dronedeploy orthomosaic

How to Create Orthomosaic Maps Using DroneDeploy

DroneDeploy is a powerful application that can use drone imagery to generate high-resolution 2D maps and 3D models. It offers easy-to-use software to automatically capture aerial images ideal for your type of project, process and generate orthomosaic maps and 3D models, and allows you to use your maps to measure distance, area, and volume. 

If you are unfamiliar, orthomosaics are large, map-quality images made by combining aerial photos that have been orthorectified, or corrected for lens distortion, camera tilt, perspective, and topographic relief. Check out our detailed article for more information on what orthomosaics are and how they are used

In this article we will be covering how to create an orthomosaic map in DroneDeploy, which involves three basic steps:

  1. Create a flight plan
  2. Fly the flight plan & capture aerial photos
  3. Process the imagery to create your orthomosaic map and 3D model

Step 1 – Create A Flight Path

DroneDeploy’s software allows you to create an automated flight plan that your drone will fly on to capture aerial photos ideal for creating orthomosaic maps and 3D models. You have different options when creating your flight plan too. You can adjust the resolution of your map and even enabled enhanced 3D for more accurate and detailed 3D models.

To create a flight plan, log into your DroneDeploy account and select ‘New Project’ in the top left hand corner of the screen.

dronedeploy create new project

Enter the address of the property you’d like to fly. DroneDeploy will place a box on the screen in the general location of the address you entered. Drag and position the box so it is directly above your property. Then click ‘Create project here’.

dronedeploy enter project address

dronedeploy create project here selection tool

Enter a name for your project and click ‘Continue’.

dronedeploy naming project screen

From the left-hand menu, select ‘New Map Plan’.

dronedeploy select maps & models

DroneDeploy will place a new square box on the screen which will be the start to your new automated flight path. Click and drag on the circles at the corners of your extend your flight path to cover your entire property. You can click on the grayed out circles at the center points of line segments to add additional points and customize your flight plan to match the shape of your property. DroneDeploy recommends “overflying,” or creating your flight plan so it extends beyond the edges of your property. You want there to be a safe buffer between the edge of the flight plan and your property.

dronedeploy create map plan

Finally, you want to customize your flight preferences to make sure you capture the best data for your project. 

DroneDeploy Map Plan Flight Settings

DroneDeploy allows a variety of preferences to customize your map detail, resolution, and images that will be captured. Here is an explanation of the different preferences:

dronedeploy basic flight plan optionsdronedeploy advanced flight plan options

Flight Altitude – Flight Altitude is how high your drone will fly AGL and determines the final resolution of your orthomosaic map. Having a lower flight altitude will take longer to fly, but it will increase your map resolution. Depending on the number of acres in your Map Plan, DroneDeploy offers a recommended altitude.

Map resolution is measured in “inches per pixel,” or how many inches of ground fit into one pixel of an aerial photo. The lower the number, the higher the resolution of the map. Here are common flight altitudes and how high of a resolution map they will generate:

  • 150ft: 0.5in/px resolution
  • 200ft: 0.7in/px resolution
  • 250ft: 0.9in/px resolution
  • 300ft: 1.1in/px resolution
  • 350ft: 1.3in/px resolution
  • 390ft: 1.4in/px resolution

While flying lower may provide a higher resolution map in terms of imagery, DroneDeploy themselves actually recommend you fly higher to improve your map quality

You see, higher resolution doesn’t necessarily equal higher quality. 

Enhanced 3D – Enabling Enhanced 3D allows your drone to capture additional imagery for generating higher quality 3D models. After completing the flight plan, your drone will tilt its camera at a slight angle and fly around the perimeter of the property. This captures additional data that is used for adding in the textures of buildings and rendering a more accurate 3D mode. If you plan on using your map to generate a 3D models, you definitely want to turn on this setting. 

Live Map HD – Live Map HD allows you to see your 2D orthomosaic map being generated in real-time in the DroneDeploy application on your smartphone or tablet while the image capture is taking place. Seeing a live 2D map is most helpful for construction workers who want to see a live update of their construction site, or for farmers who want to see a live update of an NDVI of their crop fields as the drone is flying. The live 2D map previewed in the application is a lower quality than the final map generated by DroneDeploy. 

