Our customers use drone technology to create digital copies of their world. But how does one capture “good data?” As our Data on Demand team says, it all starts before you launch. Setting your objectives pre-flight, as well as acknowledging what questions you’d like answered before receiving your final maps and models is crucial to intentional reality capture. By planning your flights proactively, you’ll provide the most efficient, accurate results to your stakeholders — thereby building trust and giving them the confidence to drive complex business decisions.
At DroneDeploy, our customers fly an average of 200 million flights per year, and to date, we’ve processed over 500 million acres worldwide. Because of this, we’ve seen it all when it comes to building a flight plan, and know that setting a clear strategy, designing rigorous standards, and upholding your desired workflow is the key to operational success. To put it simply: getting “good data” can be easy with the right preparation, and we’ll show you how.
Your Pre-Flight Checklist
Before taking off, you’ll need to decide on the ideal drone for your project. We typically recommend DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro V2 due to its versatility and low price point, but you can find a full list of our supported drones and their leading applications here.
Choosing the right time to fly is equally as important, and must be tailored to your unique needs. For general photography, marketing, or entertainment purposes, sunny weather in the afternoons is best for a clear, bright image. For photogrammetry, the opposite is true — overcast skies or flights around solar noon mitigate confusing shadows, resulting in the highest-quality map.
Similarly, selecting the correct altitude depends on the area you’re mapping, and for what purpose. For assessing plant health on large agricultural fields, 400 feet is optimal, as you’ll be able to cover roughly 200 acres in just one charge. But on construction sites, 200 feet is often more than sufficient. When looking at a residential building or roof, 120 feet (80 - 100 feet above the building) is our choice for a detailed, crisp 3D model.
Of course, there are a plethora of other DroneDeploy flight modes available — including Enhanced 3D, Crosshatch, Manual Flight, Vertical Flight, Live Map, and more — that can be toggled to fit your stakeholders’ demands. Sometimes, even combining multiple types of flights is the best choice for your project.
Ready for Liftoff
After you’ve created your first flight template, you’re ready to launch! But before taking off, be sure that you’ve chosen a strategic home point to fly to and from. Remember to always keep your drone within your line of sight, and away from any obstacles that may interfere with your flight path (like hanging trees, power lines, or other buildings!). Choosing a wide-open area free of other vehicles and objects is best. Note that your selected flight mode, battery life, and additional settings will be available on your DroneDeploy flight interface throughout your mission.
As one can see, putting the work in up-front to define your project goals and drone program efficacy pays dividends in the long run. Although an initial time investment, these guidelines, through repeated use, will allow for the eventual automation of such tasks — further driving down the costs associated with the inevitable digital transformation of our businesses. The steps above mark an initial foray into this world.