SolSpec Awarded USDA Grant to Improve TWI Measure for Soil and Vegetation Delineation

SolSpec Awarded USDA Grant to Improve TWI Measure for Soil and Vegetation Delineation

Award from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

SolSpec is pleased to announce our pending grant with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Our work with them will focus on creating a new and more comprehensive method for quantifying hydrological processes and soil moisture gradients to be used as a tool in delineating ecosystems, vegetation communities, and soil properties.

topographic wetness index

A glimpse of the topographic wetness index (TWI). Blue indicates wet and brown indicates dry.

Who is USDA Natural Resources Conservation?

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service focuses on improving natural resources and land management. They do this through improving resource conditions, such as soil quality, water quality, water quantity, air quality, habitat quality, and/or energy efficiency. They work with farmers and ranchers to develop conservation plans and implement practices, including water development and vegetation improvements for livestock, improved irrigation systems, and forest management practices that address natural resource concerns on their land. They also promote land management research and data through partnering with federal and state agencies, universities, and professional services to deliver land management information.

What is TWI and how is it used in current land management practices?

 Digital terrain indices to predict soil wetness  generalize topographic variables that drive hydrological processes and are commonly used to help identify hydrological flow paths for geochemical modeling, as well as to characterize biological processes such as annual net primary production, vegetation patterns, and forest site quality” (source). TWI is an excepted analytic for local soil property (biogeochemistry) and ecosystem modeling (vegetation communities and wet land delineations), but limited when implemented over large landscapes. The index is generally extracted from a Digital Elevation Model (DEM), using the specific catchment area (D-infinity specific catchment area) and local hydraulic gradient under steady state conditions represented by local slope angle of the specific grid.

Why is the current TWI model deficient for accurate delineation of soil types?

TWI captures runoff flowing by gravity but fails to consider other factors. For example, locations with similar catchment area and slope can have significantly different soil moisture conditions due to varying characteristics in aspect, terrain, position, temperature, heat, and the soil physical and chemical properties induced by the solar radiation variance. The TWI model is used to simulate soil moisture gradients and/or conditions in a watershed; however, it is limited to steady state conditions. Ecosystems do not exist in a steady state. It does not consider factors, such as different soil moisture conditions due to varying characteristics in aspect, terrain, position, temperature, heat and soil physical and chemical properties induced by the solar radiation variance.To better capture this variability, SolSpec is working to develop an enhanced model.

topographic wetness index

Comparing the traditional topographic wetness index with the SolSpec enhanced topographic wetness index. You can visually see the impact that aspect and terrain plays on the moisture content in the enhanced index.

What is the benefit of SolSpec’s Triangulated Ecological Site Potential Model?

The model is highly dynamic and adaptable, capturing variability at multiple scales while adjusting input weight down network based on individual climatic or topographic driver importance. The weights of these drivers and how they impact the local or network soil moisture gradients can be adjusted based on local knowledge or new data. The resulting surface should prove useful for mapping soil (type, drainage, chemical, and physical properties), soil trafficability, and species- or community-based vegetation distributions. Ultimately, the model will help guide land management and operational decision making. It will aid in the grouping or discretizing landscapes for modeling purposes in CEAP-Grazing Lands, and for establishing ecological site and site group concepts for advancement of ecological site development efforts.

Models and tools of this type have the ability to aid in many unforeseen ways until a specialist determines a need and a use.  For instance the TESP model could prove very useful in fire potential and severity prediction. By examining existing vegetation or forest stand composition and density against the TESP model output, dry hillslopes with high fuel loads could be isolated and prioritized for vegetation treatments, reducing the threat to public health and safety in the wildland urban interface .   

So What?

Land management practices are undergoing a transformation through improved data collection and quality, particularly with drones, and increased processing power and analytics. SolSpec aims to enhance the current data offerings that inform land management plans so that decision makers can make better and more efficient decisions on managing the flora and fauna for which they are responsible.

How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Moving Into the Digital Age

How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Moving Into the Digital Age

The oil and gas pipeline industry is constantly evolving, becoming safer, and more efficient. One of the best methods to do this is by digitizing. In this article, we will discuss the digitization process and what it means for the midstream oil and gas companies that are taking advantage of this process as well as what it means for those that are not.

