Imaging out in the middle of nowhere in Costa Rica can get tricky. If you happen to have enough internet signal to find your farm site, then you’re off to a good start.
Unfortunately, much of the satellite imagery is not available to help you plan your mission. For example, as we zoomed in to find our location, we experienced the following.
The problem began here when we zoomed in but the image quality wasn’t improving like you would normally expect
Finally, “We’re sorry, but we don’t have imagery at this zoom level for this region.”
What we did at first (don’t do this):
At first, we just placed the Enduro down on the ground and connected to Mission Planner. Then, we found out which way is North, South, East, and West. We made sure to plan a small mission this way (total distance was 7km). We then flew it up to 100 meters. At this height, something drastic would have to happen for the drone to crash, so you basically just need to make sure that the direction you planned the mission is correct and the drone doesn’t just go flying off into the distance. If it starts flying behind where you expected, initiate a return to launch (RTL), just to be safe.
Here are the pictures of the first pineapple farm we imaged using this process.
So, here we basically just estimated how far to the right, left, up and back we had before we were no longer on the field.
We ran into a problem when we were trying to fly a mission at 15 meters. At this height, it is very easy to run into a tall tree, or if there are significant elevation changes you could also run into something. Be very careful here.
What happened with us was that we expected the drone to go North, but we must have incorrectly placed our waypoints. It started flying to the left, when we hoped it would fly forward. We were cautiously waiting, because the drone was right at the edge of the field near some trees. Then, to our horror it turned left, heading to no man’s land. I heroically switched the flight mode to loiter and initiated RTL to save our Enduro’s life from smashing into a tree.
What you should do:
There is a much safer way to plan a mission without satellite data. You could go out with a handheld GPS device (200$ to 300$ on amazon), and write the boundary coordinates and then plan the flight. You would walk around the field, going point by point to input the coordinates into Mission Planner or Tower.
In the top right, those are the GPS coordinates of where your mouse is. At the bottom right, those are the home location’s coordinates. If you click home location, it will give you the current location of your connected drone.
The cheaper solution is to just use your drone’s home coordinates. In Mission Planner, you can find your home location. Take the Enduro with you around the farm, get a GPS lock, find the home coordinates, write them down, then plan your mission, now that you know the boundaries. At the top right of that picture, you can see where your mouse is, and place waypoints around the coordinates that you wrote down.
We think that actually flying the Enduro manually to your locations is the quickest solution, but if you don’t feel comfortable you can simply place it on the ground If you fly over to a place, make sure you’re in loiter and just hover in place when you’ve found the waypoint you want to use. Click home location in Mission Planner. Write these coordinates down and continue the process until you have your polygon.
This may take awhile, but the good new is that you only have to do this once for the farm you visit, because you can save the polygon and survey grid in Mission Planner.
The hardest part for us is then locating the coordinates as accurately as possible on the map once you have them. This is because if you move your mouse even slightly, it could be off by a few meters. That’s not usually a problem if you’re flying a mission at 100 meters, but could be important for avoiding obstacles. So be careful and take your time!
If you have Internet connection, maybe try typing in the coordinates in Google Earth and getting a polygon set up to help you make one in Mission Planner. We aren’t aware of any way to find specific coordinates in Mission Planner, but knowing the shape will make it easier to make the polygon.
I hope this helps if you run into a similar problem!