Renting Equipment

I’m looking at a 5,000 acre site for mapping. Mostly wetlands and planted pines. I think the P4P will work, but I’ll need to have 2-3 running all day for a day or two. Also, I’ll have at least one generator charing batteries.

How do y’all handle large projects when you don’t have enough batteries / or the right stuff?

I thought about renting an Ebee but it’s going to cost me 1,500 bucks which I could just make in additional labor and rent a phantom or two for 500 bucks. The client ends up paying the same basically no matter what so just trying to strategize.

I’ve done 1,100 before and it took me and the phantom about 8 hours with some charging downtime, lunch, etc. I figure it will take my coworked and I about 3 days since the terrain is…challenging.

Any tips?

I would plan the missions out with each unit and calculate you actual costs including labor. Even running one Phantom an eBee doesn’t look like that big of an advantage in labor so you probably won’t make up the $1500, but you have to think of the wear and tear on the Phantoms versus little on the eBee because this is what it is designed for.

Do you have enough licensed pilots? How many total batteries do you have for the Phantoms? Also, you need to know which eBee they are proposing.

Rough calcs. I put in more time for the Phantom depending on how many batteries you have and the threshold for recharging.

Phantom 4 Pro - 27 flights (7 hours) + Change/Charge time (4 hours) = 11 hours
eBee - 18 flights (5.5 hours) + C&C Time (2 hours) = 7.5 hours

Thanks Michael.

I have two pilots but only one phantom. EIther way I need to rent something but I sort of preferred renting a phantom and 6 batteries and then we’d both have a P4P with 5 batteries (I already have 4) and then just working out way across the site.

We have a generator to recharge while flying but there’s definitely going to be downtime. I think your numbers are on the money.

That makes more sense depending on the cost to rent a Phantom. You could buy a Phantom for the cost of renting the eBee. Also, make sure you have a good fan to slowly cool the batteries before they get recharged, and flip them occasionally. I have heard of people putting the batteries in coolers, but that can be too cold and damage them. It will also cause condensation which is a BAD thing. It would probably be a good idea to have some protective bags or something like a metal ammo box to charge in. Just to be safe.

Great idea. I think I have an ammo box at home. The cost to rent the phantom and 6 batteries is like 400 bucks from blue sky drone rental, pretty good deal I thought. That was for like 4-5 days I think.

That does sound like a pretty good deal. I’ve never looked into renting, but seems like a pretty great option if you’re not an everyday flier.

I’ve rent a FLIR for our inspire 1 several times. Way better to have a 1000 line item two or three times instead of a 20k capital purchase you’ll never earn back…

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Curios why you would charge your batteries in an ammo box rather than just on something on the ground? You’re using a generator anyway so I’m guessing you’re not trying to run it in an enclosed car or something and you won’t be mapping in the rain so ?

If you feel you need to charge in something like an ammo box, make sure and leave the lid loose or take the gasket out else you’re just making a pressure cooker. Even in the box, if the lipo were to runaway, the box will get really hot and shouldn’t be on something flammable either.

Sorry to butt in on your craft choice discussion but that just seemed odd to me… Carry on.

Maybe you would have preferred “fireproof” box… As you can read from his original post they are going to be mapping well beyond normal use for a quadcopter and will probably continuously be charging batteries and more than likely unattended. Google LiPo fire. I opt for better safe than sorry.

I’m very well aware of the volatility of lipos should they short or chemically run-away.

However, they are perfectly safe charging unattended on the ground on something to isolate them from the dirt or asphalt or whatever. If they catch fire then what happens in your scenario without a fire box involved? I’m not trying to be a smart *ss. Perhaps you know of some danger I’m not aware of?

In addition, if you’re charging multiple packs, if you have them contained, the bad one would toast the rest.

Volatility and safe should not even be in the same discussion. It was just a meer suggestion. There are a million variables so this is pointless.

No worries. I just found the suggestion of using a fire safe in this circumstance curious is all. Here is a field charging station outside in a open air, probably on bare earth or asphalt, which is an ideal place to charge lipos, yes, SAFELY. But if the OP wants to place the lipos in his trunk on top of his gas tank, then sure, probably better use some protection. But I’ll admit that maybe others field charge with a generator differently than I do. I would suggest a common sense approach is all. Maybe he’s charging in the middle of 3’ tall dry tinder and then it makes sense to isolate the lipos and the generator. :wink:

Most people I have seen charge in their cars which is crazy to me. A minority of our projects have facilities or paving existing so with a generator the first thing I think is setting up a base camp with a pop-up in the middle of a field. That would be one heck of a grass fire. Can we say hijacked? Sorry @dwindham :wink:

I recently completed a 1500 acre mapping mission in a jack pine forest. With an Inspire 1. So battery management was crucial :wink:
What is usually left out of these conversations, and is something I really tried to do, to see just how difficult it should be is VLOS. You cannot map large areas, in forest canopy, with a fixed wing. Unless you bring a team of VO’s.
My mapping was for a state agency, I didn’t want to provide this map, and get asked by their people, “well how did you do that?”

