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3D mapped drone image 10 times sharper than satellites

Drones that track damage to road infrastructure, count number of potholes and monitor properties to calculate tax, and much more. Mixing drone visuals with data analytics, a city-based startup has ventured deep into 3Dmapping of the earth’s surface, even helping Kerala track roads ravaged by the recent floods. A detailed 3D map of Bengaluru could help the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) pinpoint properties, and measure the built-up area for tax collection. The startup, Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS), says its co-founder Vipul Singh, has already mapped 120 towns of Maharashtra and 167 urban local bodies in Punjab.

So, how is drone mapping different from satellite imagery? “The image resolution is 10 times sharper than satellites. The best imagery offered by a commercial US satellite offers 1.5 metres/pixel. The commercial drone can provide details as sharp as 3 cm/pixel,” Singh explains.

Equipped with onboard software, the fully autonomous drones employed by AUS has a radio range of up to five kilometres. “It can capture very detailed 3D model of the area, to generate a digital surface model and a terrain model. Large areas could be covered in a day even without many ground control points.” This would mean over 60 sq km of the area could be mapped in a single day. This range has helped the startup take up area mapping on a massive scale. Its drones, informs Singh, had mapped 3,000 mines all across Telangana. “We have so far mapped 8 lakh acres of area for different projects,” says Singh. Besides the mining area, all related assets such as trucks, earthwork heavy machinery, tools, pillars, electrical equipment and their precise geo-locations are also mapped for optimized deployment

To create 3D maps, the camea is mounted on the drone and is usually pointed vertically towards the ground. Multiple overlapping photos (80 to 90% overlap) of the ground are taken as the UAV flies along an autonomous programmed flight path called a waypoint. A similar process is employed for drone-based environmental (green cover) assessment. Vegetation covers are measured, trees counted, and water flow planned. The drones’ 3D outputs are then processed for efficient planning of watershed, flood flow and drainages. Launched by three Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni, including Singh, Nikhil Upadhye and Suhas Bashiwala in 2013, the startup was at SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre (SIIC) at IIT-Kanpur. It shifted base to Bengaluru in March 2013.

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