What Is Digitizing and How Does It Apply to the Oil and Gas Midstream Industry

Digitizing is the act of converting data into a format that computers can read. Essentially, the digitization (also known as digitalization) process creates a digital image that can be used by both people and computers. An example of this could be converting images into a midstream pipeline map.

hillslope threat
Using SolSpec’s software platform you can view your site’s hillslope threats.

Once digitized, computer software could analyze the map and check for slope anomalies and other threats to the ROW. Using UAVs and continuous monitoring services, this data could be continuously updated. The computer could then compare the integrity of past slopes with current ones which could be used to alert midstream operators of any changes.

In the past, this was a process that human inspectors would have done as they could have inspected on-site or through manual image review. As you can imagine, it was both time-consuming and labor-intensive. Digitizing made this process much faster and reduced the work required. Let’s look at some other ways digitization has helped midstream operations.

Data-Driven Mapping and Anomaly Checking Verses Reviewing Images by Human Eye

There are many advantages of using data-driven mapping and anomaly checking compared to manual methods of human eye image review. Some benefits include:

  • An increase in speed
  • An increase in safety
  • Easier compliance with government regulations
  • Better protection of the environment
  • A better public image of pipeline operations
  • Reduced costs

Speed Increases

Yale University Press reports that a personal computer can now operate 1 billion times faster than the human brain. Not only this, but it also works with much higher skill. This is because a computer can represent and distinguish 4.2 billion data differences. Man simply cannot biologically reach this level of accuracy with the human eye alone.

As a result, companies that take advantage of digitization get more accurate reports and get them faster. Speed itself is useful, but it also has many other benefits.

Safety Increases

Increased processing speeds improve safety. The quicker the computer can relay slope changes to midstream pipeline companies, the faster these slopes can be repaired. Repairing a slope early could avoid a landslip while the ramifications of repairing too late could potentially be catastrophic.

The human eye can’t always detect slope changes as early as a computer can. Consequently, companies that use software to search for these slope changes will always find them sooner than if they rely solely on a human inspector.

A Better Relationship with the Government, Environment, and the Public

A midstream pipeline company is always going to have to work with government on a local, state, and national level. Each government agency has its own needs and expectations. Using data-driven mapping and digitized data helps midstream companies meet and even exceed these expectations.

Quick data collection and anomaly checking also help protect the local environment. Computer software can be used to check for ROW encroachment into protected habitats. Any encroachments can be quickly rectified before any damage to the local environment occurs.

Such swift actions lead to better public relations. This facilitates future business for midstream pipeline companies. Conversely, companies relying on human-reviewed anomaly checks tend to be less proactive and often end up having to repair problems only after the damage has been done to surrounding areas. This can make acquiring future contracts difficult.

Reduced Costs

According to a report written by the World Economic Forum, “digitalization has the potential to create around $1 trillion of value for Oil and Gas firms”.

Costs savings include:

  • Reducing time for completion of pipeline goals
  • Reducing slope failures
  • Reducing ROW encroachment and overgrowth
  • Reducing environmental damage

Time Savings

Digitization improves the speed of virtually every midstream pipeline action. For example, sensors can be used to detect abnormal temperatures, so inspectors need not take constant readings. Midstream pipeline operators can access real-time data at any time during pipeline operation, and midstream pipeline services can be requested immediately as situations arise.

Learn more through two case studies:

This reduces the time it takes to rectify any pipeline issues, which in turn reduces the time the pipeline remains inactive. According to PG&E, a gas pipeline could send gas at rates of around 15 mph through the line. Two hours of downtime and customers could find their gas 30 miles away when they need it.

Slope Failure Reductions

Continuous monitoring can lead to a reduction in slope failures, often causing considerable damage to pipeline operations. Slopes can be protected as soon as outside influences begin to affect them.

For example, a company using digitization to perform anomaly checks quickly finds a slope losing its integrity. Upon further examination, this company finds that the area adjacent to this slope funnels water into the slope, causing damage. The company can take steps to eliminate or slow this water flow before the slope is severely damaged. This eliminates the costly repairs that would have had to be done on the slope if the situation were allowed to continue for a longer time.