Advanced DroneDeploy Flight Settings

DroneDeploy allows you to generate high quality orthomosaic maps and 3D models using their automatic settings. However, if you would like additional control over your map and image capture, DroneDeploy offers advanced settings for you to configure. 

Front Overlap – Front Overlap is what percentage of an image overlaps with the next image taken in front of it. Having a higher amount of front overlap typically helps improve the quality of your map by preventing any holes, gaps, or incomplete data. It gives DroneDeploy more data to work with for properly aligning your images and stitching together your orthomosaic map. The default Front Overlap value is 75%.

Side Overlap – Side Overlap is what percentage of an image overlaps with the image that will be taken on either side of it. Similar to Front Lap, having a higher value helps improve the quality of your map. The default Side Overlap value is 65%.

Flight Direction – Flight Direction is the angle at which your drone will fly over your property. Regardless of which angle you select, imagery of your entire property will be covered. Trying different flight directions can optimize your flight plan to be more efficient and significantly reduce the duration of your flight. The default flight direction is 0º (zero degrees).

Mapping Flight Speed – Mapping Flight Speed is the speed at which your drone will fly to capture the imagery for your map. It’s typically best to leave this on the automatic setting, which is usually set to the fastest available speed of 27mph. The only reason to change the flight speed is if you are flying in low light. 

Starting Waypoint – Starting Waypoint is the point on the perimeter of your flight plan where your drone will start capturing imagery. The default starting waypoint is 1, or the first point on the flight path. Changing the starting waypoint will decrease the size of your map and the amount of photos captured. We recommend keeping the starting waypoint set at the default value of 1. You would only want to change the starting waypoint if you changed batteries or drones and were resuming 

Perimeter 3D – Perimeter 3D is one component of the Enhanced 3D option in the main project settings screen. It improves the edge detail and accuracy of your orthomosaic map by capturing additional imagery. Your drone will fly around the perimeter of your map with the camera facing the center of the map and tilted slightly upwards to capture detail in the sides of buildings. 

Crosshatch 3D – Crosshatch 3D is the second component of the Enhanced 3D option in the main project settings. It doubles the flight pattern, creating a crossed pattern like a checkerboard instead of a parallel flight pattern. Enabling this option will greatly improve the quality of your 3D model, but it effectively doubles your flight time. Turning on Perimeter 3D while turning off Crosshatch 3D is a great way to improve the quality of your 3D model while still having a relatively short flight time.

Obstacle Avoidance – Obstacle Avoidance is a fairly straightforward setting. It enables the use of the obstacle avoidance sensors built into your drone to detect obstacles and prevent your drone from crashing while on the automated flight path. However, some lighting conditions may trigger the obstacle avoidance sensors and cause the drone to stop. If the sensors are accidentally triggering, you can turn off obstacle avoidance to continue on your flight path.

Show Existing Map – This setting simply overlays a previously generated map of the property underneath the new flight plan. Showing an existing map can be helpful so you can see where the borders of the generated map were generated in relationship to the processed map, and if you may need to adjust your flight plan to capture more area. 

Low Light – The Low Light setting increases the ISO of your drone’s camera for brighter images in a more dimly lit environment. It is also recommended you decrease the flight speed of your drone if you enable this setting.

Set Exposure Manually in DJI Go – DroneDeploy uses automatic camera settings while flying and capturing imagery. This can cause images to have inconsistent exposures, especially if bright white rooftops are reflecting a lot of light. The camera will adjust the exposure for the rooftop and darken the surrounding area. To get more consistent imagery, you can turn this setting ‘on’ to manually set the exposure in the DJI Go app. DroneDeploy will use the exposure set in DJI Go when capturing imagery.

Set Focus Manually in DJI Go – DroneDeploy will attempt to automatically focus the camera while flying, but sometimes the autofocus system isn’t perfect. To manually focus your camera before flying, you can use this setting set the focus in DJI Go before flying the DroneDeploy mission. 

 

Step 2 – Fly the Automated Flight Path to Capture Your Imagery

The second part of creating your orthomosaic map is to capture your aerial photos that will be used to process your final map. After you have configured and fine-tuned your map settings in DroneDeploy, you are ready to head out on-site with a drone. 

