How to optimise drone flight planning for mapping and surveying

Written by
Brooke Hahn
April 24, 2023

Drones have become increasingly popular for commercial applications such as mapping, surveying, inspection, and more. Ensuring drone flight planning is safe, efficient, and accurate is essential. Proper drone mission planning is key to achieving these goals. By carefully planning drone missions, operators can minimise risk, optimise efficiency, and maximise the value of the data collected. 

In this article, we will explore how to plan drone missions, execute the mission, process the data, and finally collaborate with team members to assess the data and set proper actions. While we’re at it, we’ll provide tips and best practices for streamlining this entire operation with the help of dedicated aerial intelligence software.

Drone mission planning for professional aerial mapping

Define the drone mission area

Before planning the drone flight, it’s important to define the area to be mapped or surveyed. This will help you determine the necessary flight altitude, the number of images to be captured, and the amount of time needed to complete the mission. You don’t want to run out of battery!

Determine the required level of detail

The level of detail required will depend on the specific application. For example, if you’re mapping a construction site, you may need a higher level of detail than if you’re surveying agricultural land. The required level of detail will also determine the drone's flight altitude and the drone camera settings. 

Choose the right drone and camera

It’s important to choose a drone and camera that are suitable for the application. Consider the drone's flight time, range, and payload capacity, as well as the camera's resolution and image quality.

You can dive into what drones are best for your business here

Select the appropriate flight pattern

There are several flight patterns to choose from, including grid, circular, and corridor. The flight pattern will depend on the shape and size of the area to be mapped, as well as the required level of detail.

Plan for safety and compliance

Safety should always be a top priority when planning drone flights. Be sure to check for any airspace restrictions or regulations, and plan for emergency procedures in case of unexpected events.

In Australia, drone operators must follow the rules and regulations set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Some of the key airspace restrictions and regulations for drones in Australia are:

Drone registration: All drones weighing more than 250 grams must be registered with CASA.

Fly within visual line of sight: Drone operators must always maintain visual contact with their drone and fly within visual line of sight.

Restricted airspace: Drones are not allowed to fly in restricted airspace, including around airports, helipads, and military bases.

Altitude restrictions: Drones must not be flown higher than 120 meters (400 feet) above ground level.

Avoid emergency situations: Drones must not be flown in emergency situations or near emergency response activities.

No-fly zones: Some areas are designated as no-fly zones, such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Respect privacy: Drone operators must respect the privacy of others and not use their drone for surveillance or photography without their consent.

Start and fly

Start the mission! Believe it or not, you do not need to manually fly the drone according to your preferred flight plan.

There are several software packages available that can help drone operators plan and execute flights in a predefined pattern for image capture. These software packages can simplify the flight planning process, reduce the risk of human error, and ensure accurate and consistent data collection. Here are some ways that software can help drones fly in a predefined pattern for image capture. 

  1. Flight planning: Using the Drone’s native software, or 3rd party platforms, operators can input the area to be mapped or surveyed, define the flight path, and specify the altitude, overlap, and camera settings.
  2. Automated flight control: Once the flight plan is created, the software can take over and control the drone's flight path, ensuring that the drone follows the predefined pattern for image capture.
  3. Real-time monitoring: During the flight, the software can provide real-time monitoring of the drone's location, altitude, and battery life, as well as the quality of the images being captured.
  4. Automated image capture: The software can also automate the image capture process, triggering the drone's camera to take photos at the specified intervals and overlap.
  5. Prepare images for processing: Now you've captured the images, you need to upload the data into an aerial intelligence platform like Birdi for insights. You can create the mission, set the KML or the location of the mission, then upload the images into the mission.

Data processing

Once the drone flight is complete, the data will need to be processed to create the final map or survey. Be sure to plan for data storage and processing requirements, and choose a software package that is suitable for the application. 

Birdi, for example, provides a pay as you go (PAYG) option that lets you pay for processing when you need it. Check out our pricing plans here.

How are drone images processed?

Collaborate with stakeholders for assessment and action

You’ve planned, captured and processed a powerful map or survey. But the job isn’t done - nothing has come from this brilliant work. Collaborating with key stakeholders means assessment and actions can be taken that respond to the data captured in the map. 

The assessment and actions are different depending on a few factors;

Your role 

Are you a consultant, a pilot, or an operations manager in a large enterprise? 

Your industry

Are you in construction, mining & resources, power & utilities, insurance, government, or consulting?

The use case for the drone flight

Are you inspecting assets, surveying land area, obtaining volume of sand?

Regardless of the variations listed above, there are a few features that will enable this collaboration, and software platforms like Birdi give you these tools at your fingertips;

User roles based on permissions

Set up your team in Birdi with permission-based roles, including Admins, Pilots and Guest (view-only) access.

Multiple users on the map together

View your team-mate’s cursor position in the map view for easy team collaboration in real-time.

Share missions with your team

With a few clicks, missions can be shared publicly and privately with your team.

Join 1000’s of your peers and subscribe to Birdi’s newsletter today!

Brooke Hahn
Brooke has been involved in SaaS startups for the past 10 years. From marketing to leadership to customer success, she has worked across the breadth of teams and been pivotal in every company's strategy and success.

Get started with Birdi