You can’t afford it- why drone map making will be a cloud thing

The purchase of the supercomputer required to run the latest whizzy whiz software was sort of approved by the ministry of finance, your wife. She will be bewildered next year when you need another. The home PC only gets updated every 3 to 5 years.

That’s the reality of making your own maps or 3D models at home or in the office.

Unlike business software and art packages where today’s hardware can pretty much do everything. Producing VR 3D models and orthographic maps takes some processing klout. Just like the Oculus rift it requires one heck of a computer.

The minimum specifications for:-


Windows 7, 8 or 10, 64 bits.
CPU quad-core or hexa-core Intel i7/Xeon.
GeForce GPU compatible with OpenGL 3.2 and 2 GB RAM.
Hard disk: SSD.
Small projects (under 100 images at 14 MP): 8 GB RAM, 15 GB SSD Free Space
Medium projects (between 100 and 500 images at 14 MP): 16GB RAM, 30 GB SSD Free Space.


CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, Socket LGA 1150 or 1155 (Haswell, Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge) Motherboard: Any LGA 1150 or 1155 model with 4 DDR3 slots and at least 1 PCI Express x16 slot
RAM: DDR3-1600, 4 x 4 GB (16 GB total) or 4 x 8 GB (32 GB total)
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 or GeForce GTX 980 (optional)

That’s the minimum, any gamer knows that really means double it.

As the models required by end users get larger and more complex more computing power is required to get the job done.

I think we have reached a time where only larger companies can scale their computer systems quickly enough to keep up.

It will be very hard for small business to justify the cost.

You are also putting all your eggs in one basket by processing stuff at home. If your system goes down you are in the market to buy a new one quick and at the mercy of current prices.

So cloud based map and model generation is a real thing that makes sense.

DroneDeploy  lead the way along with Propeller Aero.

Just entering the space, PIX4D Cloud, Autodesk and PrecisionHawk. 

What does cloud processing mean?

It’s quite simple, you produce your images. Flight planning using whichever tool you prefer. Drone Deploy, PIX4D and PrecisionHawk all have apps, more of that later in another piece. Those apps simply create a flight path to fly and trigger point for the camera for optimum stitching.

Images are then uploaded from your cameras memory card to any of these companies services. If you are a little more accurate in what you do and have added ground control points (GCPs), georeferenced by RTK GPS you can generally add them in at this point.

Then you open a beer or pour a coffee whilst magic mapping pixies do their thing.

After a short while you receive an email and the map or model you have created is ready to be viewed. For this service you will have either paid an annual fee or monthly subscription.

You can generally share a link, say to the customer who can also view the model/map without having special software on his or her machine. Do not underestimate the ability to get results into the hands of your customer with the least amount of friction. 

The creation of maps and models by drone is a hot topic. Surveyors in America, many of whom have to be registered and licenced by their State to operate are not happy. Too many folks with a Phantom are popping up claiming to be as accurate as them for much less money.

A qualified surveyor will have the insurances and experience to produce an accurate product. If its an important job they should be your first call. But software and supercomputers are coming fast to eat their breakfast.

I believe the first era of drone mapping is over. Post production in house is becoming less of a thing.