Camera! Action! How High-Quality Cameras Are Taking Drones to Another Level

July 5, 2023

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The drone market is huge: the latest research shows that the market hit $29.86 billion in 2022 and will grow by 36.9% in the next seven years, which is not surprising considering the huge number of industries that are using them in a wide range of different use cases.

Surveying is one of the areas that is benefiting massively from this relatively new technology, with drones offering enormous potential to GIS professionals. With a drone, it is possible to carry out topographic surveys of the same quality as the highly accurate measurements collected by traditional methods but in a fraction of the time, and more and more surveyors are starting to use them. Now, the integration of high-quality cameras into a new generation of advanced drones is moving these devices onto another level and offering a range of industries, notably surveying, but also construction, mining, environmental projects, and agriculture, the opportunity to work faster and smarter.

 In recent years, advances in camera technology that were initially intended for fashion and film have been adapted for industrial and commercial uses. This marks a divergence from the historical pattern in which the military and industry were the main sources of innovation. Nowadays, these new technologies are often derived from popular consumer products.

 Offering improved accuracy and stability, as well as a greatly enhanced range, surveyors now have a versatile tool to collect images and data. In fact, the new generation of mapping drones are revolutionizing the way land surveyors and construction professionals use aerial technology, enabling significant time and money savings with drones that can perform data capture even in high-altitude spots or along lengthy corridors. Now, drone data can be used instantly for making volume or stockpile calculations and for emergency damage mapping.

 The use of full-frame, high-resolution cameras in lightweight packages presents the optimum solution for scanning environments and for providing the detailed images and data GIS professionals require. These lightweight cameras enable drones to remain aerodynamic and retain flight capabilities without creating significant drain on the onboard batteries, allowing drones to fly for longer and to accomplish more with each flight. When paired with a compatible Software Development Kit for autonomous image processing, surveying and mapping businesses can gain a competitive advantage by having access to advanced technology that delivers cost-effective and efficient mapping.

 Drones are now able to reach greater heights, while maintaining high image quality and data accuracy. Operators are able to maximize their coverage without any loss of precision, and as a result, they can accomplish far more within one flight. Multiple industries are making use of camera-fitted drones to map the environment through high-definition nadir images, which can then inform orthomosaic maps, 3D structures, and other digital replicas.

 The latest drones are able to execute an autonomous flight using a predetermined flight plan, thus allowing the operator to pay more attention to critical operations, such as maintaining safety, rather than solely to navigating. When encountering hazardous and difficult-to-access areas, vertical take-off and landing drones with features of both multirotor and fixed-wing design have an advantage over others.

 Of course, safety is of paramount importance and multiple features are built-in to ensure that both the operator, other air traffic, and people on the ground are kept safe: navigation lights visible in the air to other traffic and geofencing to avoid prohibited areas make them easy to use, and if the radio link is interrupted or weak, the drone automatically returns to the operator.

 Bespoke software on board the drones can fulfill the specific needs of surveyors, such as scanning and properly defining a certain area so a specific task can be analyzed and carried out in the most efficient way. Some companies are using drones to map thousands of hectares in a week, and the large volume of photos produced can be converted into 3D point clouds, topographic maps, progress maps to monitor projects, volume calculations, as-built surveys, slope measurements, and more.

 The combination of new cameras and drones is an exciting one, and GIS professionals have the potential to exploit this new functionality for ever more demanding use cases.


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