3D Robotics

Useful applications of amateur aerial imaging data

I'm starting to see DIY aerial photography showing up more and more often in day to day life. Here are two examples from this week: The above image, taken from a tethered blimp, is from this BoingBoing report: "Activist MIT cartographers aid Peruvian squatters": "This MIT Media Lab project worked with activists on Friday to make maps with a community of Shipibo who've taken up residence on the bank of the river Rimac in downtown Lima - a city of 11 million people. Using only helium balloons and a cheap camera, the GrassrootsMapping.org team, part of the Center for Future Civic Media, took pictures of the extralegal settlement from ~500 feet up. The images were rectified and the resulting map may help the Shipibo in their legal battle to gain deeds to the land. GrassrootsMapping.org is a project which supports communities in cartographic dispute by creating low-cost mapping tools." Meanwhile, this guy got his kite photos actually into the official Google Earth/Maps database, which is impressive indeed:

Needless to say, a UAV could have done either of these. The applications of "anytime, anywhere access to sky" are limitless!
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  • 3D Robotics
    Jeffrey, welcome and thanks for the links!
  • crap, somehow pressed enter. I encourage you ... to join the mailing list:

  • Hi guys, i'm the 'mit cartographer'... you have a fantastic site here; we're looking to use a UAV in West Virginia to document mountaintop mining; just gathering resources from this site for our setup:


    and just ordered an EasyStar kit yesterday. As our contacts in WV post more information, we'd love to have advice and such from you folks, since you're obviously experts in this.

    A couple other things - we're hoping to build our own UAV from eco composites... more on this soon; but the plans will be online.

    And, you guys are asking about a georeferencing tool; I hope to post more soon but we're currently working on a web-based tool to do this as part of the Cartagen map framework. This will be part of GrassrootsMapping.org and will be open-source: http://github.com/jywarren/cartagen

    Hopefully this will come together in the next month or so.

    If you are making maps already, or are interested, I encourage you to
  • It doesn't do georeferencing (which is the hardest part of aerial mapping), only pure stitching.
  • I recently came across some open source photo stitching software that might be of interest here. I was actually looking for something to make equirectangular panoramas of my flying field for the RealFlight R/C flight simulator. I have only scratched the surface, but this appears to be a very sophisticated piece of software, way beyond my photo editing knowledge but easy enough to use.

    Hugin - Panorama Photo Stitcher
    Hugin - Panorama photo stitcher
  • hello all, Pict'Earth in the US was all about software and hardware tools for aerial imagery. Today Pict'Earth is not active in the US, pictearth.com for Europe, and I have moved on to gonzoearth.com. The focus is now services for acquiring and processing aerial image maps.

    I processed the kite imagery from above, great for Frank Taylor from the geblog to get images from this kite setup that he just received with one of his sponsors. I had to let him know that it took me a few failures with the RC plane to get my first aerial images. He is on this great trip around the globe in his catamaran right now, and you can read about it on his site. We just did another small kite image map:

    To bring the discussion back to drones, I think "anytime, anywhere access to sky" is coming fast. While it does take a person to create seamless image mosaic that minimizes distortion and makes judgments about how to represent things for for the final map, the viewing of raw data is increasingly powerful.
    If you take images and gps data and plot it out with software in real time it is entirely useful as far as communicating what the site and situation of a place is as a map would. Image sensors, computer processing, and network bandwidth will all contribute to our future world on live.
  • Gary
    Absolutely correct, and if someone is just starting out plan on double or triple the time until you you get things figured out, which can take as long as six month or more.
  • Moderator
    We work on a 3 to 1 ratio, one day shooting three days fiddling if you don't add that into the cost, you've had it!
  • Condor

    "3 days stitching and tweaking images..." Welcome to the world of "aerial photography". I do this kind of work for a living and, yes, its and hour of actual photography then several days on the computer. Only about 5% of my time is spent actually doing the photography. Then you have the problem as I had last week where I had a rush job and right before I was ready to write the CD the server went down, we've spent three days to get it back and this morning I get the "privilege" of reinstalling all the programs now and if I'm lucky I can write the CD tomorrow morning, 5 days later.

    Just living the Dream
  • Gary will get back to you on that as we are in the process of setting up such a service with top notch software that we are using and want to maximise its usage. PM with an idea of the type of data you are producing and output you require.

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