Drones for
GIS

Accurate aerial data on demand

Drone technology allows GIS professionals to work more efficiently. With an easy-to-deploy mapping drone you can capture accurate aerial imagery and transform it into 2D orthomosaics (maps) and 3D models of small- and medium-sized sites – all on demand and without needing any piloting skills.

As a new method of raster data collection, drone or UAV/UAS technology effectively complements existing techniques, fitting between large-area satellite/manned aircraft imagery and smaller coverage, time-consuming, but highly accurate terrestrial approaches:

  • From a delivery time standpoint, a drone allows you to take to the skies virtually whenever you like – collecting the geo-referenced images you require without the hassle of booking and waiting for manned aircraft or satellite imagery. Just plan, fly, download your images, and process your raster data the same day.

  • In terms of resolution, systems such as the eBee can achieve orthomosaic/3D model accuracy of roughly 1-3x GSD, or down to 4.5 cm (1.8 in) per pixel – significantly higher than current satellite and manned aircraft can attain.

  • Plus, due to the altitudes at which drones typically fly, cloud cover is not an issue, meaning fewer weather delays and less unusable imagery.

Whatever field you work in – forestry, asset management, environmental protection, agriculture, humanitarian, remote sensing, oil and gas or another – drones can provide very real benefits, providing accurate data, quickly and cost-effectively.

The only question is, how will you use yours?

The GIS drone workflow

Drone acquisition & generation of raster data

  • Flight planning
  • Flight(s)
  • Image download & processing
  • Generation of orthophotos / digital surface models

Extraction of vector data

  • GPS recording
  • Geodatabases
  • Manual data collection
  • Digitisation
  • Web services
  • Drone point cloud

Import & layering of vector & raster data

  • GIS software

Analysis & decision making

  • Progress tracking, feature identification, flood simulation, project planning etc.

Case studies & reports

Explore how using drones to collect geo-referenced imagery can improve the accuracy and speed of your GIS projects by browsing the stories, articles and reports below.

Aerial Applications chooses senseFly to build a standardised, contractor-friendly drone fleet

When awarded a time-sensitive post-hurricane inspection project, Aerial Applications turned to the eBee to quickly build a fleet of easy-to-operate, data-consistent drones.

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How drone tech is aiding the upkeep of Ireland's premier salmon river

Learn how a drone survey of the Ballina ‘canal stretch’ of the River Moy was used to determine the extent of pond weeds, providing data from which the surface of raised sediment could be calculated and a 3D profile of the river banks created.

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UAS Photogrammetric Point Clouds: A Substitute for LiDAR?

Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne of the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Lab describes the pros, cons and suitability of LiDAR and drone point clouds.

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Searching for a rare plant in the Cayman Islands

Read how the Cayman Islands government joined forces with Kew Gardens' GIS team to locate a mysterious Mistletoe species, Dendropemon caymanensis, using a senseFly UAV.

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Mapping ice jams & flood conditions

Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne, the director of the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL), explains how his team used an eBee to map ice jams and flood conditions in the spring of 2015.

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Using the eBee for a rapid forest fire damage assessment

Learn how Lithuanian GIS specialist Hnit-Baltic used an eBee drone to map fire damage on Lithuania’s protected Curonian Spit.

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Using drones in forestry

Learn how drones can be used to map biophysical characteristics such as timber volumes, basal areas and stem numbers with this educational video short by Stefan Puliti of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

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Application of multispectral sensors carried on UAVs for trophic state mapping of small reservoirs

In this free-to-download Remote Sensing study, RGB and NIR sensors carried on a senseFly drone were applied to the trophic state mapping of Tain-Pu reservoir in Kinmen, Taiwan.

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Generating the 3D environment for a new hotel's promotional campaign

arcOrama used drone-sourced imagery to generate a 3D environment of an existing urban landscape in Saint-Cloud, France. Its team then used CityEngine software to integrate a new hotel project into this space.

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Using UAVs to produce GIS-ready products

Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne of the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Laboratory explains how drones can be used to produce GIS-ready 2D and 3D products to support decisions in transportation.

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Using drones to map a sensitive Australian heritage site

For the past two years Australian UAV has undertaken an annual drone survey of the Lake Victoria shoreline. This immense heritage project brings with it three key challenges: big birds, even bigger datasets and lots of very fine sand.

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Inventory of small forest areas using an unmanned aerial system

Published in July 2015 in Remote Sensing, this peer-reviewed study details how acquiring high spatial and temporal resolution imagery with drones provides new opportunities for taking small scale forest inventories.

