EVO II from Autel-First Impressions

We received an Autel Evo II for evaluation and presentation to some of the public safety agencies with whom we work.  We are thrilled that Autel provided us with an Evo II to evaluate for an upcoming law enforcement conference.

The Evo II is a significant departure from the original Evo, and should not be viewed as merely an “upgrade” to the original Evo product. We have recommended, and will continue to recommend, the original Evo as a cost-effective, application-specific aircraft for small-area mapping, traffic reconstruction, overwatch, tactical insertions, construction sites, cinema, and many other uses.

The Evo II is a slightly larger aircraft body with longer flight capability (40mins+), and four different camera options.

  • 8K camera
  • 6K camera (1” sensor)
  • 8K/Thermal camera (320 x 256)
  • 8K/Thermal (640 x 512)

Since receiving the Evo II, we’ve put it through several paces both in actual and simulated use. During the DNC caucus’, and during the Town Halls, it was used for newsgathering, and used in a “let’s see what she’ll do” in monitoring dark alleyways near one of the hotels, for persons exiting/entering the side doors. It excelled in both environments. We’ve put it through some paces with the Greer, SC police department, where they own several other small-format UA with thermal capability.

The biggest question they asked is “How does it compare to our existing Mavic Pro Enterprise Edition?

Simply put, it’s not a remotely fair comparison. It’s inappropriate to compare the cameras due to significant differences in resolution.

The thermal camera options for the Enterprise Edition cannot/do not match the thermal camera on the Evo II, so there is no point of parity at which they can be compared. Having pointed that out;

  • The Evo II offers longer perch time/flight time(40mins plus)
  • The Evo II provides internal storage in the event of no available MSD card
  • The Evo II is less noisy
  • The Evo II offers significantly greater stability in wind.
  • The Evo II offers mapping in the application without need for third party support.
  • The Evo II has no geofencing, and can be deployed from case to cruise in less than 60 seconds.
  • The Evo II offers multiple, interchangeable cameras.

We posted a few photos to social media, with information regarding thermal and use beyond 50’. One SAR guru commented that “thermal cameras are useless beyond 50’, and drones often require flight above 100’ for purposes of clearing trees.” This was a surprising statement, inspiring us to run out in the late night and capture a few quick images.

By no means a scientific experiment, we raised the Evo II to an altitude of 210’, and put a 6” saucepan of hot water in the graveled shoulder of a residential street. We had left the saucepan on the driveway while setting up the aircraft. The below photos show not only the saucepan, but also the heated area remaining. The heated area was visible for over 30 mins beyond flight. These images are NOT part of our greater/deeper evaluation, but rather something we are able to quickly share. These images are directly from the camera, no edits. Images are captured straight overhead (the most inefficient angle for thermal viewing). I have also included one oblique angle for comparison. Not every palette was chosen for purposes of display, simply as a means of being efficient. These images were captured shortly prior to 2300, although the timestamps indicate nearly 2000 (we didn’t set the clock per timezone).

Mavic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Evo II provides significantly greater data/resolution, but at a higher cost.

 

Oblique angle from 200′ away from subject. Note the heated concrete is still visible, separate from the saucepan of water.
 

 

Informally, we checked out the digital zoom with resampling feature on the Evo 2 thermal. Overall, we are impressed with the resampling quality of the zoomed image seen here.

Indoor comparison with EvoII

Indoor comparison with M2ED (MSX Enabled)
*Courtesy HTS Ag


These images were captured at 400′ altitude, and 2500′ from targets.

 

We will begin more formalized, focused evaluation in the coming days. Please reach out if you’d like to see any particular scenarios replicated/evaluated using the Evo 2 Thermal with the 30Hz 640 x 512 Boson core.
SMG is a consulting and training organization; we are an objective party receiving no revenue, compensation, spiff, commission, or other form of remuneration for digging into the aircraft we review for our clients.

 

By | February 24th, 2020|Drone, Inspection, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Security, Software, sUAS, sUAS, Uncategorized|Comments Off on EVO II from Autel-First Impressions

IS THE UAS INDUSTRY PREPARED FOR 8K? DO WE WANT 8K?

