Drones are transforming the way we think about and interact with the world around us. One of the most dramatic ways is with the ability to create highly accurate 3D models of surfaces and objects using various sensor arrays.

About digital elevation models

Digital elevation models can be extremely useful. They are a great way to model a surface for a wide range of applications like construction site planning. Also referred to as digital terrain models (DTM) or digital surface models (DSM), digital elevation models give you a 3D representation of a surface.

Using the right drone equipment, a DEM can be accurate within 2–3 cm, making it ideal for construction planning.

How drones are able to create DEMS

With the right drone configuration, you can easily create a digital surface model that meets your specific business needs. The accuracy of the map will be determined by the hardware itself: the accuracy of the GPS system being used, as well as the LiDAR or resolution and shutter-speed of the camera. It will also be impacted by the specifics of the operation such as the altitude or speed of the flight.

One of the major advantages of drones is that they are able to get much closer than conventional aircraft and therefore provide a significantly higher resolution which translates to a better ground sampling distance (GSD). This is critical for constructing a photo realistic model in the absence of LIDAR.

During operations, the drone will need to take hundreds of photos at the correct intervals and overlap ratios in order to “stitch” them together into a single large photo a.k.a. an orthomosaic. The same algorithms that are responsible for creating the orthomosaic can create a three dimensional digital surface.

Aerial Applications specializes in the creation of same day mapping projects — including digital elevation models — using drone technology. You can learn more about our same day mapping product in this case study, or request a demo.