3D Robotics


Both Mission Planner and DroidPlanner have recently added features for simplifying aerial survey. These tools help take the guesswork out of mission planning with cameras onboard, taking pictures to be stitched into a mosaic. Rather than manually specifying a grid flight pattern, you can instead specify you camera, desired operational altitude, and triggering method. The survey tool takes care of the rest, and allows you to see the expected coverage as well as estimates of ground resolution, required number of pictures, and other statistics.


Survey is completely airframe independent and works for both copter and plane. By framing the mission planning problem in terms of aircraft operation and desired result, rather than the means to that result, planning is vastly simplified, repeatable, and easy to do in the field. 

Fly the camera, not the plane!

The current version of DroidPlanner now supports the following features in Survey:

  • Simple user interface
  • Multiple supported cameras
  • Real-time visualization of the flight plan
  • Projected camera footprint visualization
  • Calculated statistics, such as coverage area and mission length


The current version of Mission Planner now supports the following features in Survey:

  • Both simple and advanced user interfaces
  • Multiple supported cameras and custom camera definition
  • Automatic camera parameter identification by photo upload
  • Real-time visualization of the flight plan
  • Projected camera footprint visualization
  • Calculated statistics, such as coverage area and mission length
  • Trigger type selection and auto population of the distance-based trigger, CAM_TRIGG_DIST


This is the first of a series of posts explaining the end-to-end process of aerial survey, from planning to stitching.  The wiki will be updated with tutorials on 1) mission planning, 2) aircraft setup and operation, 3) camera control and 4) post-processing. And new features are always being added, so stay tuned!




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  • This is great and thx for posting!

    I found one a small problem. If using Custom maps in MP Flight Plan window, GridUI window can't find those map tiles? After in-out zooming it finds Google satellite, but not custom tiles....

    Regards Jani

  • 3D Robotics

    Also check out the great post Jeff did, right below this one, on how to set up APM/CHDK for remote camera triggering via digital out on the APM.  You can also get some information on how to configure your camera settings from this wiki entry.

  • 3D Robotics

    The GPS trigger is really the way to go, both for the waypoint limitation, and because it produced better results in the end.

    @Gary: One of the really nice features of the Survey tool is that you can start to plan your missions to be more efficient by changing the configuration and directly seeing the impact on the number of pictures, coverage, etc.  Change the camera from portrait to landscape, for example--this makes the mission shorter because your grid lines can be spaced further apart.

  • WOW!  Can't wait to try this out.  I'm just about ready to try this stuff.

  • Brilliant Arthur,

    Look forward to putting it through it paces in the next few weeks!

    Regards, Greg

  • Developer

    @ Greg

    Yes there is that limit.

    But with 140 waypoints you can do 70 strips of photos, and that's a big mission. Obs: if you use the camera trigger via distance you don't need the inner waypoints,

  • Well done!

    Can I just ask if several hundred photos can be scheduled for the APM? I've seen somewhere that there was a limit of about 140 waypoints and therefore photos.

  • Very nice!!! I was planning to try mapping next season. Now it will be easier:) Thank you for your work!

  • Moderator

    Just had a 4km flight around my spot with my QU4D just because I could. Very interested to see the distance changing as I rotated the grid considerable reductions in mission time with playing.

  • WOW, ask and ye shall receive.

    Good to see everybody on the same page here. This is the beauty of open source!

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