What is Drone Mapping

Learn about the benefits of including drones to your mapping services and their different applications by industry.


04 November 2020, by Mario Sabatino Riontino


Figure 1: Aerial Roof View: Photo by Nick Stephenson on Unsplash
Figure 1: Aerial Roof View: Photo by Nick Stephenson on Unsplash

In this blog article, we will analyse drone mapping in detail, definied as the ability to generate high-quality aerial maps for a multitude of applications and industries.

Why Drones

Not so long ago, the only way to get a high-resolution aerial image was flying with a manned aerial vehicle or accessing satellite imagery.

Drones proved to be a revolutionary technological advancement, with a large range of commercial and consumer applications, whether it’s parcel delivery or filming. The progress in drone capabilities and their decreasing costs have risen global drone usage.

Drone Mapping Applications

Drone mapping has been used already for several applications in construction, agriculture, mining, infrastructure inspection and real estate: having a clear, accurate photograph or 3D model of your project area, complete with measurements, is instrumental for better decision-making.

Surveying

Surveyors are responsible for preparing a map or plan on a suitable scale to show the relative positions of the objects on the surface of the Earth. It includes boundaries, states, countries as well as different engineering features such as buildings, roads, railways, canals, etc.

Construction

Aerial maps can be deployed to regularly update clients in the construction industry on the progress of their projects and generate 3D models and digital twins of construction sites. Ultimately, drone mapping supports engineers in construction site monitoring and decision making before and during the start of construction work.

Inspection

Drone mapping is becoming fundamental for industrial inspection and utility management. Using drones for inspection is safer (no risk involved in dangerous or inaccessible areas), more reliable and faster, increasing quality and reducing costs.

Agriculture

Feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 would require raising overall food production by some 70 percent. Maps give farmers the power to quickly analyze their crops and access crucial data for smarter decisions. Instead of walking or driving through the whole crop, we could use a drone to identify the areas of trouble faster. This means that farmers can save time, increase crop yield, and ultimately, improve crop efficiency.

Urban Planning

Increasingly dense and complex urban areas require intensive planning. Hence, extensive and accurate data are required to be collected. Using drones, land departments of municipalities can collect large amounts of up-to-date data in a short period.

Emergency Management

When a disaster occurs, quick and accurate information is vital to respond effectively. For large areas, drone imagery can assist officials in determining the most damaged areas of a disaster (e.g. fire) and distributing resources for a timely response.

Real Estate

For those who are selling or buying large areas of lands, an up-to-date aerial map can be of considerable value in determining if the property is right for them. Considering that satellite images lack clarity, drone mapping can solve this issue by offering high-resolution details.

Forestry

Drone mapping can also be helpful for forestry monitoring. With detailed maps, it is possible to detect and track illegal logging, determine the tree count and overview the health of the forest.

Benefits of Drone Mapping

Figure 2: Benefits of Drone Mapping
Figure 2: Benefits of Drone Mapping

Reduce time and costs

Capturing data with a drone is much faster and cheaper compared to traditional manned aerial vehicles or satellite imagery.

Provide accurate and exhaustive data

Drones are capable of delivering high-quality images to meet various and specific requirements.

Map inaccessible areas

An aerial mapping drone can take off and fly almost anywhere. You are no longer limited by unreachable areas, unsafe zones or harsh terrain unsuitable for traditional measuring tools.

Data Protection and Drone Mapping

Especially in public areas, drone-based data acquisition will eventually collect personal data. People in the street or on balconies can be identified when using high-resolution imagery. License plates of parked or moving vehicles also reveal information that can be used to identify someone.

As we discussed extensively in this basic and advance articles about data protection, regulators have put significant efforts in creating a framework to protect personal data from misuse and breaches by companies and organizations. Europe was at the forefront of data privacy laws with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

GDPR is not an isolated case, since other countries have followed before and after it came into force: Canada (PIPEDA), South Korea (PIPA), Japan (APPI), California (CCPA) and Brazil (LGPD) just to name a few.

Objects like faces and license plates are the most fundamental and highly visible elements of our identity, thus they fall under the definition of personally identifiable information (PII) according to most of these data protection laws.

Most privacy laws around the world are consent-based, i.e. require explicit consent from the data subject. However, when you consider large imagery dataset, it could be time-consuming and costly to get explicit consent from hundreds of thousands, or even millions of individuals.

Since anonymized data are not considered personal information (Recital 26), anonymisation (e.g. image blurring) has became the standard procedure when collecting and processing data. That said, it is always recommended by data protection officers to implement these measures at the earliest stages of the product/service development, to ensure privacy right from the start (privacy by design).

However, anonymization is not only a regulatory requirement. Drone companies have to face concerns and critisism from citizens around the world. In fact, according to the latest report from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), 40% of surveyed people view drones negatively. Establishing anonymization as a standard approach is one of the most effective way to discourage negative reactions, as well as mitigate distrust toward this technology.


Figure 3: Increasing drone use raises privacy concerns ©CBS

Summary

  • Drones proved to be a revolutionary technological advancement, with a large range of commercial and consumer applications
  • Reducing costs, providing accurate and mapping inaccessible areas are the main benefits of using drones
  • Drones might collect personal data. People and vehicles can be identified when using high-resolution imagery.

About Celantur

Technology

Celantur offers fully-automated image and video anonymization solutions to help companies and organizations comply with privacy laws. Our technology detects several objects to be anonymized such as faces, bodies, license plates, vehicles and facades, and automatically blurs them:

✓ We anonymize all kinds of RGB-imagery: planar, panorama and video

✓ Our cloud platform is capable of anonymizing around 200.000 panoramas per day and 90.000 video frames per hour.

✓ Industry-grade anonymization quality: detection rate up to 99%

Our product is developed specifically for street-level and aerial imagery, and works well with various systems:

  • DJI
  • Wingtra
  • Parrot
  • Phase One
  • and many more

Data Protection Standards

Data protection is our core business. That's why, to operate as a data processor, we have robust measures in place to comply with the GDPR and other data protection laws:

  • Images are processed in GDPR-certified data centres in the European Union
  • External Data Protection Officer at service
  • All data and storage devices are encrypted
  • Annual Data Protection Audit
  • Up-to-date Documentation: Technical and Organizational Measures ("TOMs"), Records of Processing Activities and Data Processing Agreement
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