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Drones Gathering Information for GIS

Drones Gathering Information for GIS

Drones, commonly referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have transformed into data-gathering tools for GIS throughout the past 15 years. Today’s drones vary in sizes, costs and uses. A “prosumer” UAV has become a primary resource to acquire remotely-sensed GIS data. As the market for UAVs continues to expand, it is imperative to grasp five fundamental elements of drones: the technology, unmanned aerial vehicle components, the applications, the market and the barriers to success.  

Innovative technology providing GPS signals has converted radio controlled (RC) model airplanes into unmanned aerial vehicles. Before GPS signals gave drones the aptitude to fly independently, planes required visual contact in order for RC model airplane pilots to control them. Pilots are now able to control their UAV without visual contact because of the addition of GPS receivers to drones.

An aircraft, a lone gimbal or a gimbal with an attached payload or instrument(s) are the constituents of multi-rotor copter UAVs. The gimbal, a balancing platform that rids of vibrations called the “jello effect,” is attached between the drone and the aircraft’s payload. These components are what distinguish a hobbyist model airplane from a drone. The function of the drone is to make data collection affordable, and the data gathering process is done by the UAV payload. New GIS applications will not be created but instead will enlarge current markets, making data access less expensive. Therefore, tasking a drone to capture inferred data from a forest flyover as opposed to gathering the same data using a pilot and plane will be less costly.

According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the UAS industry could potentially increase the domestic economy by about $13.6B and develop 70,000 new jobs. In addition, the domestic economy benefit could potentially succeed $82B by 2025. The primary challenge of this industry is lack of regulation. The FAA, which controls the National Airspace System (NAS), has long excluded noncommercial flights of unmanned model airplanes from private and commercial aircraft rules and regulations to gain power over commercial flights.

The UAVs mentioned will not develop new markets but instead will greatly broaden current markets. The instruments inexpensive drones hold are what will capture and absorb data. The GIS data collection process and collateral industries will be affected by the disruptive technology, so vendors of image processing software must adjust to less expensive prices. When FAA regulations are executed and autonomous flights are deemed reliable, there will be a rise in data gathered for GIS applications. Specific regulations are to be in place by the end of 2014, and the framework that remains will be introduced in 2015.

GeoTel Communications will continue to monitor the FAA regarding the decision on UAVs and how it will affect the telecommunication infrastructure mapping industry. If interested in contacting GeoTel, call (800) 277-2172.

Valerie Stephen