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From Drones to Map

S.D.P.J. Dampegama
Additional Surveyor General
Survey Department of Sri Lanka
Aerial View – Birds eye view
 The first known aerial photograph was taken in
1858 by French photographer and balloonist,
Gaspar Felix Tournachon, known as "Nadar". In
1855 he had patented the idea of using aerial
photographs in mapmaking and surveying, but it
took him 3 years of experimenting before he
successfully produced the very first aerial
photograph. It was a view of the French village of
Petit-Becetre taken from a tethered hot-air
balloon, 80 meters above the ground. This was no
mean feat, given the complexity of the early
collodion photographic process, which required a
complete darkroom to be carried in the basket of
the balloon!
Balloons for Partying and

Caricature of French photographer and balloonist, Gaspar Felix Tournachon,

known as "Nadar“ and his photograph over Paris taken in 1866.
Boston taken in 1860 by James Wallace Black
Any flying object which can be fitted
with Camera would do the needful
 Improvements in photographic technology
made it easier to take cameras into the skies.
Besides hot air balloons, early pioneers also
used kites, pigeons and rockets to carry
their cameras aloft.
 The English meteorologist E. D. Archibald
was among the first to take successful
photographs from kites in 1882.
Kites Pigeons and Planes
 In France, Arthur Batut took an aerial
photographs from a kite in 1889, in
Labruguiere, France. He suspended his still
rather large camera from a single kite, and
set an automatically timed exposure.
Arthur Batut took an aerial photographs
from a kite in 1889, in Labruguiere,
The First Disaster Mapping from
 In California, the devastation of San
Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire
was captured by George R. Lawrence, using
a camera attached to a string of kites high
above the city. His specially designed large-
format camera had a curved film plate to
provide panoramic images, which remain
some of the largest aerial exposures ever
taken. The camera, which was large and
extremely heavy, took as many as 17 kites
to lift it 2,000 feet into the air.
Devastation of San Francisco after
the 1906 earthquake and fire
Pigeons as platform for aerial
After all Aeroplanes came into
 The original purpose of military aviation
was reconnaissance. Initially, the pilot or
observer simply noted down what he could
see, and wrote up a report when he
landed. During early 1915, the British
followed the French in starting to
use cameras to photograph the German
front. In the earliest scout planes, an
observer leant over the side holding a
camera and took a photo.
 “Drone” is a broad term used to describe
any kind of unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV). As such, it can be used to describe
both UAVs that are remotely controlled and
those that are controlled by on board
computers. These types of aerial craft can
look either like a small airplane or like a
 “Quadcopter” is a more specific term used
to refer to a drone that is controlled by four
rotors. The rotors on the quadcopter each
consist of a motor and a propeller. In
addition, these UAVs are always controlled
remotely instead of being controlled by a
pre-programmed, onboard computer.
Quadcopters resemble helicopters, but
balance themselves by the movement of the
blades and not by the use of a tail rotor.
 During recent past drones were increasingly
employed for land surveying. The
expensive high resolution satellite images
were replaced by images captured by
drones. This new technology provides 3D
high resolution images suitable for
surveying to accuracy of 10 cm. and
provides orthophotos, contours etc.,
After taking Images What?
 The initial step after acquisition is aero
triangulation (AT). AT is the method of orienting
images to the proper geographic location (i.e.,
determining their position and rotations, in space).
In photogrammetric jobs that only require one or
two exposures, the GCPs are sufficient enough for
image orientation. Jobs that require hundreds or
thousands of images, however, would also require
hundreds or thousands of GCPs, which would not
be cost-effective. Therefore, AT bridges areas
without ground control and reduces the number of
ground control points needed.
Road map from Image to Map
Pixel Size
 Assume 16 Mpixel Camera with format
(4912 x 3264 pixels) image. The sensor size
is 23.4 x 15.6 mm.
 Pixel Size= 23.4/4912 = 0.0048 mm

 The photo resolution on the ground or

ground sample distance (GSD) = pixel size
x flight height (Above Ground Level) /
focal length
Ground Sample Distance (GSD)
 Flying at 200 m above the ground and the
camera's focal length is 15 mm.
 The image resolution GSD =

 0.0048 mm x 200 m / 15 mm = 6.4 cm per

 The photo footprint on the ground is
4912 x 6.4 cm = 314 m by 3264 x 6.4 cm
= 209 m.
Setting Up Shutter Speed
 Image blur - a good rule of thumb to use is
the camera shutter speed should be set at no
lower than the time to move one half of a
 If UAV speed is 50km/h (= 13.8 m/sec)

 pixel - 6.4 cm / 2 / 13 m/sec = 0.0025 sec or

(1/400 sec).
 typical shutter speeds of 1/1000 to 1/1600 to
make sure no blur is in the photos.
Recommended Camera Settings
 Photos should be taken looking
NADIR/straight down. usually software can
process off-nadir angles of 5-10 degrees.
Consider the use of a stabilized gimbal to
maintain nadir pointing if the UAV or
aircraft can accommodate.
 Camera set-up recommendations - Focal
length needs to be fixed for all photos, auto
ISO enabled and white balance disabled.
Vertical and Tilted Photos
Recommended Camera Settings
 Camera needs to be time-synced with flight
controller so that photos can be geo-tagged
accurately. Optionally, use a GPS enabled
camera for redundant geo-tags and ease of
time sync.
Road map from Image to Map
 A pair of overlapping images can be
relatively oriented to one another by
measuring the exact same ground object
(called a tie point) in each of the
corresponding images. Photogrammetric
software automatically generates the tie
points for the entire block of images during
the “align photos” process.
Tie Points
 One of the most complex and time-
consuming tasks in the photogrammetric
workflow is the extraction of corresponding
points in two or more overlapping images.
A tie point is a point that has ground
coordinates that are not known, but is
visually recognizable in the overlap area
between two or more images. The
corresponding image positions of tie points
appearing on the overlap areas of multiple
images is identified and measured.
Tie Points
Tie Point and GCP
Road map from Image to Map
 The GCPs complete the orientation of the
block through methods of space resection,
the process in which photo coordinates for
at least four control points are measured to
form a least squares solution for unknown
points. Photogrammetric software uses a
bundle-adjustment to orient all of the
images for a project. If GCPs are not
available, GPS logs can be used for geo-