What is Drone Mapping Used For? Full guide (2022)

Technical insights, news, videos
Oct 8, 2021

The speed at which drones can cover large areas and provide high-resolution imagery has made them a valuable asset for industries such as forestry, agriculture, mining, construction, oil and gas exploration among others. The entire drone industry is estimated to be worth $100 billion, according to Goldman Sachs, due to rising business and government demand for drones.

Drone mapping is a technique that uses these aerial vehicles to create detailed drone 3d mapping of an area. It is used by geologists and archeologists to survey the land or for military purposes.

Reference: Department of Sociology and College of Sciences GIS Cluster, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816, USA

Drone mapping has also become a popular technique because it can be done relatively cheaply and quickly. It can help both in-house and third-party companies to generate 3D maps quickly and easily without the need for any additional resources.

There are multiple benefits of using drone mapping in construction, surveying, ecotourism, and conflict prevention among others.

Drone mapping has also become a useful tool to collect geospatial data in remote areas, especially when it comes to construction or infrastructure.

Drone photography can be used in the following ways:

  1. Photogrammetry – drone-based mapmaking using images taken with a camera and 3D software from the ground.
  2. Geospatial modeling – drawing digital terrain models from airborne images of real-world locations.
  3. Orthophotos – generating a map from CGI renderings made by drones at scale with photogrammetric techniques.
  4. Aerial photography – taking high-resolution photographs of sites for different purposes such as construction plans or land surveying

SLAM software

SLAM is a photogrammetry technique that can be used for 3D reconstruction of scenes.

SLAM works with photos taken from different points of view to build up a 3D model by assembling multiple 2D images. It is the most commonly used photogrammetry technique in the industry.

In SLAM, there are three main components:

  • The camera: this takes photos with different exposures and resolutions to obtain data about lighting and depth.
  • The structure: this is set up at a fixed point that can be found in the scene and will move with the camera as it moves around.
  • The software: this is used to create an “elastic” digital surface so that it can adapt to any changes in lighting and depth.

Reference: Examples drone mapping by Department of Sociology and College of Sciences GIS Cluster, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816, USA

Elastic Fusion

Elastic Fusion uses photogrammetry to accurately capture high-resolution 3D data in the field. It captures a full 360 degree surround view in real-time with 2 MP resolution and has 15 MP resolution on the ground as well as in flight. It is also compatible with most devices including drones, smartphones, and tablets

Reference: ElasticFusion: Dense SLAM Without A Pose Graph T. Whelan, S. Leutenegger, R. F. Salas-Moreno, B. Glocker and A. J. Davison. Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), Rome, Italy

Structure from Motion

Structure from Motion uses photogrammetry to gather high-resolution 3D data for 3D printing purposes. They offer packages that come with both software.

Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) is a critical driver for the future of robotics. It allows a device to map its surroundings while placing itself in it.

In the industrial environment, SLAM software facilitates the move from Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

Reference: Shree Nayar from the Computer Science Department, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Columbia

How does SLAM work?

Most visual SLAM systems triangulate set points’ 3D location by monitoring them over successive camera frames, while also using this information to estimate camera posture.

What is SLAM used for?

SLAM is a widely used approach for assisting robots and drones in mapping and navigating their surroundings. Robots, like the rest of us, require the assistance of maps to move about.

Drone mapping across industries


The use cases of drone mapping in Forestry are wide and varied; it can help with topographic surveys, utility surveys, process modeling, and residential data. Drone surveying software has been used for forestry to create detailed maps of forested areas as well as wildlife management plans that will help manage threatened or endangered animal species.

Reference:A digital scan of the crown of a giant sequoia from odd Dawson and Parrot

Drone Multispectral Imaging

A drone equipped with multispectral imaging can be used to acquire continuous images in Forestry in the visible, infrared, or near-infrared spectrum. They can also capture imagery in the radar or microwave bands. The images captured by these drones can capture information such as height, tree canopy cover, vegetation density, and health.

