Drone mapping software is a category of software applications that perform two primary functions: drone flight for data collection, and software for processing and analysing this data. Drone mapping is often much simpler and more accurate than other mapping methods, thanks to the relatively low cost of purchasing and operating a drone, as well as the simplicity and speed of automated drone flight software.
Some drone mapping software applications, such as 3DF Zephyr, allow for manual or automated drone flights, which can be planned beforehand and optimized to capture particular types of data, such as vertical building facades or large area surveys.
Drone mapping can be accomplished with a variety of sensor types, including RGB and thermal cameras (through photogrammetry) and LiDAR. Most drone mapping software uses a photogrammetry engine to process data and generate maps and point clouds, due to the relatively lower cost and abundance of hardware options — many off-the-shelf consumer and prosumer drones, such as the DJI Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 Pro, are fully compatible with commercial-grade drone mapping software like 3DR Site Scan.
Once connected to a flight controller, drone maps are captured through fully automated flights. After the data is captured by the drone during this flight, which may potentially include up to thousands of photos, the data is uploaded to a cloud or desktop-based processing engine and stitched together into georeferenced maps (orthomosaics) or models (point clouds, 3D meshes).
After processing is complete, the maps and models are available within the mapping software for further inspection, analysis, and exporting into other software tools. Some of the common uses of for orthomosaics and point clouds include mine planning, construction progress tracking, and cut/fill and stockpile measurement.