To fly the flight plan, you will need a compatible drone and the DroneDeploy app installed on your mobile device. Connect your drone, launch the DroneDeploy app, and takeoff. Your drone will automatically fly on the flight plan and begin capturing your imagery.

dji mavic 2 zoom on ground ready for takeoff

dronedeploy app start flight button

dronedeploy mobile app screenshot while drone is flying

If you are having trouble connecting your drone to DroneDeploy, check out our detailed DroneDeploy troubleshooting guide. We walk you through how to connect your drone to the DroneDeploy app properly and get flying on your automated flight plan. 

DroneDeploy Compatible Drones

DroneDeploy currently supports the following drones:

  • Inspire 1
  • Inspire 2
  • Mavic Air
  • Mavic Pro
  • Mavic Pro Platinum
  • Mavic 2 Pro (regular + zoom)
  • Mavic 2 Enterprise Zoom
  • Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
  • Matrice 100
  • Matrice 200
  • Matrice 210
  • Matrice 210 RTK
  • Matrice 200 V2
  • Matrice 210 V2
  • Matrice 210 RTK V2
  • Matrice 600
  • Phantom 3 Professional
  • Phantom 4
  • Phantom 4 Advanced
  • Phantom 4 Pro (including Obsidian)
  • Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
  • Skydio 2

 

Step 3 – Geometrically Correct Your Images & Create Your Orthomosaic Map

The final step in creating your orthomosaic map is to orthorectify your images and merge them together. Orthorectifying an image means you are making the image geometrically accurate and correcting for lens distortion, camera tilt, perspective, and topographic relief (topographic relief is the changes in elevation of the earth’s surface). 

Orthorectified images, called orthophotos, orthoimages, or orthophotographs, can be used to measure true distances because of their accuracy.

Going through all your images and making them geometrically correct sounds like a tedius process, but thankfully with DroneDeploy the image processing engine actually handles everything for you. 

All you need to do is upload the JPG image files your drone captured on the automated flight path to your project in DroneDeploy. DroneDeploy will use the metadata embedded in the images, which contains details such as the make and model of your drone, information about the camera sensor and lens, as well as the GPS coordinates, to orthorectify all of your images and merge them into an orthomosaic map. 

dronedeploy upload image window

dronedeploy orthomosaic 04

dronedeploy select 3D model for rendering map

After a few hours of processing, your orthomosaic map will be ready. And that’s it! You’re done. You can use your orthomosaic map to measure distance, area, and volume, add annotation, or whatever else your project requires. You can even download or share your orthomosaic map with others. 

266 Waverly St Framingham MA compressed

Options for Exporting and Sharing Your Orthomosaic Map

DroneDeploy offers a wide range of export options so you can utilize your map data in a variety of different ways. Here are the current export formats that are supported:

Orthomosaic

  • GeoTiff
  • JPG
  • PDF

Plant Health

  • GeoTIFF
  • JPG
  • PDF
  • Shapefile

Elevation

  • GeoTIFF
  • JPG
  • PDF
  • Raw Elevation Values (DEM)
  • Contour DXF (AutoCAD)
  • Contour SHP (Shapefile)

Digital Terrain Model (DTM)

  • GeoTIFF
  • JPG
  • PDF
  • Raw Elevation Values (DEM)
  • Contour DXF (AutoCAD)
  • Contour SHP (Shapefile)

Cut/Fill (DSM)

  • GeoTIFF
  • JPG
  • PDF
  • Raw Elevation Values (DEM)
  • Contour DXF (AutoCAD)
  • Contour SHP (Shapefile)

Cut/Fill (DTM)

  • GeoTIFF
  • JPG
  • PDF
  • Raw Elevation Values (DEM)
  • Contour DXF (AutoCAD)
  • Contour SHP (Shapefile)

3D Model

  • 3D Model (.obj)

Point Cloud

  • LIDAR data exchange (.las)
  • ASCII xyzrgb (.xyz)
  • Autodesk (.rcp)


If you’d like to learn more, or would like to learn more about our drone services or drone pilot jobs, simply follow dronegenuity on our social media channels: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates.

 

About the Author

Stetson Doggett

Stetson is an Ithaca College alum and a certified drone pilot. He has been flying the DJI Mavic Pro since it first came out and loves finding new ways to improve his aerial photo and video quality. Stetson is from Acton, Massachusetts, and when not in the air he enjoys playing board games, producing YouTube videos, and watching Stranger Things.