Aerial imaging

Cost-effective environmental imaging services combining camera drone and cloud technology

As a drone pilot and operator registered with CAA in the UK I’m able to offer a variety of commercial services in open countryside locations, where a full PfCO is not required.

Mapping

On one privately owned site in the Surrey Hills AONB I mapped 32 hectares (79 acres) of part ancient, mixed broadleaf woodland.

Thousands of individual images were stitched together to create an orthomosaic, which was then exported as individual GeoTIFF tiles compatible with GIS software. Very high resolution single images can also be generated (2cm/pixel).

Mapping missions were flown at different times of year to observe seasonal variation.

Analysis

Spectral analysis techniques allow aerial imagery to be used for environmental monitoring at landscape scale. The image below compares visual spectrum vs. enhanced NDVI processing to study plant health.

Visual spectrum vs. NDVI showing replanted woodland

Change detection

Orthomosaic images facilitate accurate measurement to inform effective land management. The aerial map below quickly measured the extent of a heathland fire at Thursley Common NNR in Surrey for Natural England.

Aerial drone map showing extent of Thursley NNR heath fire

Monitoring

Below is an aerial survey of a Homes England residential development at the point where a new access road crosses a river valley intended to form a ‘green corridor’ for wildlife. Orthomosaic, NDVI and elevation visualisations are compared.

This short animation shows the image resolution (~2cm/pixel) attained from the same drone survey mission flown at an altitude of 100m.

Timelapse

By layering orthomosaic images created in different seasons it’s possible to create a wide area timelapse sequence, as shown below.

Video

More conventionally, the video below shows scenes from a Bluebell wood in early spring. Bluebells are an attractive ancient woodland indicator species.

Drone vs. satellite

Drones and satellites offer complementary technologies for aerial imaging, but camera drones enjoy a few advantages:

  1. Resolution
    Satellites cannot compete with drones for detail. Satellite images will allow you to see individual trees, but with a drone it’s possible to distinguish each leaf.
  2. Perspective
    Satellites are restricted to flat overhead perspectives. A well-operated drone can film or photograph any subject from almost any angle. This can assist in the capture of digital elevation models using 3D point clouds.
  3. Urgency
    You don’t need to wait for cloud cover to clear before flying a drone survey! If clouds obscure your satellite image you have no option but to schedule another attempt… and cross your fingers.

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