Inspections and Monitoring

Drones are also used for inspections because they can survey areas inaccessible by foot, such as forested areas with dense vegetation. At the same time, drones are helpful for monitoring endangered species populations because they let us see the entire population of animals at once instead of surveying them one by one.

Mining and aggregates

Traditionally, companies use a range of remote sensing technologies such as satellite imagery and digital aerial photos to collect their mining-related information. But these solutions are expensive and require time to process the gathered information.

Drones provide a cheaper alternative as they are easier to deploy in large-scale areas with high-resolution images. With the help of drones, you can also get immediate feedback on any changes or updates in the environment which makes drone mapping an ideal solution for mining businesses

Drone mapping services provide better inventory and financial data for the mining business compared to older methods. The Mining and Aggregates industry is a fast-moving sector and is also one of the most challenging industries to monitor. because it involves a lot of items that are scattered and not easy or impossible to track.

Reference:Image from a 3D Photogrammetric model of a stope (Photo credit: Flyability)

Using drones, the industry can now quickly identify all the available materials and how much they are worth, as well as accurately measure stockpile quantities. Photogrammetry technology can quickly map out the physical location on any given day in order to easily locate materials or stockpiles.

With drone mapping, companies can now get a better and more accurate understanding of the area that they are drilling or blasting. They can see how the water and sediment flow before and after the site is impacted.

This technology helps companies to reduce risks and improve results in their operations while minimizing environmental factors.

Drones are also useful in measuring ground deformation caused by blasting at coal mines to assess if there is a significant movement that would affect nearby buildings or infrastructure.

What are “Aggregates”?

Aggregates are the materials that are used in construction, road building, landscaping, and more. Mining uses aggregates for its surface mining where it uses a combination of drilling techniques and blasting to remove material from the earth without digging deep into the earth.

Construction and infrastructure

Drone mapping is becoming increasingly popular in the construction and infrastructure sector as it provides a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional surveying methods. It helps to create digital blueprints of the site that can be used for future planning or as a reference point for repairs.

A contractor, an engineering firm, an earthmoving firm, and a number of subcontractors are always present on a construction site to do specialized tasks. For building site managers, this is where drones have a significant edge. On-demand and within a few hours, drones give a full view of the building site.

Drone mapping in construction and infrastructure can save money and time for a number of reasons. For example, it can save time on data collection in areas that are difficult to access, reduce costs by limiting the need for humans to collect data and provide more accurate modeling.

The rise of drone mapping and digital technologies like photogrammetry has made it easier for cities to map out their infrastructure In doing so, drone mapping has become an important part of the modern urban planning process.


Drones can assist farmers in maximizing the use of inputs (seed, fertilizers, and water), responding more quickly to threats (weeds, pests, and fungi), reducing crop scouting time (validating treatment/actions taken), improving variable-rate prescriptions in real-time, and estimating yield from a field.

Drone mapping in Agriculture also helps you understand the state of your crops and gives you insights into how much you might have to change your farming style for your crops to yield better results. When a farmer is deciding to plant a specific crop, they must decide which area is ideal for that crop. This decision can be made easier when someone can provide data about the optimal areas.

Drones are being used more and more in the agricultural industry as they provide an efficient way of gathering this information.

Reference:An example of a colorized plant health map made using DroneDeploy

Real Estate & Ranching

Drone mapping is becoming more and more popular in the real estate industry for its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. For instance, most drone mapping services are sold per square foot instead of by acreage, meaning that less time and resources are needed to generate the same level of accuracy.

Drone mapping can help in so many ways such as assisting in the creation of digital maps, modeling the construction site for future projects, checking the quality of ground before laying foundations, etc.,

Capturing a potential buyer’s attention during the first few seconds of viewing a home is essential in real estate. One approach to accomplish this is to present prospective consumers with a stunning, up-to-date 3D recreation of the homes and their environs.

And we can achieve this with Dioram’s SLAM software and photogrammetry.

