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Microdrones and ESRI creating UAV and GIS synergy

STRONGER TOGETHER: Microdrones and Esri Collaborate to Show the Combined Power of UAV and GIS

Business Geomatics recently published an article that explores how Microdrones and global GIS vendor Esri demonstrate the synergies that are to be found in the close integration of GIS and UAV. Click here to view the German article online.  For English speakers, Microdrones has provided a translation below.


As seen in Business Geomatics June 3, 2019

Two industry leaders join forces to show end users how they can easily and accurately  integrate drone-collected data for geospatial applications involving GIS — and the potential of incorporating artificial intelligence into these processes.

Data collection by drone: The high quality of the data will then be used, among other things, for the GIS analysis.

Since the dawn of geographic information systems in the late 1960s, the goal of GIS has always been to acquire high-quality, up-to-date, usable aerial photos. But, up until a few years ago, this was difficult to achieve.

Surveyors depended on expensive traditional aircraft to procure imagery. Because of the high associated costs, flyover surveys were completed infrequently, just once every few years. As a result, data was almost always outdated. And, because the technology was less powerful, resolution below 10 centimeters was rarely achieved.

Over the past decade, drones and photogrammetry have revolutionized this process. It is now possible to create up-to-date orthoimages of smaller areas as well as 3D images of infrastructure and facilities. These developments allow surveyors, engineers, and construction professionals to solve key data collection problems, opening up a world of possibilities for applications in their fields.

However, the advanced technology leads to another challenge to overcome: practitioners now have ample raw data, but to be able to use it efficiently and effectively for their applications, they need to seamlessly integrate it into their GIS workflows. Thankfully, two geospatial technology leaders have come together to help end users solve this problem.

Microdrones and Esri to co-host webinars

Surveying drone manufacturer Microdrones and global GIS leader Esri have announced they will collaborate to develop and host joint webinars that will demonstrate the synergies that exist in the close integration of GIS and UAV.

While there are no plans to collaborate on software development or sales and their partnership is not exclusive, both companies do plan to continue working together to provide the information end users need to make their production workflows more efficient, from data acquisition to end use.

"We are thrilled with the capabilities of Microdrones solutions and know how much our customers need the high-precision data they provide," said Christoph Kany, Account Manager at Esri Germany. After the preliminary webinars are conducted, Microdrones and Esri plan to continue their relationship and develop additional joint education projects for end users.

"Interest in using this new technology is very high in fields like construction, insurance, security, agriculture, forestry, and environmental engineering. Our goal is to provide these end users with the information they need to understand what they could accomplish and get started,” said Kany

Today, UAV are already a basic part of many of these professionals’ processes. Kany feels that the importance of drones is going to become even greater as technology develops.

Microdrones representatives tell us that their goal in hosting the webinars is to help customers who use their drones for surveying to know how they can optimize the data processing part of the workflow.

Making it simple with Drone2Map and Pix4D

A few years ago, Microdrones strategically positioned itself as a provider of complete UAV solutions for surveying and mapping applications, targeting geospatial markets worldwide. Through their collaboration with Esri, Microdrones hopes to show GIS users the powerful potential of using UAV with GIS.

As a GIS provider, Esri has long been focused on developments in the UAV industry, knowing the technology’s capabilities to provide large amounts of highly accurate data. In 2016, Esri launched Drone2Map, a product designed specifically to process drone data.

Drone2Map is part of the Esri Geospatial Cloud. The tool integrates the data into various applications and portals in the context of semi-automated workflows. The product also features Pix4D, an image processing engine that allows users to analyze aerial images and convert them into 2D and 3D maps.

What’s special about the Esri platform is that data workflows are conceived multi-dimensionally. As the raw data is collected (usually images or laser scanning data) it undergoes customized preparation for as many final applications as possible.

Providing the tools for easy editing and analysis

Developed for experts, Drone2Map offers a variety of advanced editing tools. The process starts with a rapid analysis to pre-screen the drone data. From there, users can utilize mapping applications for 2D data and create 3D products. Drone2Map also includes specialized tools for inspection professionals, allowing them to convert collected imagery into 3D objects visualized from various perspectives.

Drone2Map provides templates for use in every step of the process and also supports the definition of ground control points (GCP), allowing users to achieve even greater accuracy. For highly specific analytical needs, the data is passed on to ArcGIS Pro, Esri's expert GIS tool.

Real-world examples

As an example of real-world use, Christoph Kany mentioned how these tools can assist in planning the construction of a road bridge. He explained how users can easily determine whether construction will impact nearby public bicycle paths. “To do this, the user simply loads the relevant data into his map from the comprehensive services and data offered by ArcGIS Online,” said Kany. From there, they are able to easily choose how the bike paths should be visualized and will immediately know whether they intersect with construction.

Another example he gave for application of these tools is excavation calculation, determined from the analysis of 3D point clouds. The geospatial expert is able to achieve more reliable data and results — that they can then pass on to the contractor who will benefit from more accurate cost predictions and increased efficiency.

"For us as a solution provider, it is also impressive to see how many GIS applications have concrete benefits for the entire organization," said Mirjam Bäeumer, Marketing Manager Europe at Microdrones.

What’s next? Artificial intelligence enters the geospatial scene

“GeoAI” is already a buzzword that is creating intense excitement across industries and around the world. Esri is leading the development of technology that harnesses the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning for use in geospatial applications involving drone-collected data.

Among other applications, the company is interested in using Al systems for GIS analyses and then for integrating the results into workflows. Kany gives the example of how 3D city models could be instantly updated when drone data is analyzed with AI and changes on the ground are identified. He said Al will also automatically assign individual measuring points to objects or buildings.

“Al is particularly effective at pattern recognition. With drone data and AI, the number of people at large events could be instantly estimated, cracks in the surface of a runway can be detected, or individual trees in the canopy can be identified,” Kany explains.

When UAV, GIS, and AI converge, the potential is endless.

If you would like to learn more about combining Microdrones integrated solutions into your workflow, click here to make an appointment today.