Aerial photography from drones is fast becoming the new normal, the latest must-have. Commercially, several industries are harnessing aerial video to promote properties, products and services. But what many people don’t know is that drones have a capability that goes way beyond sweeping artistic shots and Hollywood panoramas.
Sure, high-definition camera drones can capture incredible footage from above, but essentially they are just data gatherers. It’s the data that’s valuable. From a commercial point of view, there’s no end to potential uses for the information drones are able to record.
Standard aerial imagery is ideal for inspections, promotional footage and getting a general view from above. But if you want to plan and monitor large-scale projects, mapping is the next step you need to take. Armed with a drone and intelligent software, a skilled pilot can accurately map areas of land quickly and accurately - a feat that would usually take a ground team days or weeks to accomplish. The result is a 3D map that project managers can navigate, plan with and update as time progresses.
Here are just a few examples of how mapping technology is being used to great effect.
When you break down the likely uses for mapping applications, it’s easy to see why the mining industry is a prime target market. Essentially, mining is a kind of construction project. Land is being moved, materials are being stored, the environment is being altered.
Mapping in Mining Video:
With that in mind, aerial data can be used to build detailed maps of mining sites. These maps can be used to carefully monitor the progress of mining operations as time passes. Regular topographical surveys can be conducted from the air, time lapses can be created and clients can watch operations unfold before their eyes.
As well as mapping physical changes to the landscape, drones can help mining projects keep track of materials, whether that’s stockpiles of whatever is being mined, tools or byproducts.
During huge mining projects these tasks are usually undertaken by teams on the ground - something which takes plenty of time and doesn’t come cheap. It goes without saying that a camera drone can do the job with greater efficiency at much lower cost. This is especially the case when you consider that autonomous flight paths can be pre-programmed and repeated with ease.
With drones high above and sophisticated mapping software readily available, there’s no longer an excuse for mining projects to lose track of materials or progress.
We all know that attractive aerial video has the power to sell real estate, but drone technology can be applied during the construction stage, too.
A camera drone and smart mapping software can give construction managers and planners a detailed overview of the land before any project gets underway. In some cases, such as the construction of solar farms, this can help engineers design projects 90% faster.
Video of Mapping in Construction:
But it’s once a construction project is underway that drone technology comes into its own. Mapping software can help construction managers delegate instructions, explain ideas, plot progress, adapt plans on the fly and keep clients in the loop.
The most important capability is arguably the aerial monitoring of progress from above. Although this can be done with general drone footage, 3D modeling gives overseers a much more immersive view of how a construction project is coming along. It can form the basis of presentations when updating clients, and can even act as a time-lapse example when pitching for new business.
3D mapping after an aerial survey is the foundation for commercial drone operations in agriculture. Once you have flown a camera drone in a set pattern to capture enough data from above, a detailed digital map can be created.
Farmers can then use drones armed with a range of sensors to fly over the same areas to assess crop health, density and much more besides. Crop information gathered can be placed over the digital render, giving farmers a view of their produce that’s up to date, insightful and coherent.
Mapping software can also help farmers create detailed maps of terrain that has not yet been used. This can be useful when planning for future crops. It can also be the difference between sustainable, precision agriculture and environmentally damaging practices.
For example, once a drone has been used to map a farm, the application of fertilizers and pesticides can be optimized to an incredibly accurate degree. Not only does this save farmers time and money, it prevents any more dangerous chemicals going into the ground than is absolutely necessary.
Many conservation projects are now utilizing camera drones and mapping technology. Just as drones can help to produce 3D digital models of terrain during mining projects, they can also assess the impact of deforestation and agriculture on wildlife habitats.
Take a look at the video below, in which drones are used to map huge areas of forest in Nepal and monitor their health over time.
Similar projects are underway around the world, where drones are offering unrivaled access to hard-to-reach locations, helping conservation efforts and wildlife protection.
Truly autonomous flight; high-quality cameras and sensors and software capable of converting media into 3D models - all are coming together to make commercial drone mapping a reality. It’s only a matter of time before more industries look to drone to capture actionable data from above.