It offers data-driven solutions for analyzing real estate, ranching, construction, and archaeology. SLAM combines both the construction of a 3D model with photography to make it easy for analysis. Drone mapping also allows the company to identify land parcels in real-time which can be sold or leased on an as-needed basis.

This technology is an important step in increasing accuracy and speed during mapping processes which will help real estate and ranching businesses grow their operations more efficiently.

Accident Reconstruction

The time it takes to document crash investigation data has been lowered from 2-3 hours to only 15-20 minutes thanks to drone mapping in the accident reconstruction business.

This means:

  • Roads are being reopened as quickly as possible.
  • Travelers’ output has increased.
  • Extended traffic delays resulted in lower fuel use.
  • Stopped traffic resulted in fewer secondary collisions.
  • Officer safety has improved, as has the demand on their time.

Drones allow for more accurate data collection, which can then be used as evidence in court cases or as part of an investigation into the causes behind an accident.

Powerline & Cell Tower Inspections

As the demand for higher-resolution visual inspections than ground-based inspections has increased, there has been greater interest in using drones for power line inspections and cell tower inspections.

When drones are applied in these types of inspection, they can drastically increase the efficiency and reliability of the process. Inspections no longer have to take place on foot. Drone mapping directly leads to faster turnaround time and less hassle for both companies involved in the process as well as their customers.

Companies that will benefit from drone mapping are public utilities, telecommunications companies, power-grid operators, and energy providers. Autonomous commercial drones are revolutionizing the way cell tower businesses audit and inspect wireless infrastructure by enabling the capture of high-resolution images and video of tower structures and equipment in a fast, repeatable, and safe manner.

While it’s not required, it might be beneficial to use a drone with an infrared camera to capture thermal imagery to detect any hot areas of the structure that might indicate damage.

Reference:Thermal inspection from Soaring Eagle Technonologies, Houston

Insurance & Claims Adjustment

Insurance adjusters use drones to map the areas to identify and assess damages after a natural disaster or an accident. Using photogrammetry, the damage is captured in high-resolution images and it can be compared to before and after.

Drones are becoming an increasingly popular tool for surveying risky areas where humans aren’t allowed into. They are also used by insurance adjusters to survey damages in case of a natural disaster or claim adjustment. Additionally, the use of drones in insurance claim assessment can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on the assessment process. When a drone-generated map is taken into account, it will take weeks off of the time spent on damage assessments and claims adjustments.

Drones are important for insurance adjusters when they want to quickly assess damages in an event or property after a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Sandy. Additionally, insurance companies are using technology like drones to explore the risk in areas they cover for their policies and adjust claims accordingly.

A drone mapping service provider, as well as an insurance company that uses this technology, can create a map of a property from a drone flight that can be used for data collection purposes.

Once the map has been created from the drone’s perspective it can then be compared with maps and satellite images taken by other means to ensure accuracy. The maps created using drones are also beneficial for surveying purposes.

Solar Inspections

Solar Inspections are a crucial part of the solar production process. The process starts with an initial inspection, then continues to regular inspections. It’s a great way to see where panels are placed as well as providing feedback on their placement. The use of drones in the field makes it easier for companies to identify if there are any regulatory issues or safety concerns related to their solar installation in the future.

Drones can also be used to help find areas that might be more beneficial for solar panel installations by using drone mapping technology and satellite images. This is especially helpful in areas that may not have access to humans or resources such as farms, undeveloped land, ski slopes, etc.

Drones in this industry can also:

  • Produce precise 3D models for site design and energy calculations.
  • Give accurate roof measuring reports to improve worker safety by minimizing time spent on rooftops.
  • Use APIs to deliver roof reports to design teams automatically.

Key Mapping Terminology

UAV mapping

The close-range mapping may be done with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

3D Volumetric Analysis

Calculation of a substance’s concentration by volume based on 3D mapping of areas of interest.


The client’s area of interest. The area that they want to be mapped.

