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Jeremiah Karpowicz, Executive Editor for ProVideo Coalition
Jeremiah Karpowicz, Executive Editor for ProVideo Coalition
Jeremiah Karpowicz always envisioned a career as a screenwriter, but found the autonomy and freedom he was looking for in the digital space. He has created articles, videos, newsletters, ebooks and plenty more for various communities as a contributor and editor. He has also worked as the Executive … More »

Surveying & Mapping with UAVs

March 28th, 2016 by Jeremiah Karpowicz, Executive Editor for ProVideo Coalition

surveyingIt’s easy to see why surveying and mapping professionals have taken such a keen interest in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology. Gathering info from the sky has been an approach that’s been utilized for a long time now, but the costs associated with traditional manned aircraft makes the endeavor extremely expensive. UAVs offer a cost effective alternative with far more flexibility in terms of being able to get into the air quickly and without as much logistical support.

What’s more, UAVs can improve data collection accuracy and efficiency, optimize a workflow while also enabling the production of cost effective turnkey DSM’s and orthos whenever they’re needed. Simply put, UAVs make it far easier to gather the info needed to create maps by reducing costs and simplifying the image-capturing process.

However, right now the application of drones in the field is very much a niche endeavor, and that is mostly due to FAA restrictions. Most of the people doing UAV-based mapping are doing things that would have been on the fringe of what was already being done, because that’s the only work that can be done by professionals, even if they’ve received their 333 Exemption. Those limitations are something that Lewis Graham, President and Chief Technical Officer of GeoCue Corporation, has run up against.

“What I’m seeing is a lot of hype about drones, but people are really groping to find the sweet spot for existing work in terms of when it makes sense to use a drone versus manned aircraft,” Graham said. “If you’re looking at 10,000 acres of cornfields, a drone doesn’t make sense, and those details are sorting themselves out.”

It’s not just the regulations that are impacting the industry, as the technology has changed the conversation around service needs. Not too long ago it was extremely expensive to get hold of imagery, but there are so many inexpensive and even free options that the onus has shifted to sorting out details around processing and analyzing. Will professionals with years of experience change the way they operate? How will this impact experienced and innovative service providers?

The combination of technology tools that drones enable is clearly the biggest selling point. UAVs can be utilized along with photogrammetry, point cloud and conversion of point cloud data, to redefine service offerings. Before that can fully happen though, FAA regulations need to be sorted out.

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