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San Francisco — DroneDeploy, a cloud software platform for commercial drones, launched a self-serve workflow to make producing maps and 3D models with survey-grade accuracy using ground control points (GCPs). Using the new workflow, professionals in construction, surveying, and aggregates can achieve centimeter-level accuracy required to take reliable measurements, monitor change over time, and compare site conditions to design plans, the company said.

“We’re always looking for ways to save our customers time and energy so they can focus on what is important to their business,” said Dr. Nicholas Pilkinton, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at DroneDeploy. “Assisting our users in tying in ground control data will save them time and make the process of generating maps with ground truth simple and faster than ever before. We’re excited to take this first step toward making survey grade accuracy achievable on any map, for any user.”

Many common uses of drone maps, like viewing project progress, making basic measurements, and noting problem spots don’t require a high degree of accuracy. However, accuracy becomes vital when producing survey-grade maps or comparing drone maps and 3D models to each other. Construction project managers must compare site maps over time to detect changes, and architects visualize design plans in building information modeling (BIM) software on top of a drone-generated 3D model of actual site conditions. To effectively compare maps and 3D models to each other, they have to be precise — the data needs to line up perfectly.

“Because we are analyzing quantifiable work related to dollars, we need highly accurate maps,” said Michael Lambert, a Virtual Design and Construction Manager at Chasco Constructors, a progressive general contractor in central Texas specializing in civil earthwork, concrete, underground utilities and construction management of buildings.

Processing a drone map with GCPs — ground truth data — solves this problem. GCPs are large visible targets spaced throughout the mapped area with precise known locations typically measured with highly-accurate ground-based GPS equipment. GCP processing then ties the precise locations to the targets visible in the aerial images and correctly aligns the map.

Including GCPs has long been the most complex and time-consuming part of processing accurate drone maps. Users would either need to overcome the steep learning curve of traditional GCP processing or pay high per-map fees for manual processing solutions.

Now, instead of waiting hours for initial structure from motion processing, DroneDeploy users can tie ground control data into a map using a workflow that takes 20 minutes or less with a user interface that is intuitive and largely automated. The workflow also makes accurate map processing in projected coordinate systems accessible to users with limited geographic information systems (GIS) knowledge. Simple prompts help these users understand what they need to do to deliver a map in the right spatial reference system.

“The self-serve GCP processing tool allows us to turn around mission data in a much more timely manner,” said Lambert. “Part of the speed increase comes from the fact that we know what our targets look like and where they are so it is much easier for us to locate than someone that may not be familiar with our site. All in all, DroneDeploy has been an amazing partner and a benefit to our Drone Program.”

Upload and tag GCPs

The new self-serve GCP workflow in DroneDeploy makes uploading and tagging GCPs simple for any user, no matter their level of expertise, the company said. When uploading images from the mapping flight, the user can specify the correct spatial reference system and upload a spreadsheet with the GCP coordinates. Then, 15 minutes later, the user can use the self-serve GCP tool to review photos of GCP targets and tag the center in each photo.

Self-serve GCP processing is available for $49 per map to users on the Business plan of DroneDeploy and an unlimited GCP package is available for our Enterprise customers.

To learn more, visit www.dronedeploy.com and join the conversation on Twitter: @DroneDeploy.

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