About this project
Let your drone do drone things.
Drones Made Easy is the creator of Maps Made Easy, a new aerial imagery creation, hosting and management web application. This service allows users to easily upload raw aerial imagery for processing into high quality stitched aerial imagery or into geo-referenced maps suitable for use in GIS applications.
We have been working with aerial photography, photogrammetry and mapping for years and have always marveled at how expensive the process can be. With recent improvements in camera and consumer flight technologies, creating custom and current aerial photo maps doesn't need to be something only the government or Google can pull off.
Our goal is to take the complicated and expensive process of aerial mapping and render it down to a simplified (cheap!) workflow for planning, flying to collect data, processing the aerial imagery and interacting with created maps. The stitched imagery will be easy enough to make for a novice, yet accurate enough for GIS professionals.
Drones can fly lower and slower than traditional aircraft, allowing higher quality aerial imagery to be collected without leaving the user's private property. Using the Maps Made Easy service, users can create their own up-to-date maps at up to 20 times the resolution of Google Maps.
Write-ups, Blog Posts and Articles
- The Register - Kickstarter hopefuls promise high-res aerial maps for the masses
- BGR - This brilliant Kickstarter will let you make maps that put Google and Bing to shame
DIY Drones - Profile: Maps Made Easy
- The Tech Gets - Maps Made Easy will make drone based mapping possible
- Drone Life - 5 Projects Putting Drones on the Map
- Dronologista - Drone Startups: Maps Made Easy
Industry Leaders as Backers
- Land Owners
- Real Estate Agents
- Construction Managers
- Environmental Workers
- Fire Protection Planners
- Forestry Managers
- Oil Pipeline Monitors
- Property Managers
- Golf Course Managers
- Fracking Site Managers
- Homeowners near fracking sites
- Parks and Recreation Managers
- Insurance Adjusters
- Solar Array Inspectors
- Lots more...
A new mapping workflow.
The site will work with imagery taken from any drone, airplane, helicopter, balloon or flying pig. If it flies and you can stick a camera on it, we can use the data. All we require are the images. No GPS information is required. Give us your raw images taken anywhere in the world and we give you back a hosted and stitched aerial image that is ready for interaction. Click a few ground control points (GCPs) on a base map and the imagery will be fully geo-referenced. If you don't bother to geo-reference it, no one will know where the imagery was taken.
The Maps Made Easy process:
- Plan - Use our online planning tool or ground station software of your choice to select the area to be mapped.
- Collect - Program the aerial platform. Set the camera to take periodic images. Kick off the automated flight. Wait for the drone to land itself.
- Upload - Drag and drop the collected images into our web application. Upload completion automatically kicks off the processing.
- Interact - View the created maps on our site. Pan and zoom around using a familiar interface. Control public accessibility. Embed freely.
Map Planning Tool and Point Estimator
Drone Mapping Animation
Image processing to the quality we have come to expect would tie up a personal computer for hours, if not days. By offloading the job to our image-processing service, you free up your computer so you can get back to work. When processing is completed, we will send you an email or you can keep an eye on your job's progress through our user dashboard.
Breaking down the cost barrier.
It can take a team of engineers months to design a simple system for collecting aerial imagery capable of operating on an aircraft. Additionally, when you start talking about renting an aircraft and manning it for every mapping flight, costs really start to add up. These costs are reflected in the current high price of aerial imagery.
But let’s face it, anytime you are going to put a camera up in the air, it is going to cost money. Luckily, with the relatively low cost of the latest crop of drones, getting a stable and programmable aerial platform in the air has never been cheaper.
The least expensive full-service aerial mapping options available come out to around $50 per acre. At that price, the break even point for buying your own drone mapping setup and using our web application for processing is around 50 acres.
The site uses a point system to manage the different complexities that map data represents. A 1000 image stitch job of a 200 acre area requires 100s of times more system resources than a 10 picture job for a residence. One hundred points is enough to do 1 or 2 small maps. Variables such as desired quality, urgency and size of the map all affect how many points the processing will require. Check out the point estimator here.
We reward patience. If you are willing to wait for your map, we can use spare system capacity to do your processing. This results in getting your map for fewer points. Points will be offered for outright purchase or via a subscription plan. Free subscriptions will be available with a limited number of monthly points.
We need a kick start!
Much of the proceeds from this Kickstarter campaign will go towards getting the site ready for prime time; this includes a security audit, database optimization tasks, creating detailed documentation, transitioning to public hosting and procuring processing hardware ($$$).
