Drone Advice Needed

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Hello,

I am kind of new to drones, especially advanced ones. I have flown a few amateur, if you will, drones but nothing fancy. I am looking for advice on a specific task that I'm trying to achieve and I think drones will be extremely useful. I am trying to use a drone to fly over a predetermined area, and have the drone pick up signals from RFID tags and report the location of multiple tags placed randomly in that area. Ideally, I'd pre-plan the path of the drone, have it fly over the space whilst picking up the signals and return to the base. I'm really interested in autopilot and GPS/GLONASS or something of that sort. The ability to capture images/video is a plus and getting it to report both the location of the tag and a picture of its location would be great. The area is relatively clear of trees/objects and the drone would be flying at approximately 14 feet.

I think its important to note that budget is not an issue however, I'd like to get my money's worth with what I get. Also, I'd rather not get into any coding/software details and buy packages/features/applications if necessary. Please advise as to what setup you guys think would work best for my situation.

Thank you,
Your help is much appreciated!
lhanania
 
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Should be relatively easy as far as the drone stuff. A Phantom 3 or 4 running Litchti or Autopilot can easily fly over pre planned areas, stop, take pictures, continue.

You would have to figure out the RFID communications part of things. This may or may not be an issue depending on the size, weight and radio characteristics of whatever you use to query the RFID devices.

Phantom class hardware can lift the weight of another battery with reasonable ease - but every gram of weight decreases range so, again depending on the details, this may or may not be significant.

Unless you need the object avoidance capabilities of a Phantom 4, I would probably start with a 3 Advanced or Professional depending on range and photography requirements. 3's are pretty inexpensive these days and, for a DJI product, reasonably well debugged.

If you need a more transportable solution, the Mavic class drone can run the software but obviously has more limited capabilities in terms of weight (and running in higher winds). If you need more lifting capability then you have the Matrice platform which is DJI's more adaptable solution but, of course, this comes with a consequently higher price tag (and size and weight).

Depending on your time and money commitments, getting a Phantom 3P, both Autopilot and Litchti (they're both excellent programs with generally similar capabilities but different enough to warrant exploring both) and the needed accessories might be a good place to start.

Avoid the Crystal Sky monitors for now (DJI's high brightness stand alone and purpose built Android tablet) as they have integration issues with third party programs.

Sounds like fun.
 
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Just curious, what kind of range would your RFD detector have? And would it have much directionality? That could influence mission planning.
 
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Should be relatively easy as far as the drone stuff. A Phantom 3 or 4 running Litchti or Autopilot can easily fly over pre planned areas, stop, take pictures, continue.

You would have to figure out the RFID communications part of things. This may or may not be an issue depending on the size, weight and radio characteristics of whatever you use to query the RFID devices.

Phantom class hardware can lift the weight of another battery with reasonable ease - but every gram of weight decreases range so, again depending on the details, this may or may not be significant.

Unless you need the object avoidance capabilities of a Phantom 4, I would probably start with a 3 Advanced or Professional depending on range and photography requirements. 3's are pretty inexpensive these days and, for a DJI product, reasonably well debugged.

If you need a more transportable solution, the Mavic class drone can run the software but obviously has more limited capabilities in terms of weight (and running in higher winds). If you need more lifting capability then you have the Matrice platform which is DJI's more adaptable solution but, of course, this comes with a consequently higher price tag (and size and weight).

Depending on your time and money commitments, getting a Phantom 3P, both Autopilot and Litchti (they're both excellent programs with generally similar capabilities but different enough to warrant exploring both) and the needed accessories might be a good place to start.

Avoid the Crystal Sky monitors for now (DJI's high brightness stand alone and purpose built Android tablet) as they have integration issues with third party programs.

Sounds like fun.
That is great to hear. I am thinking of going with the phantom 3 however I am unsure whether to choose Advanced or Professional. Can you explain what the practical differences are between them? As far as the RFID communication I think I've got that covered. The weight of the reader should not be that large, and as far as my test trial goes, I think range is not that important either. Maybe once I industrialize the concept then range would be more significant. I looked into both Autopilot and Litchi and I'm thinking Litchi should be good enough for my needs. Running Litchi with a Phantom 3 (Advanced/Professional) should be relatively easy correct? Also, I can program its flight path and have it go over the required area with minimal human intervention correct?

Thank you for all this, I really appreciate it!

Just curious, what kind of range would your RFD detector have? And would it have much directionality? That could influence mission planning.
The RFID reader has a range of approximately 20 feet and since its antenna is circular and not linear, it should be able to cover close to 360 degrees at that range.
 
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Unless you need 4K video for your project, the Advanced should do. You get a slightly bigger battery charger for the Pro - but there are dozens of after market battery chargers available. You will want extra batteries - don't get third party ones, stick to DJI batteries (*insert flame war here*)

Now, if you have to be within 20 feet of your target to pick up the RFID signal, you have some other constraints. If you know exactly where the target will be, you can create a Litchti or Autopilot flight that will go to the spot, descend to the appropriate height, wait the appropriate amount of time and then rise, fly off to the new spot, rinse, lather, repeat (all within about 20 minutes).

What you will have problems doing is hand flying to those spots because you are likely to lose the signal in ground clutter. The control signal for the drones is contained within a 2.4GHz, milliwatt level radio packet. 2.4 GHz radio waves are absorbed by almost anything - water, metal, trees, dogs etc. When you are flying in a more typical configuration, you are above all of this stuff so the drone keeps in contact with the radio receiver. If you lose contact, the Phantoms will do one of two things that you get to decide beforehand: 1) Stop until the battery runs out and then descends 2) Rise up to a pre determined height (that, according to your careful calculations will bypass the obstacles and proceed back to the starting point. The Phantom will automatically try to return home if it thinks that the battery voltage is getting too low.

Understanding the implications of these decisions is critically important.

The Phantom 4 has some additional features in that it will attempt to rise above an instruction before crashing into it.

It is also possible that you modify the RFID antenna to get better range (** Legal under a small set of circumstances in the US, YMMV. Professional driver on closed course. **)

Since you didn't ask for advice, I'll give you some for free -- get a Phantom 3 Advanced (used, refurbed, steal it from your nephew), play around with it until you have a good idea what it can and cannot do and then come back and asked more pointed and detailed questions.

Have fun!
 
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I'll give you some for free -- get a Phantom 3 Advanced (used, refurbed, steal it from your nephew), play around with it until you have a good idea what it can and cannot do and then come back and asked more pointed and detailed questions.
That is a great idea to start.

something to think about:
If you intend to use it for tracking animals with RFID tags they won't likely hold still long when they hear the weedwacker sound of a drone 14' over their head.
 

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