Encroachment of a ROW and the Environment

Finding and stopping ROW encroachment and plant overgrowth can also save costs. That’s because cutting trees is less expensive when they’re young and small than when they’re bigger. The larger the tree, the more equipment will be needed to cut it down. Larger equipment is expensive to operate and more likely to cause ROW damage.

The reduction in environmental damage, as a direct result of digitization, can also help to save midstream oil and gas companies money. This is because environmental damage can lead to fines and lawsuits. Not only this, but the damage must be repaired, which can be costly on its own.

The Benefits of Digitization and Aerial Analytics in Midstream Pipeline Operations

The combination of aerial analytics and digitization benefit oil and gas pipeline projects. Additional reasons to digitize midstream pipeline operations include:

  • Digitizing makes planning and the allocation of midstream oil and gas assets clearer and more accurate
  • Safety checks can be done before endangering humans
  • Continuous ROW and pipeline monitoring can be done faster and more accurately
  • Non-destructive examinations can be facilitated

Digitizing can help companies to allocate their resources better. Maps created through aerial analytics can be used to discover geohazards so that teams will know what to expect before they head out into the field. This means planners will have a better idea of what their midstream pipeline investment will cost them before boots ever hit the ground.

Digitization and aerial analytics can work together to provide continuous monitoring of the ROW. This gives midstream oil and gas companies the ability to discover issues as they arise and to deal with them before they have a chance to cause any damage to the pipeline, the ROW, the workers, or the surrounding areas.

Also, digitized aerial analytics data can be used to eliminate environmental damage that traditional inspection teams may have in the past. UAVs, for example, can be used non-invasively to access nearby ROW areas. This allows inspection without ever driving or stepping on.

Final Thoughts

Digitization and aerial analytics have revolutionized midstream oil and gas pipelines. It made the entire industry much safer, more cost-effective, and less labor-intensive. Companies using these technologies serve their customers better while earning more money.

Solspec is happy to help in any way we can. Our company has many years of combined experience and is willing to put that knowledge to work. We offer constant monitoring, and 3D models, as well as industry standard reports to help monitor any and all terrain.

Aerial Analytics: LiDAR vs. Photogrammetry

Aerial Analytics: LiDAR vs. Photogrammetry

Two of the best land survey methods are LiDAR and photogrammetry. These survey methods can collect more data in a shorter timeframe than any other survey methods.

But what is better, LiDAR or photogrammetry? Before we can answer this question, we have to talk about what LiDAR and photogrammetry really are; and their similarities and differences.

In the next few sections, we will go over what LiDAR and photogrammetry are and how they are used to collect data. We will also address their practical use in the field, as well as the cases in which one might be better than the other.

What is LiDAR?

The acronym LiDAR stands for “light detection and ranging.” Simply put, LiDAR is a laser beam-based technology that uses laser light to help create maps. A laser beam and a sensor are used in conjunction to determine where objects are in relation to the sensor as well as each other.


These LiDAR point clouds are a collection of points that represent a 3D shape or feature

This technology can be mounted on ground-based devices, airplanes, helicopters, satellites, and UAVs. LiDAR use on UAVs is increasingly popular as it is less expensive than using aircraft and satellites, and faster and more efficient than using ground-based tools.

LiDAR system components

Lidar consists of four main components.
The vehicle on which the LiDAR system is mounted, such as a plane, UAV, satellite, or ground based system. This will have the LiDAR unit mounted to it. This is the device that contains the sensor and the laser.

A GPS receiver is also located on the device. This receiver is used to determine not only the latitude and longitude of the objects that are scanned but the altitude as well.

An inertial measurement unit helps to improve GPS receiver accuracy. The unit determines the angle of the vehicle. For example, the inertial measurement unit will keep track of the angle of the plane as it flies over the targeted area.

A computer is used to record all of this data. It records the burst of light that is sent out from the LiDAR system as well as the reflected light energy that is recorded from the LiDAR system. The time that it takes for the light energy to get from the object back to the LiDAR system is used to determine distances and altitudes.

What is LiDAR Used For?

LiDAR technology is used by many different industries and government agencies. It can be used to help predict the weather, create topographic maps, survey water bodies, and even create autonomous vehicle navigation systems.
An example of LiDAR data in use is the NOAA using it to monitor coastlines. This LiDAR data has been made public and is available here.