We are trying to raise at least $30,000 to be able to finish the project properly. We already have nearly $100,000 worth of software development sweat equity invested in the image stitching, job processing and user interface. There are a lot of aspects to releasing a site like this that are not our superpowers. We recognize this and need to hire people to help us finish the job properly so users will have the best experience possible.
With early support, the site will launch just after the end of the campaign. If it's a squeaker, it will likely be towards the end of August.
We can't wait to share the Maps Made Easy site with you!
From the very beginning, our site has been designed with professional users in mind. If our funding level reaches $60,000 or more, we will be able to fund the development of a Mapping Marketplace. This Marketplace will pair people who want maps with people who make maps.
If you have a drone, you can bid on jobs in the Marketplace or offer up your services within a region. If you are a landowner, you can post you job and have people bid on it. Easy!
Users will no longer have to purchase a drone and learn to fly it to get high quality and up-to-date maps.
We have a couple other tricks up our sleeve, so it if looks like this level will be reached we will disclose the next one!
Risks and challenges
While most of the components of our technology have already been developed and tested, there are always those issues that come up when lots of people start using a system. We have planned for significant scalability by using today's best practices, but, again there is no way we can fully guarantee a buttery-smooth roll out.
We ask that people signing up to be early adopters of this technology approach it with an open mind. We think it will be perfect. But, you know...
The quality of our maps is as good, if not better, than what you see on big commercial map sites. Like the big guys, our technology is prone to weird hiccups here and there as these glitches are an artifact of the image rendering process. You have likely seen these around. Google "Google maps glitches" to get an idea of what we are talking about.
The biggest risk in us not being able to provide a quality map is the data not being collected properly to begin with. Garbage in, garbage out. It is better to have way too much data, than not enough. We recommend that images have greater than 50% overlap in both directions.
We will be lenient with point return requests for bad rendering errors, especially with our Kickstarter backers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Orientation and Scale Definition - Yes. Will we offer a 2m x 15cm strip of white material that can be put on the ground oriented North to South. This will allow the user to get an orientation and scale for the stitched image.
Tile Output - A clever person could probably figure out how to do this if they were so inclined, but we considering offering the tiles as .mbtiles sqlLite files for those who might be interested.
3D rendering - OBJ Object and MTL Material file output. We are looking at integrating a model viewer into our web interface, but the models can get pretty big and we don’t want to scale them down just for that.
Distance Measurement - Yes. Once it is oriented and scaled we will provide a method to measure distances.
Markup - A method for dropping markers, selecting color and adding notes to them is planned.
Point Cloud Output - No.
DEM output - This will likely take the form of a 16-bit DEM GeoTiff. Still working on the best way to share this.
Multispectral Output - Yes, eventually. This is actually our core background from our military imaging past. We will likely be offering an NDVI optimized workflow and deal with the other ones as they come up.
Multi Layer Management - Yes. Our main goal for all of this is to be able to document changes over time. Once a user georeferences the first layer, the subsequent layers are much easier to do. Not that the first one is really that hard.
Object Recognition - No.
Ground Control Points - Yes. They will need to be entered previous to upload so they can be taken into account in the processing.
No. There is software out there that you can purchase that will let you process images similarly completely offline. The problem is, it costs thousands of dollars. That software and our processing software generally do the same thing. The whole idea of our system is to let a user offload the intensive image processing to an off-site server so your work computer is not tied up for hours or days. Also, the processing often requires more RAM than most people have on their computers (as much as 64 GB).
We are doing things differently and are offering this capability as a pay per use or subscription service to eliminate that initial cost and to offload the processing to another place. We also host the maps so they can be viewed and interacted with worldwide.
Yes! Our service will be available to users worldwide. We place no restrictions on where images come from or who can hold an account.
We are not currently able to sell drones outside of the US though due to dealership restrictions.
We would love for our system to be in use everywhere!
We will soon have kits available on our website that will include everything you need to get up and mapping. The Basic Mapping Kit will include a DJI Phantom 2 drone, Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal, modified GoPro camera with narrow FOV Sunnex 5.5 mm lens, case and datalink for around $1,900.
It is possible to map using a standard GoPro with the stock lens, but the maps are more accurate if you use the modified camera.
Not really. We had to put a limit on it and that is roughly one square kilometer. If you have specific needs, let us know and we will likely be able to accommodate. For custom/bigger jobs, we request that people contact us first to get an estimate and then back us for that amount on the DME site visit mapping reward.
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