring; general corridor inventory; environmental monitoring; mapping after natural disasters, and law enforcement of regulated activities along corridors among other. Later on, as regulations for small “drone” commercial services settle down, mapKITE will target urban 3D mapping as the “corridors” defined by the urban street network are ideal for mapKITE. With mapKITE, geodata is captured from above and from the ground thus allowing true 3D information generation.

The goal of M2M is simple and clear: to conduct a feasibility study, market analysis and to elaborate a business plan to bring mapKITE to the market.
The work performed during the M2M project entails the following items:

- A database of mapKITE stakeholders has been created, by indentifying and contacting potential end-users and/or customers of mapKITE, and supplying them with the necessary information to be able to respond to questions related to the feasibility of mapKITE. The feed-back of this community has been the core source of the M2M Feasibility Study.

- The markets targeted by mapKITE have been analysed and characterized to extract information about its size (product sales volumes, number of services, penetration indexes), geographical distribution, risks and opportunities, etc.

- A set of varied business models have been defined to explore the different options to bring mapKITE to the market, based on GeoNumerics' work programme. For that, a set of key variables have been analysed: costs of components, pricing strategies, potential alliances, etc.

- Finally, the selection of appropiate business model for mapKITE has been done, providing its definition and future plan.
The following statements about the expected impact of mapKITE through M2M are based on the queries to the mapKITE network of potential end-users and customers, and also on our own expertise in geomatics.

We have received positive feed-back from the majority of mapping service companies, terrestrial mobile mapping manufacturers and geo-information end-users. These groups have understood the key principles of mapKITE (autonomous virtually-tethered UAS operation, simultaneous mapping perspective, kinematic ground control points) and envision that the following benefits:

- Higher comprehensiveness of the delivered mapKITE product: Comparing mapKITE to stand-alone Mobile Mapping Systems (MMS) surveys reveals clearly additional gap-filling point-of-view (MMS ground-level missions are conditioned by vertical obstacles in sides of corridors that do not enable creating the map beyond them). Reversely, when considering aerial-only surveys (manned aircraft or drone-based), the advantages manifest from ground to air.

- True kinematic operation: drone-based missions are not truly kinematic. Due to restrictions in the unmanned aircraft to ground control station (UA-to-GCS) distance, corridor mapping is performed up to a certain distance, and then the command team has to move further and repeat the mission over and over. MapKITE eliminates this constraint, as the GCS is on the terrestrial vehicle, which is followed closely by the UA, therefore complying constantly with the required UA-to-GCS distance.

- Time-to-geoinformation cycle reduction: Simultaneity of operations outperforms the individual operations of both methods separately or in a non-simultaneous manner.

- Cost reduction. Typical UAS and MMS missions require surveyor teams to go on the field and measure ground control points (GCPs) (plus post-processing). This step is as necessary as costly and sometimes hard to execute (missions with restricted human access). MapKITE is able to mitigate the need of these pre-surveyed points (demonstrated up to a factor 8-10). As the length of the mission increases, mapKITE becomes more and more cost efficient.

- Easy corridor mapping operation. No manual UAS flight is required, as the virtual tether leads the UAS to follow autonomously the MMS (only a safety manual pilot is required in case of emergency). Additionally, when using Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) UAS, almost any spot is valid for executing missions.

In future perspective, technology improvement will open more boxes. Over time, sensors like laser scanners, thermal cameras, hyper-spectral and multi-spectral cameras, or topographic radars will be driven by an improvement curve (same performance, lower weight and size). This will enable targeting new applications related to environmental monitoring of river water quality, for instance, be it as a routine procedure or as an emergency one; scan powerlines in search of hot-spots related to broken or malfunctioning resistors; or urban 3D high-resolution mapping at unprecedented low costs. Additionally to sensors’ improvement, the performance of unmanned technology will as well increase (better batteries leading to longer operation times), boosting the efficiency of operations and opening new applications. Needless to say, social acceptance of unmanned technology will grow pushed by disruptive applications such as package delivery and telecommunication relay, which will help on introducing mapKITE technology everywhere.

New drivers of digital geo-spatial information. Geospatial technology and information have become a fundamental pillar of modern society in the last decade. Digital society transformation stands heavily on ready-to-access content over Internet to enable services for end-users, and geo-spatial information is indeed one important piece within this paradigm. Needless to say, Google Earth, Maps and StreetView products are good representatives of how geo-spatial information has been an active element in this society transformation, enabling the so-called Location Based Services (LBS) including locating nearest business or services, turn-by-turn map navigation, real-time traffic information, etc. The consolidation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a methodology for planning and/or execution of new and old buildings –in UK, BIM becomes mandatory for all public sector projects as of 2016– paves the way for all the technologies that capture and display geo-data in a digital support. MMS has been already inserted in BIM workflows.

Finally, autonomous cars, which are based on robust and accurate positioning technologies, and updated, scalable, globally accessible maps of roads, will boost the demand for road mapping and inventory (comfortable application niches for MMS) Therefore, as mapKITE shall be regarded as a cost-saver in tandem missions due to mitigation of ground survey, we expect an increase of demand for mapKITE as well. MapKITE is a direct contributor to accurate and updated maps of linear environments, in particular roads. Moreover, it is itself a modern geo-data capture system in a modern world, as it based in disruptive drone plus MMS technology. The fact that mapKITE is a same-accuracy-lower-cost paradigm of geo-spatial information production means that it may enable more frequent acquisitions, and therefore, more updated and accurate maps.