Another example might be the use of LiDAR data to create a pipeline corridor map. LiDAR data use, in this instance, would help the pipeline company access the terrain to plan construction and maintenance work.
photogrammetry image
This is an example of a photogrammetry output.

What is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry uses cameras to create photographs that can be used to create measurements. In essence, it takes 2D photographs and converts them into 3D models.

Like LiDAR, a photogrammetry system can be mounted on ground-based devices, planes, helicopters, satellites, and UAVs. Also, as with LiDAR, UAVs are becoming popular vehicles for photogrammetry systems.

Photogrammetry systems components

A photogrammetry system consists of a few essential parts, they are:

The vehicle to which the photogrammetry system is mounted. A satellite, UAV, helicopter, plane, or ground-based vehicle can be used to carry a photogrammetry system. The vehicle used to carry the system can be as simple as a person with a tripod or as advanced as a satellite in Earth’s orbit. But, nowadays, the most common vehicle for a photogrammetry system is a UAV.

The camera will take photographs from different angles.

The GPS system and inertial measurement unit both work to determine where the camera is and what angle the vehicle and camera are at when these pictures are taken. The computer will store this data or transmit it back to a larger and more powerful server.

A computer. This data will then need to be processed by advanced software to create useful information. Photogrammetry usually requires much more data analysis and detailed maps. Photogrammetry can often take five times as long to create when compared to LiDAR data post production times.

What is Photogrammetry Used For?

Photogrammetry is used to create maps, drawings, and 3D models. Engineers, land surveyors, real estate firms, and many other businesses have found ways to use photogrammetry.

An engineer might, for example, use photogrammetry to help them plan a highway, a railroad, or even a dam. Before starting a new development project, a real estate firm could use photogrammetry to survey a particular piece of land.

Another example would be the use of photogrammetry to create accurate aerial views of pipelines for natural gas. They could then use this data to help keep the gas lines free from growing vegetation or inspect potential landslide hazards.

Advantages of LiDAR vs. photogrammetry

Advantages of LiDAR

Advantages of photogrammetry

Extremely accurate when it comes to surveying an area, especially when collecting data from the ground. Can create full-color 2D and 3D models, whereas LiDAR can only capture data in monochrome.
Captures more data, faster than photogrammetry. When taken from UAVs or other aerial vehicles, photogrammetry systems can often create models more accurately.
Data can be captured in low-light settings, including completely dark environments. This accuracy can also be achieved at a much lower price point. The laser source and detector, timing electronics, mirror, and motor are all more expensive for LiDAR than photogrammetry technology, according to csengineermag.com.
Data can be processed faster into usable information and maps than photogrammetry. According to Geoawesomeness.com, the raw data from LiDAR can be processed in just a few minutes. Comparatively, photogrammetry can take five to ten times longer. Equipment for photogrammetry is lighter than LiDAR. This means a lighter UAV can be used. A larger UAV might need a more experienced operator to fly.

When to Use LiDAR Over Photogrammetry

LiDAR excels in low-light environments and in creating astonishingly precise models. It’s also great to quickly collect and interpret data. This makes it ideal for projects where specific timelines need to be met.

A situation in which one might want to select LiDAR over photogrammetry is in high vegetation survey areas. This is because the vegetation will create shadows and obscure the ground, making it more challenging to collect accurate data using photogrammetry.

An example of this could be the U.S. Forestry Service using LiDAR to monitor a state forest section’s health. In industry, it could be a company using LiDAR to help autonomous vehicles navigate a highway at night.

When to Use Photogrammetry Over LiDAR

Photogrammetry can create full – color maps with images that are much more detailed than those created by using LiDAR. Often at lower prices.

In industry, a mining company may want to use photogrammetry to show the elevation and terrain around a mine or transport route, such as a pipeline or railroad. This information might help prevent natural disasters like floods and landslides.

A government agency may want to create topographic maps that can be used to help with rescue operations. For example, a drone might be sent to an area that is experiencing wildfires. Photogrammetry could be used to map areas that are currently fire-affected to help rescue crews evacuate surrounding areas.

