As more organisations introduce drones into their operations, more people are asking about collecting drone imagery in the field. It’s a task that’s becoming easy to do, but the technology you choose is vital to doing it right.
I first heard about Drone2Map for ArcGIS at the Esri UC 2015. At the time I thought, ‘That's cool, but I can't see it taking off too soon’. How wrong I was.
Eighteen months later I have flown over 30 drone missions and presented on drones a countless number of times – culminating in our recent webinars with 3DR and a stage presentation at the Sydney Opera House.
So, what have I learned in this time? That drones are all the buzz right now. As soon as you start to talk or show anything to do with drones it attracts a crowd.
Initially there was the ‘wow’ factor, but now people are really trying to understand how they can use this new tool to support their business.
And that's the real question: What is the business value behind a drone?
To find an answer, let's take a step back and think about what drones are doing for you. In its simplest form, it is capturing high-resolution imagery over a small area.
Each image on its own is not much use, but when all the captured images are mosaicked together, it creates a product which can be useful. This is where Drone2Map for ArcGIS comes into play.
It takes the imagery from drones and produces these beautiful seamless images. Apart from the imagery, Drone2Map also creates surface models, point clouds, 3D scenes and 3D PDFs.
All these valuable spatial products can then be used in GIS and engineering workflows. Drone2Map simply needs the raw imagery to be geolocated.
And that is the one thing that has generated the most discussion. How do you get the imagery geolocated? Well, it all comes down to the navigation software used to fly the drone.
The navigation software understands the camera field of view (FOV), flying height, and the required imagery overlap. It then works out the optimal flight path and the trigger points for each photo.
We saw this with 3DR Site Scan, but there are other applications out there such as DroneDeploy, Mission Planner or Pix4D Capture. These all work with a variety of drones. What you choose to use comes down to functionality and the level of control you require.
The next important aspect is ground control. While you can fly your drone and perform image mosaicking without ground control, if you intend to perform spatial analytics from the output products then you need to understand how accurate the imagery is. Ground control ensures your collected imagery is spatially correct in the X, Y and Z directions.
I recommended you have at least four ground control points evenly distributed around the area you’re collecting imagery from, and additional ground control to further assess accuracy once the imagery has been processed.
With the right navigation software and your ground control points in place, you will be able to easily produce accurate, high-resolution imagery and 3D products with Drone2Map for ArcGIS.
You’ll also note I haven’t discussed the actual drone itself. It is important to remember that this is just the product used to capture imagery.
In reality, drones have no influence on the imagery collected – they simply do the flying and are a cool piece of technology. And with so many on the market these days, I recommend properly reviewing your specific requirements before purchasing a drone for commercial use.
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