How Drone Mapping Works
Early on in starting my drone business, I came across a cool feature that a lot of drone Pilots have been incorporating into it their business. This feature was called 3D drone mapping, and I became curious as to how it works and what it can be used for.
What is drone mapping and how is it used?
In my research, I discovered that drone mapping is basically flying a drone over a piece of land, construction site, excavation site, or farmers fields. The drone collects data as it flies over that can then be used to create a 3D map. More details on exactly how this happens to follow in the next section of this blog post.
These maps can be used for a variety of different purposes. I discovered that although you would have to have a surveyor’s license to do official surveying, in quite a few of US states a drone pilot can work alongside a surveyor to capture the information for a surveying project.
But surveying is only one of the many use cases of 3D mapping with a drone. Farmers can create plant Health maps, that help them to understand precisely which areas of their field are healthy and which need more attention.
construction zones can use the 3D models that the drone creates to get a better understanding of their progress across the job site, and can use these assets for Progress updates to investors and other off-site Consultants to give them a unique perspective on how the project is going that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.
the 3D information for a drone map can be used in Diggs to gain detailed information and potentially expose new opportunities for the dig site manager.
Realtors can you use 3D maps, as a selling tool to help potential buyers get a better idea of precisely what they’re getting with the property before they buy it. He can be used to show off some of the more unique features that otherwise wouldn’t be super apparent without a 3D model. Although without a surveyor, the realtor has to be careful to make sure that the buyer knows that this is an approximate 3D model, and not a surveyor’s map.
How does a drone create maps?
By using a program, drone pilots can fly their drones in a pattern over the area that they want to capture. The Drone man captures high-resolution pictures and data that can then be funneled into a program to create a 3D map of the area they want to create a 3D model of.
This process is called photogrammetry, it’s basically the process of scanning a real-life object and transferring it into a computer.
It is crucial during this process that the drone pilot captures many different angles of the complex structures in the area separate from the automated flyover. The more pictures they capture, the more detailed and accurate the model that they’re trying to make will be.
This process can take several hours, to several days, depending on the complexity of the 3D model they are trying to create. A good drone pilot will need several batteries so that they can keep flying only having to stop to switch out the batteries.
It’s also important that they fly at a proper altitude, the higher up they operate, the quicker they can create the map, but the lower they fly, the more detailed map will be. Pilots also want to ensure that the weather is optimal for creating a 3D map. If it’s stormy outside or if the lighting is horrible and casts lots of Shadows, it is likely that the 3D model they will get it the end won’t look very good.
What is the best drone mapping software?
There are quite a few different drone mapping software available on the market, the one we use is called DroneDeploy. Trying to play has a free version that offers most features that an individual might want to offer with their drone services. But for those who need a little bit more power drone to play also provides an enterprise-level 3D mapping software
Another top-rated program is Pix4D. In our opinion, Pix4D offers more detailed higher-quality maps, but for our uses drone deploy provides a more affordable and practical solution.
There are a lot of different options for drone mapping software, and your best option is probably just to go try out a few of them. Contact a friend or a family member and see if they’ll let you use their property to try out some of the software. Most drone mapping software will come with a free trial that allows you to test out their systems and see if you like how they work.
What do you need to get started with Drone Mapping?
You will want to get a field kit for your drone mapping excursions. Here’s what we would recommend you pick up before you go out in the field to start drone mapping.
Phantom 4 Professional
We recommend the Phantom 4 professional although a Mavic would do just fine. The reason we recommend the Phantom 4 professional is that its a bit more durable of a drone weighing in a full pound heavier than the Mavic. But the vital thing to know is that you need to get a drone with obstacle avoidance. Because of the way that drone mapping works, you are likely going to be flying near obstacles, such as trees buildings and other unforeseen potential hazards that can bring your drone straight down to the ground. So it’s important that you prepare for this operation. Bring extra props and make sure to scout the area that you’re flying in for any potential hazards that you will need to avoid.
Hardshell Carrying Case for your drone
Because of the nature of the Drone mapping industry, you will likely be spending a lot of time out and Rule areas and unforeseen weather situations. It’s essential to make sure you have a safe, durable protective case to keep your drone mapping equipment protected.
2X 64 Gig MicroSD Cards
You will be taking high-resolution images at regular intervals, so it’s essential to make sure you have plenty of space to store these extremely large pictures. I would recommend getting at least 2 64GB micro SD cards, that way, you should have enough space to handle most drone mapping jobs.
2 – 4 Extra Batteries
It is likely while you were drone mapping that you were going to need quite a few extra batteries to extend your flight time. If you use drone deploy it should give you an estimated amount of batteries you’ll need per job, and calculate your flight time touch and go battery swap landings.
I would recommend bringing an extra battery above the estimate or investing in a mobile charging station, powered either by a vehicle or a generator. Drone mapping often involves flying at near the legal altitude, which can mean higher wind speeds and therefore less battery life. So it’s common sense to carry an extra battery just in case your batteries run out of juice faster than you expect.