When you first get your hands on a drone, you’re excited. If local laws allow it, you start to fly it around your home. You take pictures of your roof, your car, and your lawn. You start to get comfortable navigating the drone during strong winds. It’s fun! However, after a few weeks of doing that, you might be wondering, “what else can I do with my drone?”
Have you ever used Google Maps Street View or Google Earth? These applications give you a whole new perspective on your streets. There’s just one problem with these applications: they tend to contain older data, sometimes several years old. It’s frustrating when you use Google Maps to see where buildings or companies are on a map, but they’re no longer actually there.
There’s a way to create better maps of your own: 3D mapping with drones! You simply need a drone with a camera and GPS to get started. After you assemble a set of photos, the next step is to use a 3D mapping application such as DroneMapper RAPID or DroneDeploy. If you’re already a geographic information system enthusiast, these applications will be straightforward to use.
Screenshot of the DroneMapper RAPID Application
Resource: Want step-by-step directions to create a 3D map with your drone? Check out “4 Steps for Making an Excellent 3D Model with a Drone.”
Are you concerned about the health of a nearby fields? You can use DroneDeploy to create maps to monitor plant health. See this capability in action in the screenshot below:
You can also create 3D models of your neighborhood using DroneDeploy. The image below comes from a 3D model of a property created using DroneDeploy:
You can also check out this video to learn how the drone 3D-mapping works.
If you still feel like a novice while using your drone, don’t worry; a bit more background reading may be all you need. We recommend the following two books for a broad introduction to drones: Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones by Craig Issod, and Drones for Dummies by Mark LaFay.
Find Out More on Device Plus: Did you know that some drones work underwater? To find out more about cutting-edge drone technology, read “Drone Data X: Life-changing drone gadgets.”
Explaining why people find a hobby interesting is a bit challenging, but a few reasons exist in this case that are easy to pinpoint. When you simply fly your drone around in your neighborhood, there’s very little variety. Worse, there’s not much sense of progress. Unlike crafts or maker projects, you don’t have anything to show for your efforts at the end of the day. In contrast, pursuing a 3D mapping hobby with your drone is a focused activity; you can see progress in charting a new area.
There’s even more to the story here. If we can get philosophical for a moment, 3D mapping with drones lets you become an explorer. Your city might have simple street maps. However, detailed 3D maps showing every building and tree? That surely doesn’t exist. You can be the first to create these maps. If you publish your 3D maps online, your maps might even be used by scientists. How’s that for an awesome hobby!
To get into 3D mapping with drones, you need to have the right equipment. Specifically, you want a drone that has high-end cameras and sensors. In addition to this technology, your drone must be compatible with a drone mapping application. We recommend choosing two 3D mapping applications (e.g., DroneMapper RAPID and DroneDeploy) first and then testing your drone with the software. The software is just as critical as the drone itself.
Specific features to look for when shopping for a 3D mapping drone:
Tip: Shopping for drones for the first time? Check out PCMag’s “The Best Drones of 2018” for an overview of options.
You have your drone and 3D mapping software; what’s next? You have to choose where to visit first. There are no hard and fast rules here. If no ideas come to mind, use the following tips to plan your first 3D mapping adventure.
The following steps will get you started with 3D maps using your drone:
There’s one more important factor to consider when you organize your 3D mapping adventures, and we’ll turn to that point next.
Depending on your personality and mood, you might want to look for a local drone club. These organizations are a great way to receive recommendations on gear, find out about competitions, and make new, like-minded friends. On the other hand, you might prefer to fly your drone solo. For new drone enthusiasts, we recommend trying both methods over the course of a few weekends. Search for a local drone club and attend a few meetings. Then, go exploring on your own. You’ll likely learn quickly which you prefer.
Creating 3D maps lets you understand your community in a way no one else does. It’s also a way to apply your drone skills and monitor your progress over time. Pick your drone, get your 3D mapping software, and get started this weekend!