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Location Intelligence – From Hand-Drawn Paper to Flying Objects

"A flying machine scans the buildings as a live feed or a route map navigates the users to their destination, facilitates maps for revenue administration to identify the change in landform or to trace the contours of the building or rooftops for urban and insurance companies."

Location Intelligence or Maps have been gaining relevance and maturity in today's digital world. Every aspect of our day-to-day life is somehow connected with location data, which has almost become like a regular reference point for us. Currently, in the geospatial industry, continuous advancements in various technologies have made a significant difference. Digital innovations such as machine learning, IoT, Robotics and Automation, and AI are driving the industry to broaden its skyline and target every industry vertical.

The Evolution of Geospatial Data

However, data being the king in the geospatial space and production forms the key, it has seen many stages of evolution - from static paper maps to dynamic digital maps, from basic analysis to more complex problem solving, involving more map-based processing.

Mapping involves topographic survey, satellite imageries covering both 2D and 3D, aerial photography technologies, image processing, GPS, and drones. Let’s take a look at these techniques.

Surveying is time-consuming and laborious, and it is now widely used only for a special type of mapping, mostly on road and building construction, land records, and so on. This technique has the advancement of GPS, EDM and other technologies, and it is still widely used.

Satellite images provide large scale mapping and are used for both surface and subsurface assets. It includes satellite-based cartography of urban/rural environments and landform changes, land cover/land-use change, estuarine and coastal environments, topographic map updating, production of image maps, agricultural monitoring, and land degradation.

Image processing techniques generate point cloud (LiDAR) data, DEM/DSM 3D models, etc., that are leveraged to identify relief maps, elevation parameters (slope, aspects) for use in GIS mapping, engineering design, simulations, surface analysis and other applications.

On the other hand, aerial photos are taken from the air by a special camera mounted in an aircraft flying over the area with the camera axis vertical or nearly so. These photos are merged and mosaiced to create an orthogonal (Orthophoto) and oblique photos to represent 3D/elevation models representation of the captured objects (buildings, trees, mountain ranges, etc.). These being more detailed image sources, the aerial photos are widely used for topography mapping, agriculture, line of sight selection, utilities, and defense.

Drone-Based Mapping - The Next in Location Intelligence

The next evolution of geospatial data creation is drone-based mapping. Drones equipped with cameras that can transmit various types of GIS data can lower costs on multiple levels. With advancements in building cost-effective drones, extensive advantages are being experienced in the GIS field. GIS communities even believe that mapping through drones can be better than on-the-ground survey tools. Here’s why.

It takes less time for processing and mapping than other techniques such as surveying, satellite data, and orthophotos. Hardware is less expensive and the upfront cost is minimal, which influences map production costs. Drones can cover almost any area that is physically not approachable, such as water bodies, defense/war zone, zoos, and other restricted areas.

Drone survey and mapping involve less human involvement and is completely non-invasive for the public. This technology is paving the way for wider areas of application and operation such as elevation, pitch, minerals, and change detection.

The map production process through drone technology has a slew of applications and utilities that include:

  • Aerial Surveying
  • Asset Management
  • Agriculture
  • Disaster Management
  • mart Cities
  • Construction and Real Estate

This technology is increasingly being deployed to enhance efficiency and productivity. The data fed from drones facilitate 3D land mapping services, elevation data, contour lines, 3D surface data, accurate volume measurements, terrain profile. This highly detailed data is made available at a much lesser cost. This service also provides AR/VR enabled 360-degree panoramas - aerial/ground incorporated as fly-through or virtual tour demonstration. These features ensure preparedness for combat, dam or tower construction in the remote areas, disaster mitigation planning in L3 or more zones.

Beyond manifold GIS applications, owing to the advancement of 3D/elevation technology and high-resolution data due to drones, these mapping technologies enable microanalyses of the details. It’s possible to trace the contours of the building or rooftops for surveys or urban and insurance claims to assess the situation, change detection before and after the period helping development authorities, tax/revenue assessment, illegal construction or bunkers, network analysis, and detailed data quality.

GIS (Maps) is all around us and it’s impossible to avoid them. Online maps, with their evolving capabilities, have changed the way we communicate and collaborate. The future of maps will bring faster evolution, cost-effectiveness, real-time feeds, and will enable near-accurate decision-making.

Consumers and businesses are also gaining experience in adopting the latest technologies and experimenting with new methods of mapping process, primarily drone-based for 3D mapping and GPS maps. In a way, the GIS user community is reaping more benefits from innovation as the market grows substantially.