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Yep, VLOS is the killer for all of this. I have to hope I can see a long was from the few open areas (I should be able to, but its still stressful) then I have to orient my map in the least efficient way so I can see the drone.

I’ve had to avoid helicopters that appeared out of nowhere and crop dusters before, I’m not messing around and hitting an aircraft to take pictures of trees half a mile away.

I, actually, would be interested in participating in something like this just to gain some experience. Obviously, it depends on the location and whether it’s cost-effective. However, if the logistics align, it would be cool to assist. I would bring my own equipment and contribute to the effort. Just a thought.

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Over 4 days we covered 2000 ha (nearly 5000 acres) of undulating, forested and open country with a single Mavic Pro (2016 build) and 9 batteries. I ran the flights using a iPhone6+ and iPad mini and the standard Mavic RC and charged the batteries using the 12V car charger (one at a time), the 4 way DJI AC charger and a 15,000mAH battery (for the RC and devices).

Prior to that we’d only done projects of up 300ha and so it was quite a leap up and great learning experience.

The first step for me in managing to capture this area was in the flight planning. As I was running the flights at the maximum legal altitude of 120m/400’ (Australia for a registered user sub 2kg class UAV’s) and given the changes in relief and limitations of using this UAV (battery life and camera resolution) and predicted wind directions I devised 40 flight plans in GoogleEarth, each of which covered between 50-100ha.


With this I was able to manage the battery load, however it was dependant on my wife ‘ferrying’ batteries to and from the farm house where we had the DJI 4 way AC charger. I do have a large battery bag however I never considered using it when charging - I must say the ammo box idea sounds more practical so thanks for that! As soon as the first 2 batteries were used up my wife took those to the 4 way charger and I always had another on the 12V in the car. We had a packed lunch/snacks and a thermos and did 8 hour days.

The main thing that made this whole flight possible was paying close attention by recording the battery consumption of each and every run (including flights/distances to and from the take off point), having the take off position centred in the flight plan (also paying attention to maintaining an adequate flight altitude considering changes in relief) and ensuring that the UAV returned home at no less than 30% battery level or following the completion of a run — I found that if I let the app manage that then the UAV would leave a run midway and then the app would go to the start of that run and add time and additional photos to that flight plan, increasing battery use and the number of duplicate photos to upload and process.

We averaged between 18-20mins flight time out of each battery and at the end of each flight plan I downloaded the images saving an enormous amount of time at the end of each day when I was uploading them to DroneDeploy. This process took about 5 mins per flight and all aided charging time. It was also a good check to see that everything went well with each flight plan and gave me a breather from the concentration involved whenever flying. Then we drive to the next take off point and repeat.

At the end of each day I would then put everything on the chargers at the farm house so every battery and device was at 100% at the start of each day.

This all worked well - the only changes I made subsequently were to buy a 2 jack 12V jack for the car and another 15,000mAH battery for the RC and devices. I also purchased a 3 way aftermarket AC charger which apparently charges 3 Mavic batteries in 1 hour. If this worked then I would consider connecting an inverter to the 140aH second battery I have in the Hilux and have this system charge the batteries in the field rather than running back to the closest AC plug. That way one could do this quite a lot easier and without the aid of another person (though I do love being with my darling!). Running the latter in flight mode definitely helped too.

Last week I completed a 300ha flight over 4 days, this time at 75m altitude and with GCP capture. I did 4 flight plans that were around the same area and laid out GCP’s (using an EMLID Reach RS Base and Rover) at 160m centres on a grid that I’d also planned to reduce time. I used a quad to get me around and this saved a lot of time in laying out the GCP’s, as did having a GCP grid and I used Garafa’s GPS Kit app to navigate from point to point. Though this was a very different mission to the 2000ha job, it was a breeze by comparison and I had the 2000ha job to thank for that as I learned the limitations of the equipment I was using and how to optimise battery management whilst in the field.

Thanks and all the best with your 5000ha project.

Darren J. Doherty
DroneDeploy #Flylanthropy Partner


Love it, @Regrarians! I too plan large segmented missions on Google Earth. It is extra helpful when we have CAD file linework imported as well. Smart planning and thanks for sharing.