Rice Associates Inc. and its business partner, Navigator CS, LLC, recently acquired a senseFly eBee RTK UAS to enhance their surveying and photogrammetry capabilities.

“The eBee RTK is senseFly’s survey-grade mapping drone,” says Charlie Rice, past president and corporate quality control manager of Rice Associates. “For specific projects, the need for ground control targets can be reduced. And, depending upon the project requirements may be removed altogether.” A built-in RTK-capable global navigation satellite system (GNSS) antenna and the use of senseFly’s eMotion and PostFlight Terra 3D (powered by Pix4D) software are being used to plan the mission and process the aerial images, respectively. “The post-processing software we use can produce high accuracy point clouds, DSMs and orthomosaics,” Rice says.

“We are excited about the capabilities this fixed-wing unmanned aircraft has to offer,” said Paul Beckwith, president of Navigator CS. “The aircraft can cover an area of 3 square miles on a single battery charge and we can plan missions over much larger areas that can flow seamlessly across multiple independent flights. These features make the eBee RTK the unmanned aircraft of choice for projects that require surface area coverage larger than can be covered by other UAS platforms with shorter flight times.”  

As co-owners of the eBee RTK, both companies will explore opportunities to expand the use of the unit, for which Navigator CS will be the primary pilot. In anticipation of the acquisition of the technology, Navigator CS submitted a petition to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in November 2015 requesting an expansion of their Section 333 Exemption to add other UAS technologies, including the senseFly eBee RTK.

“Our current quadcopters are excellent for vertical flights that require hovering-in-place capability, pictures of vertical surfaces, and development of point clouds of buildings and other structures,” Beckwith says, “but the quadcopters have shorter flight times and consequently cover smaller areas.  Each aircraft has its niche and we are very excited about adding the capability to fly close to 40 minutes on a single battery charge and cover such large areas.” 

Since announcing their business partnership last year, Rice Associates and Navigator CS have been performing proof-of-concept flights and obtaining aerial images in support of surveying and mapping projects, especially in applications where the operational features of drones have made them the technology of choice.

About Rice Associates

Rice Associates is a geospatial services firm providing in-house photogrammetry, aerial, terrestrial, and mobile LiDAR, building information modeling, conventional surveying and subsurface utility mapping. The firm was founded in 1986 (SWaM Certified #8406S), is headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, and maintains branch offices in Richmond and Virginia Beach.  The firm offers a broad range of surveying and mapping services to a diverse base of public and private clients.

About Navigator CS

Navigator CS is a service disabled veteran-owned small business with headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia, performing a wide range of construction management services. Navigator is a properly exempted and insured operator of unmanned aircraft systems equipped to conduct aerial filming and photography, which can be used to quickly create high quality GIS products.