A team of senseFly engineers teamed up with Drone Adventures (planning and logistics), Pix4D (data post-processing) and Mapbox (online visualisation) to create the first ever digital 3D model of Switzerland's majestic Matterhorn mountain (the so-called 'beautiful mountain'), featuring a resolution of 20 cm (7.9 in.) per pixel.

Experience and results

The small weight and transportability of ultra-light eBee drones enabled the team to carry and launch them from three different remote locations and altitudes, thus fulfilling the Swiss legal requirements for line-of-sight drone operations.

One drone was carried by Team 1 in a backpack up to the summit of the Matterhorn. The challenge was to test take-off behaviour at high altitude and in typical mountain turbulences. This eBee was launched at the summit of the Matterhorn (4,478 m), before climbing in flight up to a maximum altitude of 4,707 m, flying over the top of this epic mountain and mapping its West face.

Project description

Challenges: The main challenges this project needed to overcome in order to truly demonstrate the capabilities of small automated mapping drones were: the effects of high altitude; the challenge of highly mountainous terrain (which made 3D flight planning essential); and the high wind turbulence typically encountered in such environments.

Size: 2800 hectares (28 sq. km / 10.8 sq mi.)
Number of flights: 11
Max. flight altitude: 4707 m / 15,443 ft. / MSL
Number of images: 2,188
Total distance flown: 263.6 km / 164 mi.
Average precision: 20 cm / 7.9 in.
No. of points: 300 million

While team 1 was high above, Team 2 mapped the lower part of the mountain, in two phases using three more drones.

Six flights were launch just above the Hörnlihütte (mountain hut) at an altitude of 3260 m, mapping the North and East faces of the mountain and reaching altitudes as high as 50 m above its summit.

Four more flights were launched from a remote site underneath the Hörnlihütte at the North face of the Matterhorn.

Once these flights were complete, the eBee’s image processing software Postflight Terra 3D - which is powered by Pix4D - was used to generate a high-definition 3D point cloud, comprising 300 million points and covering an area of over 2,800 hectares with an average resolution of 20 cm. The 3D mission planning and multi-drone features built into senseFly's eMotion 2 flight planning software were instrumental in the success of this mission and the unprecedented quality of its resulting dataset.

Explore the 3D visualisation (low-res)

To download a batch of high-resolution images to your computer, please click here.