DroneDeploy Announces New Contour Export

August 3, 2016

Elevation data is crucial to many industries. Businesses are beginning to look to drones as a faster, safer, more cost-effective alternative to traditional ground-based survey methods of capturing elevation data. Over the last few months, we’ve rolled out a number of tools to help companies leverage elevation data, including improved volume calculations, the ability to see the elevation of a particular point, and more. Today, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of two new powerful features to make the elevation data in your maps even more useful: the ability to visualize elevation profiles and to export contour maps.

Elevation Profile

Want to measure the slope of a roof, visualize crop height variability or see the highwalls of your mine in profile right from your map? Just draw a line between any two points on your map, and a line will appear in the side panel showing you the cross-section of the elevation data along that line, along with measurements of elevation and length that let you easily calculate slope.

The elevation profile tool is available to all DroneDeploy paid customers and is part of the DroneDeploy free trial.

The elevation profile tool is available to all DroneDeploy paid customers and is part of the DroneDeploy free trial.

Contour Map Export

A contour map is a ubiquitous tool used for building and landscape design, construction and mine planning and more and is one of the standard outputs that surveyors deliver to their clients. To generate contour maps, surveyors traditionally use ground-based LIDAR stations to measure the elevation of thousands of points on the site in a painstaking, sometimes dangerous process that can take days or weeks.

Drones can capture much more detailed elevation data — millions of points — in a matter of minutes — but that can pose another problem. Many of the common software tools used to analyze elevation data and develop plans aren’t prepared to handle the volume and granularity of information contained in a drone-generated 3D model or point cloud.

In the past, to address this issue DroneDeploy users manually reduced the granularity of their DroneDeploy elevation data by converting their maps and models to contour lines using third party software. However, this process was time-consuming and complicated. Our users asked for a better alternative — and with the release of today’s new contour export tool, now there is one. It’s as fast and easy as a few clicks to export an accurate contour map with DroneDeploy in a format that can be easily imported to your software of choice.

How to export a contour map

Looking for more detailed elevation data? DroneDeploy also allows elevation data to be exported as a 3D model, point cloud, or GeoTiff with raw elevation values.Learn more about these export formats.

How to Export a Contour Map

To export a contour map, first navigate to the elevation data layer on your map and click “Export”.

Then, indicate the interval of the contour lines you would like to generate. Keep in mind that a more detailed, lower interval contour map will result in a larger file size.

Large Interval Small Interval

Finally, select the file format in which you would like to export your contour map. If you plan to use your contour map in ArcGIS, you’ll want to export as a shapefile (.shp). If you plan to import your contour map to CAD software, export as .dxf, an open-source equivalent to Autodesk’s proprietary .dwg file format.

Surface Models vs. Terrain Models

The new contour export makes it much easier to deliver professional-quality drone-generated survey maps. However, one important thing to note is that drones capture the elevation of the surface of the earth as seen from above, which may include trees, buildings and cars. DroneDeploy uses this data to generate a digital surface model, or DSM. By contrast, when a surveyor uses ground-based equipment to capture elevation data, he typically measures the elevation of the ground or terrain — not intervening trees or structures — to generate a digital terrain model (DTM). For design and planning purposes, a terrain model is typically more useful than a surface model. When the area mapped is bare earth, such as at a quarry, the surface model and terrain model may be virtually identical and drone-generated contours may be very useful, but in other cases, converting a surface model to a terrain model may require additional data manipulation to remove non-terrain features.

Relative Elevation and Accuracy

Before starting a flight to generate a contour map, you’ll also want to consider whether the contour lines should be relative or absolute values. By default, elevation data in DroneDeploy is expressed in feet or meters relative to the drone’s point of take-off. If you want to see elevation expressed as absolute distance above or below mean sea level, you will need to use Ground Control Points (GCPs), which are available in our Premier plan.

Try the Contour Map Export

The new contour export feature is available on the Business and Premier plans of DroneDeploy, starting at $249/mo. Request a consultation to speak with one of our sales representatives and find out which plan is right for your business.

Just getting started and not quite ready to generate contour maps? Sign up to start your free trial of DroneDeploy Pro today.

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