This is not the only area where the government could use photogrammetry. One surprising way in which it is currently being used is in crime scene investigation. They use photogrammetry to quickly create a record of the crime scene so that it can quickly be cleaned up before the investigation is complete. This has become especially helpful in traffic collisions as roads can be reopened without any delays from crime scene investigators.

Final Thoughts

LiDAR and photogrammetry both use some of the same vehicles to collect their data. With the data they collect, they can also create some of the same resources.

These technologies, however, are both very different, and they both have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. Sometimes using LiDAR data will be more beneficial than using photogrammetry, while other times the reverse will be true. In other cases, you might want to collect data using both of these technologies.

SolSpec uses LiDAR and photogrammetric units mounted to UAVs to inspect gas and oil pipeline pathways. Our fast data gathering and turnaround, as well as the latest in LiDAR and Photogrammetric technologies, facilitate regulatory compliance and environmental safety.

What is Remote Sensing Used For?

What is Remote Sensing Used For?

The rise of commercial drone technology has benefited many companies in numerous ways. One of the most significant ways these companies have benefitted is through remote sensing. Drone inspection services have made remote sensing more accessible than ever. UAV remote sensing solutions have hundreds of uses. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is remote sensing used for?” so that you may identify whether it could be beneficial to your industry.

What Is Remote Sensing?

Before analyzing its uses, it’s critical to first come up with a remote sensing definition. According to the United States Geological Survey, remote sensing is “the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance from the targeted area.” While that definition is quite a mouthful, we will try to break it down so the rest of us can capture what it means.

In terms of drone technology, this involves flying a drone outfitted with a camera or other sensor types in a manner that allows it to capture data about the earth below. UAV remote sensing solutions can provide a comprehensive overview of the land or infrastructure below. Not only can these cameras and sensors provide data related to topography and other surface features, but also detect topography statistics, but they can also provide things such as water temperature or the movement of dust clouds.

The type of data that remote sensing equipment collects depends on the type of sensor(s) on the drone and the data types needed to guide decision-making. Sensors are typically either “passive” or “active” which describes the method by which the sensor collects data. Passive remote sensing equipment is employed when there is a need to sense external stimuli. Passive sensors record the energy that is emitted from the Earth’s surface naturally, such as temperature, vibrations or radiation from reflected sunlight.

With active sensors, the equipment relies on internal stimuli to collect information about the Earth. One example of an active sensor is LiDAR, which is a scanning laser system that rapidly emits lasers in an array, and monitors how long it takes for the laser to reflect off the Earth or other objects in its path and back to the sensor. The data collected provides a detailed look at the form of the earth or structures below.

Some sensor types are a hybrid of passive and active remote sensing. In the photography world, a camera with a flash is a perfect example of a hybrid sensor. The camera emits a flash of light which is reflected off of an object, then captured through the lens. In most cases, the camera on an unmanned aerial system does not use a flash and is therefore a passive sensor.

Because drone technology is relatively new, many companies fail to recognize just how beneficial UAV remote sensing solutions can be. When it comes to remote sensing solutions, it’s crucial to think outside the box. Below, you’ll find some of the most creative uses for remote sensing technology.

Determining Soil Moisture Content

Knowing how much moisture is in the soil is beneficial for many reasons. It helps engineers in the construction industry who are looking to break ground on a new project and are trying to determine the type of machinery they’ll need based on the soil moisture content and overall site conditions.

Having an idea of soil moisture levels could also benefit those in the oil and gas pipeline industry who are looking to monitor for erosion caused by rainfall to asses how sensitive an area may be to runoff. Companies can determine soil moisture levels by using both passive and active sensors which may be mounted in fixed positions on the ground or on an aerial platform such as a drone.

Identifying Areas That Are Prone To Flooding

Another way that companies can use remote sensing technology is to identify areas that are prone to flooding. This information not only serves to benefit the construction industry but could also help insurance companies as well. With remote sensing solutions, companies can not only identify areas that are flood-prone but how bad these areas are likely to be affected and the damage that would occur as a result.

Tracking Wind Levels

Those who work with wind turbines know how crucial tracking the weather is, considering that the day’s weather directly impacts how much power can be harnessed in a given day. Remote sensing solutions can help measure wind speed and direction so that energy companies can influence both short-term and long-term changes with respect to the performance of their equipment.

