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.

Exchange-traded index funds are our friends

Horsies, doggies and casinos are a great analogy for stock markets. There are a lot of testosterone-amped men running around spinning yarns about how they know which horse will win, and why. The reality is, if anyone actually has scientific evidence suggesting strongly which horse will win, they are betting big and keeping quiet.

So it goes with shares. No one knows. Anyone that says they know is benevolently ignorant, or malevolently misleading.

As small scale investors, we are ripe targets. Just like intoxicated punters studying the form, we can be lured with promises of a quick buck, a certain return. There is no such thing – But there is big money in telling us there is, because if we trade lots, we pay lots of fees, and feed lots of payouts. So we are up against it.

Yet we still want a place to park our money for the long term, where it can work for us. This is where exchange-traded index funds are our friends. Instead of betting a single horse will win, they are a bet that some horses will win, some horses will lose, but that everyone will have a pretty good time and come back next year.

Pick a broad enough fund, and sit on it long enough, and you have an extremely high probability of achieving two objectives: Keep your capital safe, and earn a useful return. You won’t get rich, but you won’t get fucked, and there are a great many people out there with a serious interest in you being fucked.