2D and 3D mapping using drones

Until recently, the only way to get highly accurate and high resolution photogrammetric aerial maps was to fly the area of interest with a manned aircraft. But the arrival of advanced drone technology capabilities in the last few years has made high quality aerial maps available for a multitude of people and industries at a fraction of the previous cost.

Typical orthomosaic map generated from drone aerial images

Our 2D and 3D mapping service drones are helping clients like you to map large areas quickly and inexpensively and provide data that helps expedite map production workflows in a variety of mapping, surveying and other commercial settings. Because the images our drone captures for mapping are so detailed and accurate, they can be used to measure real distances for survey and comparative analysis over time.

The overlapping 2D geo-referenced aerial images are stitched together and using this information, combined with additional images taken at 30° and 45° angles, the software can also produce a 3D models. This means the map can be viewed from any side or orientation.

The higher we fly (up to our maximum permittable of 120m), the more acres of land we can cover. And obviously, the lower we fly the more detailed the image we can capture. The standard maximum resolution of the images is 5cm per pixel but we can potentially get to 1cm per pixel for an additional cost.

Depending on your drone 2D or 3D mapping requirements, we use industry standard drone mapping software such as Pix4D Mapper and DroneDeploy to build 2D photo-mosaics and 3D Digital Surface Models. We can provide you with output in various file formats, including point clouds, for you to use or to import into your GIS or CAD software like AutoCAD, ArcGIS, 3D Reshaper, etc.

Drone mapping uses by industry

Land surveying

For land surveyors, drone aerial photogrammetry is a great solution. We can provide surveyors with highly accurate maps with photogrammetry that can easily be turned into a 3D topographic maps with contour data — a process that used to be extremely tedious. Working with surveyors who have specialist ground equipment like RTK GPS units, we can use our drones to help produce extremely accurate maps for their clients. The speed, cost and efficiency of drones helps speed up the 2D and 3D mapping production workflow significantly.

Construction

The 2D and 3D maps that we can create with our drones can be used to regularly update clients in the construction industry on the progress of their projects and even analyze stockpiles of raw materials such as sand and gravel. These 2D and 3D maps can help construction professionals like you obtain the "big picture" support strategic decision making. We can programme our drones to repeat photos from exact geo-locations week-after-week to give incredible time-lapse views os sites.

Estate agency

Drone aerial maps, images and videos are an amazing tool for the sale or rental of buildings, property or land assets. For people in the market for large areas of real estate, for example, an accurate and up-to-date aerial map can be of huge value in deciding if the property is right for them. If you've ever studied a standard satellite image, you know that they can be dramatically out of date or lacking detail. Drone mapping 100% solves those issues. A highly detailed aerial map allows for insight into the property details without requiring a client to be there in person.

Mining

One industry that's already embracing mapping by drone is the mining industry. We can provide up-to-date and detailed 2D and 3D maps which an be used to manage stockpiles, water drainage, erosion detection, and pit and dump management along with a host of other uses. Constantly updated maps can give managers better situational awareness that can assist in decision making.

Agriculture

2D and 3D drone maps can give farmers like you the power to quickly analyze crops and provide crucial data to guide decision making. Our drones can semi-autonomously produce a map in RGB which can help farmers determine the health of crops. This can save a huge amount of time and effort and ultimately, improve their bottom line.

Forestry

In a similar way to use in agriculture, drone mapping can also be helpful to the forestry industry. With detailed maps, tree count can be determined and the health of the forest can be monitored and managed in a highly cost-effectove way. Areas of dead or diseased trees can be monitored, which can assist with containment and even forest fire prevention.

Drone mapping terminology

  • Photogrammetry The science of taking measurements from photographs, usually those taken from the air.
  • Orthomosaic An aerial image corrected for topographic relief, camera tilt, and distortions in camera optic so that the scale of the image is uniform throughout.
  • RGB Camera This is the traditional type of camera used in mapping. It takes a sample of Red, Green and Blue spectrums of light to create the image.
  • NDVI Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, is a derived image (usually from a modified RGB or near IR sensor). NDVI takes the reflective light from plants and ranks it on a scale from a -1 to +1 value and then infers a health index. A standard NDVI map is typically a tool for specialist crop monitoring crop monitoring services.
  • GCP Ground Control Point is a physical marker on the ground that's used to keep survey maps geographically accurate. The location of a GCP is noted with an RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GPS (or other GNSS system) coordinate with specialist surveying equipment.
  • Near Infrared A spectrum of light (electromagnetic radiation) slightly above the wavelength of visible light. NIR light reflected off a plant can be an indicator of how healthy it is. Special NIR, multi-spectral, or modified RGB cameras are needed to obtain this data.
  • Infrared IR is electromagnetic radiation or light with shorter wavelength (higher frequency) than near infrared. The benefits of IR is that it can detect heat.
  • Thermography Imagery taken of the infrared spectrum of light. This imagery shows areas of heat in an object and is often used in industrial applications.
  • RTK Real Time Kinematic satellite navigation, this is a centimeter-accurate technique of obtaining GPS (or any GNSS) data. The RTK receiver analyzes the GPS radio signal to calculate this data.
  • Point Cloud A point cloud is a collection of points or coordinates on an object's surface. This collection of points can be used to create a 3D model of an area. Point Clouds can be derived from photogrammetric and can negates the need for LIDAR data.
  • Relative Accuracy In terms of mapping, relative accuracy refers to how accurate a point on a map is to other points on the same map. This means that if two points on a map are X cm apart on the map, they should be X cm apart in the real world.
  • Absolute Accuracy Absolute Accuracy refers to the accuracy of a point related to the coordinates in the real world. Absolute Accuracy means that a point on a map should match its actual GPS coordinates.
  • Resolution Resolution is the level of detail on a map. This is often measured in CM/Pixel, which means that for every pixel, X amount of CM will be represented on the map.
  • GSD Ground Sampling Distance is defined as the distance between two consecutive pixel centers measured on the ground. In practice, it is simply the size of the pixel in the field.

Find out more about our services here: drone aerial photography, drone aerial video, 360° panoramic images, drone roof surveys and building inspections, business marketing aerial videos and aerial photos and drone 2d and 3d mapping services.

Image attribution:
3d360 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tsendayush1 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons