The steps to generate a map using drones

Generating a map using this technique can be a big problem, one of those problems is so critical with the consequences of missing valuable months of useful work when you do not have previous experience in this task.

The founders of Aerotas Mapping System We are told in an article by POB OnlineThat many surveyors focus on this work, first, discussing the type of drone they will acquire and then focus on debating the characteristics of the final product they want to obtain, resulting in the unnecessary extension of the time we discussed.

Faced with this situation, what is advisable, which leads to greater efficiency and profitability, is to start with the result to be obtained, identifying the sequence of work to be done and then implement the dron software to obtain the result.

We can, then, establish 3 steps to carry out the work, namely, first to make sure that the data collected in the field is reliable and correct; then, process this data in order to obtain an orthophoto and a digital elevation model (DEM); to finally, using the created model, generate a surface in AutoCAD (or similar) as well as the 'line-work' (work in line) and the final survey. Let's analyze the stated steps in detail:

Collect valid data in the field

In order for the teams to carry out a correct collection of information, it is required that the operators have been previously trained in the best practices that allow establishing both ground control and having an automatic pilot software configured to create topographic cartography.

For the case of the drone ground control adjustment, the same criteria used for a conventional photogrammetry must be taken into account. Practice indicates that the objectives have been established and analyzed by surveying the ground and its surroundings, the ideal is to establish five objectives per flight area, 4 in the corners and one in the center, being able to include more objectives according to the characteristics of the area (high or low points).

Then, the autopilot is configured, taking into account the slightly overshoot of each control on both sides and capture two lines of photos beyond each control point using a graphical interface similar to that of Google Earth that allows tracing the area of ​​the terrain and set the altitude of the flight.

Obtaining orthophoto and DEM

The second step is to process the photos taken by the drone to generate the orthophoto and the DEM. For this process, you can choose between the many solutions on the market, taking into account that the process follows the same logic as conventional photogrammetry. By this we mean that the photos are overlaid based on the ground points shared through overlapping photos.

It should be noted that drones use smaller, uncalibrated cameras compared to those used in photogrammetry. So many photos must be taken to achieve a high overlap. This implies, for each point of the ground, an amount that oscillates between 9 and 16 photos, which through the technique of image recognition used by the chosen program will identify the 'mooring points' shared in the photos.

Removal of lifting surface and line work

It is in this last step that most of the consulting companies in topographic surveying have greater difficulties because most 3D modeling programs (such as Civil 3D) are not designed to work with the large surface models generated by the drone programs. That is why post-processing solutions emerge as the right ones for this task.

Through these, the surveyor chooses the work points by clicking on those desired points in the digital image. Each of these is recorded by the program as a pair of coordinates.

Each point is then placed in layers that coincide with the conventions established by Civil 3D (or whatever it uses) in such a way that when opening the file in said program the points have a format similar to those coming from a standard GPS rover station or a total station.


 Following this methodology of work can be achieved a dramatic saving of time and money in topographic mapping projects, estimating in an 80% savings over time. We can verify this by comparing the capture of points by conventional surveying done by an expert at 60 points per hour with the 60 points taken in a second by post-processing software.

Finally, always remember that the key to success and saving in working time is to identify the appropriate work sequence that will produce the desired result in the most efficient way possible.

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