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The top 5 things to know about drones & GIS

This Directions Magazine article provides a starter overview of drone (UAV) technology and its huge potential for GIS applications.

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Baptise Tripard on senseFly drones for GIS

In this video interview Esri's Amanda Walker talks with Baptiste Tripard, senseFly's Sales Manager for North America, about the benefits of collecting data by drone.

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Webinar: drones for GIS mapping

Are you new to mapping drone technology? This info-packed webinar by Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne of the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Lab details his experience using senseFly eBee systems to create GIS-ready maps and models.

  • 00:56 – Legal disclaimer
  • 02:03 – Types of drones
  • 02:37 – Characteristics of mapping drones
  • 07:09 – Drone workflow 1: flight planning
  • 08:16 – Drone workflow 2: launching
  • 08:53 – Drone workflow 3: flight operations
  • 10:10 – Drone workflow 4: landing
  • 10:47 – Drone workflow 5: processing & outputs
  • 11:38 – Drone workflow 6: products & formats
  • 12:26 – Process timings
  • 14:00 – ArcGIS basemaps vs eBee maps
  • 15:12 – Data product examples (various)
  • 21:21 – Taking measurements in 3D
  • 21:40 – Drones vs traditional surveying/LiDAR
  • 23:24 – 3D model accuracy: drones vs LiDAR
  • 25:40 – Q&A

"The eBee is a powerful tool. It is a flexible and efficient way of gathering environmentally relevant information at the landscape scale and at the desired spatio-temporal resolution. We are using ours to develop flexible and efficient monitoring programs to be used in environmental science and practice, in particular in the fields of floodplain dynamics, biodiversity and restoration"

Dr. Michael Döring, Head of Research Group for Ecohydrology, Dr. Patrick Laube, Head of Research Group for Geoinformatics, Martin Geilhausen, Pascal Ochsner and Dr. Diego Tonolla,Scientific Collaborators Geoinformatics & Ecohydrology
Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland

Dr. Michael Döring, Head of Research Group for Ecohydrology, Dr. Patrick Laube, Head of Research Group for Geoinformatics, Martin Geilhausen, Pascal Ochsner and Dr. Diego Tonolla,Scientific Collaborators Geoinformatics & Ecohydrology

"We currently operate two eBee UAVs, which have completed well over 1,300 flights, so we’ve given these aircraft quite a workout. For us there is no typical project; we undertake work across Australia in plantation forestry, mining, land development, aboriginal heritage, flood prevention survey, insurance, agriculture and natural resource management. Our experience has been very good—the eBee system is easy to use, has proved reliable and its data is well received by clients. At this stage we’ve been unable to find a UAV that is as versatile."

James Rennie, Director
Australian UAV

James Rennie, Director

"Since acquiring our eBee RTKs, we have mapped a 30 mile corridor for California High Speed Rail, six miles of double track for Union Pacific Railroad, two rail yards for CSX Railroad and five miles of coastal right-of-way for Southern California’s Commuter Rail System. These projects have yielded phenomenal quality, accuracy and ROI—our costs were approximately 50% when compared to using manned aircraft and we cut our delivery times by more than half."

Marc A. Cañas GISP, Vice President
J.L. Patterson & Associates, Inc., United States
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Marc A. Cañas GISP, Vice President

"We are having a great experience with our five eBees. We fly these simultaneously to produce aerial cartography and to monitor and survey different architectural, agronomy and landscape projects, often on a large scale. We really enjoy interacting with the different files the eBee’s software produces, since each pertains to a specific discipline."

Dr. Mario Rossi, Landscape Manager, Operations / Facilities Section
The Office of H.H. The Crown Prince of Dubai (Government of Dubai), United Arab Emirates

Dr. Mario Rossi, Landscape Manager, Operations / Facilities Section

"We needed a system that would get us GIS-ready 2D and 3D products in a timely manner. The senseFly eBee is just that. With a fully integrated workflow the eBee allows us to focus on making use of the data as opposed to worrying about flight operations and data processing. We have flown the eBee in all types of weather conditions and have been extraordinarily impressed with its reliability."

Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Director
University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Laboratory, United States

Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Director

"The eBee is such a simple system to use, any agency or organisation could easily use it to collect data themselves."

Simonas Guogis, Sales Project Manager
Hnit-Baltic, Lithuania
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Simonas Guogis, Sales Project Manager

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