The FAA estimates that there will be nearly half a million registered commercial use drones in the U.S. by 2022 (FAA 2018 – 2038 Aerospace Forecast).
Drones, or UAVs or UAS, are being used in the GIS industry for such purposes as military surveillance, real estate, searching for hurricane activity, search and rescue missions, public health and safety, agriculture and in construction and countless other industries. In some cases, drones can provide greater resolution than satellite imagery. Their size and affordability makes them a valuable choice for scientists, power companies, surveyors, military actions and civilians and many others. They are also environmentally friendly and provide a low-cost option for gathering valuable data that can then be fed into a GIS.
Since drones can autonomously collect a vast range of data they are appealing to many use cases. Besides, they are light-weight and high performance. Satellite imagery has provided remote sensing data for mapping, but can often display low fidelity or limited visibility from cloud cover. High precision and accuracy can be achieved with aerial imagery, with planes equipped with high tech remote sensors. Photogrammetry, which makes use of overlapping photos to identify exact measurements between objects, is a useful way of gathering accurate models.