Drone Mapping

Having a birds eye perspective on a problem facilitates better decision making. Quite literally, being able to look down upon a geographic area allows one to craft better plans. Modern mapping services like Google Maps grant views with exceptional clarity.

Google’s photogrammetric mapping is astoundingly good – Here’s the Lower Haight district in San Francisco

Such services are not available on Thornleigh Farm – located, as it is, on remote Lord Howe Island. This is understandable: Internet giants like Google are hardly going to expend their resources producing hyper-detailed maps of a remote island in the Tasman Sea.

A freely available satellite survey of Lord Howe Island provided on Google Maps

The best resolution I’ve been able to get from freely available satellite surveys is generally about 30cm / pixel. This isn’t enough to usefully inform decision making. Enter consumer-grade drone technology. Using a DJI Mavic Pro drone, I’ve been able to produce aerial surveys with a resolution as fine as 1cm / pixel.

An individual image from a DJI Mavic Pro flying over Thornleigh Farm

Images can be stitched together using Adobe Photoshop’s inbuilt Photomerge functionality. I took approximately 200 photos and then used Photomerge to stitch them all together at once. On my laptop, this took only a few hours. The result is so intimately detailed that I don’t want to post it here, out of respect for our privacy on the farm.

Drones like the DJI Mavic Pro are not cheap. But they are significantly cheaper than orbiting satellites, and presumably cheaper than the vehicles Google uses to produce photogrammetric maps. Yet they allow a small business on a remote island to produce fantastic, detailed aerial surveys to inform better decision making. If anyone ever tells you drones are useless toys – Point them to Thornleigh Farm.