In 2004, Sony released the world’s first low-cost HD camera, known as the HVR-Z1U. The camera featured a standard 1/3” imager, squeezing 1440×1080 pixels (anamorphic/non-square) pixels on to the sensor. This was also the world’s first pro-sumer camera using the MPEG2 compression scheme, with a color sample of 4:2:0, and using a GOP method of frame progression, this new technology set the stage for much higher resolutions and eventually, greater frame rates.

It’s “father,” was the CineAlta HDWF900, which offered three 2/3” CCDs, which was the industry standard for filmmaking for several years, capturing big hits such as the “Star Wars Prequel Trilogy”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, “Real Steel”, “Tomorrowland”, “Avatar”, “Spykids” (1 & 2), and so many others.  The newer HDV format spawned from similar technology found in the HDWF900, and set the stage for extremely high end camera tech to trickle down into the pro-sumer space.

Overtime, camera engineers identified methods of co-siting more pixels on small imagers, binning pixels, or using other techniques to increase the capture resolution on small surfaces. Compression engineers have developed new compression schemes which brought forward AVC (h.263), MP4(h.264), and now HEVC/High Efficiency Video Codec(h.265), and still others soon to be revealed. 

Which brings us to the present.

We have to roughly quadruple megapixels to double resolution, so the jump from SD to HD makes sense, while the jump from HD to UHD/4K makes even more sense. Following that theme, jumping to 6K makes sense, while jumping to 8K is perfect theory, and nears the maximum of the human eye’s ability to resolve information.

At NAB 2018, Sony and Blackmagic Design both revealed 8K cameras and in that time frame others have followed suit.

During CommUAV and InterDrone, several folks asked for my opinion on 6 and 8K resolutions. Nearly all were shocked as I expressed enthusiasm for the format.

    “It’s impossible to edit.”

    “The files are huge.”

    “No computer can manage it.”

    “There is no where to show 8K footage.”

    “Human eyes can’t resolve that resolution unless sitting very far away from the screen.”

    “Data cards aren’t fast enough.”

And….so on.

These are all the same comments heard as we predicted the tempo of the camera industry transitioning from SD to HD, and from HD to 4K.  In other words, we’ve been here before.

Video cameras are acquisition devices. For the same reasons major motion pictures are acquired at the highest possible resolutions, and for the same reasons photographers get very excited as resolutions on-camera increase, so should UAS photographers. Greater resolution doesn’t always mean higher grade images. Nor does larger sensor sizes increase quality of images. On the whole, higher resolution systems usually does translate into higher quality images.

Sensor sizes are somewhat important to this discussion, yet not entirely critical. The camera industry has been packing more and more pixels into the same physical space for nearly two decades, without the feared increase in noise. Additionally, better noise-sampling/reduction algorithms, particularly from OEM’s like Sony and Ambarella, have allowed far greater reduction in noise compared to the past. Cameras such as the Sony A7RIV and earlier offer nearly noise-free ISO of 32,000!

Sensor sizes vary of course, but we’ll find most UAS utilize the 1/2.3, or the 1” sensor. (Light Blue and Turquoise sizes respectively, as seen below). 


“Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust, pitting, spalling, or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become apparent with a greater resolution.”


Why Does Higher Resolution Translate to a Superior Finished Product?

Generally, we’re downsampling video or photos to smaller delivery vehicles, for but one reason. In broadcast, 4:2:2 uncompressed color schemes were the grail (no longer). Yet, most UAS cameras capture a 4:2:0 color sample.  However, a 4K capture, downsampled to 1080 at delivery, offers videographers the same “grail” color schema of 4:2:2!

As we move into 6 or 8K, similar results occur. We gain the ability to crop for post editing/delivery to recompose images without fear of losing resolution. This means that although the aircraft may shoot a wide shot, the image may be recomposed to a tighter image in post, so long as the delivery is smaller than the source/acquisition capture. For example, shooting 4K for 1080 delivery means that up to 75% of the image may be cropped without resolution loss.

