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Choosing the drone – KPIs performance indicators for UAS-drones

How to choose the drone based on performance and capability

by Fabio Affortunato
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Reading time / Tempo lettura : 5 minutes / minuti

Choosing the drone (UAS) for work or leisure raises several questions as it is not easy to find your way in a landscape where performance capabilities, technological innovations and equipment (payload) make the difference.

Furthermore, since it involves investing several “money”, it is advisable to have valid references, the performance indicators (KPIs – Key Performance Indicators), which allow us to compare the different drone-UAS models of the various manufacturers, to in order to carry out a 360-degree assessment that allows us to choose the drone that best suits our needs.

In reality, the topic of performance indicators for UAS-drones – first introduced by 4mydrone – was dealt with in the blog article “KPIs – Performance indicators for choosing the drone (guide)“, but in light of both the new legislation that in consideration of the role of drones under 250 grams that can be driven without a certificate, I thought it useful to update and expand the previous edition of the post.

Choosing the drone – KPIs

In reality, the topic of performance indicators for UAS-drones – first introduced by 4mydrone – was dealt with in the blog article “KPIs – Performance indicators for choosing the drone (guide)”, but in light of both the new legislation that in consideration of the role of drones under 250 grams that can be driven without a certificate, I thought it useful to update and expand the previous edition of the post.

Choosing the drone cannot be a choice based only on the economic aspect. If only to avoid having to reinvest time and money in the search for a new drone, in case the choice made does not satisfy our needs.

Unfortunately for drones, there is still no “first-person flight test” (assuming that this is a methodology that is never possible), so it is essential to have a series of indicators (KPIs), which can help in choosing a drone that suits our needs.

For those who lack technical knowledge, KPIs are indicators chosen ad hoc, which allow you to analyze and monitor any project, activity or product.

For drones, therefore, they have been defined by 4mydrone – three basic sets of KPIs – (in the previous edition there were two), which can help both the novice and the expert to choose the drone.

The first set of KPIs relates to the drone-UAS intended as a remotely piloted aircraft, and includes its performance indicators. The second set instead refers to the on-board equipment (built-in payload), which constitute the reason for being drone, while the third set of KPIs includes elements that characterize the drone both from the point of view of “piloting assistance” and regulatory obligations (KPIs usability & compliance).

Choosing the drone: performance KPIs

The performance KPIs related to the drone-UAS are as follows:

  • Flight Time: flight time / autonomy of the drone-APR with a battery pack (in minutes),
  • Weight: weight of the drone including the built-in payload (e.g. stock camera) (in grams),
  • Maximum ceiling altitude: maximum height that the drone can reach above sea level (in A.G.L. meters),
  • Maximum horizontal distance that the drone can reach: with respect to the pilot’s position (in meters),
  • Maximum video transmission distance: distance for clear and smooth reception of the video captured by the drone camera (in meters),
  • Maximum wind resistance: maximum sustainable wind speed in flight of the drone (in m/s).

The 6 KPIs defined above, therefore, allow both to analyze the performance of the drone with respect to both hobby and professional use, and to compare the performance of different models.

Some parameters such as the maximum tangency altitude, the maximum distance reachable by the drone, may seem questionable and unnecessary to an inexperienced eye, as we know that the maximum flight height in is normally limited to 120 meters (space G uncontrolled), and that you must always fly in VLOS (on sight). However, these 3 KPIs assume their importance in terms of drone investment, since the drone could be used for the future also for carrying out operations in EVLOS / BVLOS (see: Drones – Acronyms & Terms). High values these vestments are to be considered optimal for the purpose.

The other 3 KPIs: Flight time, Weight in grams and maximum wind resistance, are the fundamental parameters that affect the use and usability of the drone. The higher the flight time and wind resistance values, the better the drone’s performance, especially if its weight is relatively low.

Choose the drone: KPIs Built-in Payload

The KPIs related to the built-in payload include:

  • Camera resolution in MegaPixel (MP),
  • Maximum photographic resolution in pixels (pixels horizontally x pixels vertically),
  • Photo format (JPG, RAW, etc.),
  • Video resolution (4K, 2.7K, UHD, etc.),
  • Video format (MOV / MP4 – H.264 – H.265, etc.).
  • Maximum Bit/rate (e.g. 1.6Gbps@4096parmi2160 (23.98p),
  • Zoom at various resolutions (if present with type of magnification),
  • Storage capacity (in GB internal or via microSD).

The defined KPIs, therefore, allow both to analyze the performance of the built-in paylaod (photo-video camera), for a leisure and professional drone, and to compare the performance of different built-in payloads of the various models.

The values for these KPIs must be considered in relation to the use-activity of the drone, in a broad time perspective. It is obvious that “high values” are an indication of high performance, but the evaluation must be made in relation to actual current and future use.

Choosing the drone: KPIs Usability & Compliance

The KPIs relating to usability & compliance concern:

  • Presence of anti-collision sensors,
  • Possibility of drone-UAS piloting via smartphone,
  • Presence of dedicated iOS and Android apps,
  • Certificate required for piloting.

These KPIs therefore allow both to establish both the presence of tools-App for facilitated piloting and the possibility of using the smartphone in conjunction with the drone remote control as a screen for realtime viewing of both the images captured by the drone and the display of data telemetry.

Finally, the required certificate (direct function of the weight of the drone), allows the pilot-buyer to understand if without a certificate or with the certificate in possession it is possible to fly that drone in accordance with the law.

Choosing the drone – The table

The three previous sets of KPIs can then be combined into a single table, whose fields can be filled in with the data of the various drones in question.

choosing-the-drone-KPIs-table-4mydrone

 

The previous table can be downloaded from this link (together with the example and the table relating to the legislation shown below), it allows the evaluation /comparison of 5 different drone models.

Where to retrieve the KPIs to fill the table

The way to compile the table is very simple. The free box under the heading Drone-UAS X is reserved for the model of the chosen drone, while the other white boxes are reserved for the KPIs related to that model.

The data (KPIs) can be deduced from the drone’s technical data sheet, some available on the 4mydrone website under the drones menu, or retrievable online on the drone manufacturer’s website, under the heading technical specifications. In the event that some KPIs are not published, leave them blank, and proceed with the compilation of the whole table. Failure to declare some parameters by a manufacturer could in fact mean that the data are not good compared to other competitors, so take this into account when evaluating.

Below is an example of a compiled table:

choosing-the-drone-KPIs-sample-4mydrone

With regard to the “Related drone law (for Europe)” for the compilation refer to the following table:

drones-regulation-easa-4mydrone

All tables (KPIs table, choose the drone, example and normative table), are available for download at the link specified above and shown here.

Conclusions

The KPIs defined for both UAS-drones are a powerful and simple tool at the same time, which allows you to evaluate the performance and intrinsic value of a commercial or professional drone, on the market or for immediate release on the market.

Their use, therefore, allows you to choose the drone, based on data, albeit on the plate, so that “the drone investment” is profitable and lasting.

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Credits: The featured image is taken from pixabay.com. free for commercial use and without request for attribution. The author is Arek Socha. The tables were made by 4mydrone. The use of the images is exclusively for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 17/09/2021

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