As-Built vs. As-Planned

A retrospective model that compares the baseline, or as-planned, construction timetable to the as-built schedule, or a timeline that represents progress over time.

Cut and Fill

The procedure of building a railway, road, or canal in which the amount of material from cuttings nearly equals the amount of fill needed to build neighboring embankments, thereby reducing construction work.

Digital Surface Model (DSM)

The terrain elevation data was used to build a computer replica of the ground surface.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The United States’ national aviation authority. It is a division of the United States Department of Transportation that governs and controls all elements of civil aviation in the United States.

Flight Plan

Within the region of interest, a precise route that the drone will fly.

Ground Control Point (GCP)

To geo-reference data, points on the earth’s surface with known locations are utilized. These markings may be seen in photos taken by drones and are used to more precisely identify a place.

Orthomosaic Overlay

A final image/map made out of a number of smaller pictures of a specific region of interest. To create the required data, this map can be coupled with other “views.”


Photogrammetry describes the process of using photos or video from different angles and compiling them into a digital 3D model.

This technique is mainly used in the field of architecture but is also used in other industries including drone mapping. This helps with building simulations, architectural design, and virtual displays.

What is an example of photogrammetry?

Extraction of three-dimensional measurements from two-dimensional data (i.e. pictures) is one example; for example, if the scale of the image is known, the distance between two points on a plane parallel to the photographic image plane may be calculated by measuring their distance on the image.

Reference:Orthomosaic produced with photogrammetry by DJI Enterprise

What are the principles of photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is based on the idea of triangulation. So-called “lines of sight” may be constructed from each camera to places on the object by capturing photos from at least two distinct locations.

How much does photogrammetry cost?

A high-end photogrammetry system will set you back between $US 20,000 and $US 30,000, whereas manned LIDAR sensors would cost approximately $US 100,000.

On its own, lightweight drone LIDAR payloads cost between $US 65,000 and $100,000.


Drone mapping is a technique that combines photography and the use of 3D models to create large-scale 3D maps. It gives the user a bird’s eye view of a given area.

Data collection is an important aspect of drone mapping. The process starts with data acquisition on a large scale, followed by geo-referencing and finally creating maps from those data. Data sets are typically acquired through photogrammetry, which provides precise measurements to be used in digital modeling.

With this data, photogrammetric modeling software can be used to generate accurate three-dimensional models in real-time as well as create plans for different projects.

These projects can include Forestry, Mining and aggregates, Construction and infrastructure, Agriculture, Real Estate & Ranching, Accident Reconstruction, Powerline & Cell Tower Inspections, Insurance & Claims Adjustment, Solar Inspections, and more.

Drop us a line today at Dioram and let’s chat about how we help you on your next drone mapping project.

Dron Mapping and Dioram

Any SLAM algorithm can work in two modes − Mapping mode and localization mode. Sometimes we do not have the task of getting an accurate 6DoF pose and trajectory, but we need to get a quality map. This map can be a denser point cloud than is needed in the classic localization mode, and based on this cloud we can create 3D models or do meshing.

At Dioram, we have developed one of the most advanced SLAM algorithms that can be used not only for positioning a robot or an autonomous car, but also for mapping tasks. This algorithm works with affordable and widely available visual cameras, and we can use inexpensive lidars to improve accuracy even more.

These SLAM maps can be used on their own, or they can be the object of further analysis and processing – for example, to highlight the necessary semantic objects (crops, poles, markings, etc), their coordinates or sizes.

Thanks to the highest level of Dioram algorithms, our maps are more accurate than others, and also require less powerful hardware and less expensive sensors.
In the end, the Dioram team has many related competencies – a lot of developments in the fields of Structure-from-Motion algorithms, photogrammetry, Elastic Fusion and others. We can use our existing products like Dioram SLAM One or develop a custom solution that best solves a specific customer problem.
p.s. We are not limited to drones in mapping tasks! Autonomous mobile robots, cars or hand-held sensors can all serve the purpose of mapping or obtaining accurate 3D reconstruction.