Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mapping with Drones

Have you ever wanted to replace Google's satellite imagery with your own aerial imagery? If your budget doesn't stretch to launching your own satellite then you might want to consider some of these alternatives.

senseFly is a mini drone with a high-resolution camera attached. The camera can be controlled from the ground whilst the drone is in flight or you can pre-program it to take pictures at specific time intervals and location.

Once you have captured your aerial imagery you can then use the Google Maps API to create your own aerial imagery map. The senseFly website has a number of example maps created from imagery captured by a senseFly drone.

If you can't afford a drone you might want to try using helium filled balloons instead to capture your imagery. Balloon Mapping sell kits and also provide instructions on how you can create your own balloon mapping kit.

Another alternative to an expensive drone is a kite. Frank Taylor of the Google Earth Blog has been capturing aerial imagery, as he sails around the world, with the use of a kite. Some of his imagery has even made it onto Google Maps.

You can read about Frank's kite imagery adventures on his personal blog The Tahina Expedition.

If you ever do capture your own aerial imagery then you might find MapKnitter useful. MapKnitter is a free and open source tool for aligning and creating maps from overhead images.

The tool allows anyone to take a single aerial image or a series of aerial images and align them, with the help of Google Maps satellite view. Images maps created with MapKnitter can be exported in GeoTiff, TMS/OpenLayers, and JPG formats.

You can explore maps created with the tool by location and the most recent maps are also featured on the home page of MapKnitter.

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