Mapping with Ardupilot

I've been playing with ArduPlane for quite a while and have finally got to the point where I can make it do something useful. I've been inspired by others on this site to use it for aerial photography to make 3D maps and the like.


I have an ST Models Discovery as the airframe (awesome platform for Arduplane by the way) and have made my own camera mount out of plywood for the bottom. It has one servo for roll stabilisation using CHAN 8 on the autopilot to keep the camera pointing down. It's basic but works pretty well (see pics)



Last weekend I flew over a small island on the river near my house. I managed to get 155 photos in around 10 mins and produce quite a reasonable 3d surface using hypr3d. I gotta say that these guys rock with great personal service and it's all free! They did struggle a bit with that many photos, but you can see the result below


3D Rotatable version

I'm not in the same league as some of the other makers of aerial maps on this site, and have no idea of the accuracy of this map, but was pretty happy with the early results and would like to work on this more to get better results.


my setup is

Airframe - ST Models Discovery Trainer with stock motor and 30A ESC

Arduplane 2.24 with Magnetometer, airspeed kit and xbee - a few lines of code added to output roll stabilisation

Home made camera mount with roll stabiliser

Canon IXUS 50 camera 5MP (this is a very light P&S camera) running CHDK

Spektrum DX 7 2.4GHz tx/rx

2200 mAh 3s motor battery + 1000 mAh 2s battery to power all other electronics via a UBEC (the stock BEC is too small)


I used Mark Willis's aerial coverage spreadsheet to calculate the waypoints before launch and it seemed to produce a good result.You can see the waypoint in the following screenshot








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  • simply great! if its only possible if this could be included as an out of the box function with the gcs/planner :) ]



  • I have to concur on the airframe, flying the same here :-)

    James, pry off the cowl, remove the weights stuck therein, and you can use a bigger battery !

  • @Nick - I will try to make it to a PerthUAV meeting. Good to see there are quite a few others doing this locally.

    @Micheal - Nice work on the camera dialog. How will you choose the coverage area on screen?

    @Tom, thanks for the feedback on your service. As far as aerial mapping goes, you would probably need to add a few things to make it really useful for that kind of work. There are high-end, expensive services like Pix4D already in this space, but there is always room for more.


    You would need to add things like an estimation of accuracy, orthorectification and use of control points to scale the image to real world coordinates. You would also need to scale up to deal with several hundred images at once. If you can get all of that to work you could probably charge in the order of a few thousand dollars for an aerial survey result.


    There is also emerging demand for data fusion, combining results of photogrammetry with LIDAR scans and other data sources to improve accuracy.


    A typical mining company here in Western Australia would routinely (quarterly) get aerial flyovers of their mines by a full sized Cessna. The accuracy for this kind of work needs to be ~5-10cm so a combination of LIDAR, photos and control points is used. A lot of this data is used for estimating stockpile volumes, mining limits and the like so needs to be accurate.


    I know nothing about 3D printing, so that may be a better choice that doesn't require such complexity.


    I hope you do well.

  • Moderator

    Top question, Michael, it won't well for me when I am in Africa!

  • Developer

    Tom, do you plan on offering and offline version?

  • Developer


    I will be adding this screen to the next planner version (might be a bit away). its all working and should provide some numbers to use in the "grid" option of the planner.

  • Moderator

    I just chucked some pictures I had hanging around to see how this service compared to photosynth and I am impressed.

    Heres the model


    and in Photosynth



    It only used half the images I added but then I did'nt select them in any way. I have another little project that I would like to try next in hypr3D before trying the 15km of river that I have images of!


  • DIYDroner Jeff Taylor just sent me a thoughtful note about Hypr3D.  His questions were really good ones so I'm re-posting them here in case there are others who are interested.  Thanks again to Jeff for getting in touch!

        "How many images should be used for a reconstruction?"  Generally speaking, 30 images is sufficient for a good model.  If you're covering a VERY large area then you may want as many as 75, but this is unusual.  Once you have enough overlap for each point on the ground to be visible in 4-5 images, then adding more images doesn't help the reconstruction.  Our software will still try to incorporate the extra images, but the only effect is that you'll have to wait (much) longer for your model to be ready.

        "Does Hypr3D work with wide-angle cameras like the GoPro?" Yes, we have built a model or two with a GoPro camera.  That said, the distortion caused by the wide-angle inexpensive lenses doesn't contribute to a strong reconstruction.  A quality point-and-shoot (even a small one like James' Canon IXUS 50), is generally a better choice.  DSLRs are the nuclear solution, but are overkill in many cases.

        "Why is this service free?"  Well, that's a good question.  It's free for now because we're just getting started and we love seeing what people do with the technology.  But hosting, development and processing are expensive, and get progressively more so as new users join.  We're trying to understand what the best avenues are for generating sustainable revenue while allowing the most people access to this fun technology.  Maybe in the beginning this means advertising revenue.  Maybe it means pay-for-3D-printing.  We're not sure but we're working on it.  We welcome with open arms your thoughts and suggestions!


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  • Martin,

    CHDK is very easy to set up a trigger with a voltage pulse on the cameras USB.  Just hook this into your APM relay.

  • Good job, James! Thanks for sharing!

    I did the same with my plane, camera and APM this summer. It's great!

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