 

As the image above demonstrates, it’s quite possible to edit 8K HEVC streams on a newer laptop. Performance is not optimal without a great deal of RAM and a good video card, as HEVC requires a fair amount of horsepower to decode. The greater point, is that we can edit images with deep recomposition. Moreover, we have more pixels to work with, providing greater color correction, color timing, and depth/saturation.

For public safety, this is priceless. An 8K capture provides great ability to zoom/crop deeply into a scene and deliver much greater detail in HD or 4K delivery.

The same can be said for inspections, construction progress reports, etc. Users can capture at a high resolution and deliver in a lower resolution.

Another benefit of 6 and 8K resolutions is the increase in dynamic range. While small sensors only provide a small increase in dynamic range, a small increase is preferable to no increase. 

To address other statements about 6K and 8K resolutions; They human eye has the ability to see around 40megapixels, age-dependent. 8K is approximately 33megapixels. However, the human eye doesn’t see equal resolutions across the surface. The center of our eye sees approximately 8megapixels, where the outer edges are not as deep. High resolution does provide greater smoothing across the spectrum, therefore our eyes see smoother moving pictures.

BEYOND THE HUMAN EYE

Going well-beyond the human eye, higher resolutions are applicable to “computer vision,” benefiting mapping, 3D modeling, and other similar applications. Generally speaking, more pixels equals greater smoothness and geometry. As technology moves deeper into Artificial Intelligence, higher resolutions with more efficient codecs become yet even more important. Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become more visible with a greater resolution. Now imagine that greater resolution providing input to an AI-aided inspection report that might notify the operator or manager of any problem. Our technology is moving beyond the resolution of the human eye for good reason.

DATA STORAGE

Files from a 6 or 8K camera are relatively small, particularly when compared to uncompressed 8K content (9.62TB per hour). Compression formats, known as “Codecs” have been improving for years, steadily moving forward. For example, when compressions first debuted in physical form, we saw Hollywood movies delivered on DVD. Then we saw HD delivered on Blu-ray. Disc formats are dead, but now we’ve moved through MPG2, AVC, AVCHD, H.264, and now H.265/HEVC. In the near future we’ll see yet even more compression schemes benefitting our workflows. VVC or “Versatile Video Codec” will be the next big thing in codecs for 8K, scheduled to launch early 2022.

Unconventional h.264 and H.265/HEVC are currently being used as delivery codecs for compressed 6 and 8K streams. 8K has been successfully broadcast (in testing environments) at rates as low as 35Mbps for VOD, while NHK has set the standard at 100Mbps for conventional delivery.

Using these codecs, downconverting streams to view OTA/Over The Air to tablets, smartphones, or ground station controllers is already possible.  It’s unlikely we’ll see 8K streaming from the UAS to the GSC. 

U3 Datacards are certainly prepared for 6 and 8K resolutions/datastreams; compression is what makes this possible.  The KenDao 8K and Insta 8K 360 cameras both are recording to U3 cards available in the market today.

It will be some time before the average consumer will be seeing 8K on screens in their homes. However, 8K delivered for advertising, trying to match large format footage being shot on Weapon, Monstro, Helium or other camera formats may be less time-consuming when using 8K, even from a smaller camera format carried on an UAS (these cameras may easily be carried on heavy-lift UAS).

Professional UAS pilots will benefit greatly from 5, 6, or 8K cameras, and should not be shy about testing the format. Yes, it’s yet another paradigm shift in an always-fluid era of aerial and visual technology.  There can be no doubt that these higher resolutions provide higher quality in any final product. Be prepared; 2020 is the year of 5, 6, and 8K cameras on the flying tripods we’re using for our professional and personal endeavors, and I for one, am looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.

 

*Want to know more about codecs, compression/decompression, optimizing capture and data for streaming, or a greater understanding of how to create the best visual images without all the hype and mystery? Ask about training and classes in “Cracking the Camera Code” seminars found online, in our training facility, or in your offices.

 

By | November 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on IS THE UAS INDUSTRY PREPARED FOR 8K? DO WE WANT 8K?