Identifying Mineral Composition

The mining and resource extraction industries employ remote sensing solutions to determine the mineral composition of potential areas of operation. Similar to monitoring the soil moisture content, understanding subsurface mineral composition is critical to understanding the feasibility and economic opportunity associated with a particular site. Minerals and rocks have different chemical compositions and densities, which are easy to identify with remote sensors.

Some rocks are more difficult to dig through than others. Thanks to remote sensors, companies can alter the location of their dig sites, or come up with a proper plan of action to break ground in a particular area. There’s nothing worse than the surprise of not having the equipment necessary to complete the project, or damaging equipment when the improper tools are employed for drilling. Remote sensing solutions reduce the chances of this happening significantly.

Assessing Terrain Stability

Remote sensing solutions are also beneficial for a process called interferometry. This process involves using sensors to measure land deformation and slip. When the oil and gas pipeline industry uses interferometry measurements, they can better improve their safety standards. These measurements not only help to ensure that pipelines are fully operational, but that they are keeping up with regulations set forth by government entities.

SolSpec Remote Sensing Services

Here at SolSpec, we use passive RGB cameras to capture visual data that is analyzed for slip and revegetation of pipeline rights-of-way. This provides our oil and gas clients the data they need to mitigate slips before they become extensive, and receive feedback for faster revegetation.

The world of drones and remote sensing is an exciting integration of technology to solve real-world problems.

How Aerial Imaging Services and Mapping Solutions are Changing the Way We Work

How Aerial Imaging Services and Mapping Solutions are Changing the Way We Work

In recent years, aerial imaging services have evolved tremendously. Now, thanks to drones and aerial sensor technologies, it’s easier than ever to get a birds’ eye view from above. The industries that have benefitted most from the advancements of aerial imaging services are those who rely on mapping solutions, such as the oil and gas pipeline industry or environmental consulting firms. Below is a breakdown of some of the more recent mapping solutions now accessible to these companies.

Advancements in Photogrammetry

Drones are incredible tools capable of capturing high-resolution images from the air. By using a technique called photogrammetry, multiple images can be stitched together to create a 2D map or 3D model of the site. Because all images captured are associated with a precise GPS reading from the drone’s onboard computer, these stitched maps make it easy to identify the exact location of features on the maps.

Now, companies are using drone mapping services to gain access to locations previously inaccessible. For example, if there was a location – perhaps a sensitive wetland – that was inaccessible by foot, companies would have to rely on outdated, low-resolution satellite imagery, or send a crew out on foot to inspect the area. This often resulted in unreliable or incomplete information about the area of interest.

But thanks to drones, companies can now capture reliable information through non-invasive means, more safely and at a lower cost. They can view their project at any stage with crystal-clear accuracy, as drones provide high-definition photos and maps. This allows companies to make more precise measurements using photogrammetry tools, saving them both time and money. With highly accurate maps and the ability to make precise measurements, companies can invest in preventative measures as opposed to reactionary ones.

Plus, when it comes to aerial imaging services, drones are much more flexible and readily available than planes. This allows more companies to have access to photogrammetric services. What a company may not have once been able to afford is now quite reasonable.

UAV Mapping Services Protect Employees and Projects

Job sites can often be hazardous environments. Before UAV mapping services became available, company employees would have to perform inspections and surveys in hazardous areas manually, potentially putting themselves at risk. Now, companies can keep their employees out of harm’s way. By launching a drone from a nearby safe location companies and employees alike can rest easy knowing that aerial imaging increased safety while providing more accurate information.

Aerial imagery provides an affordable, safe way to monitor right of ways.

With efficiency as a core focus of most projects, finding novel ways to perform the same tasks at a lower cost while still achieving quality results is not easy. Because UAV mapping services are so efficient, it’s much easier and far more cost effective for companies to utilize these mapping services rather than paying multiple employees to perform a surveying job. With minimal training, a UAV pilot can successfully map or survey 100 acres in roughly 20 minutes, while it takes numerous employees hours, if not days to survey the same size area.

UAV mapping services can be completed by either an internal employee or a UAV aerial imaging services company can be contracted for the project. Many believe that these services are expensive or that they will need to hire and train their own employees to operate the drone, but this is not the case. With the number of third-party UAV mapping services companies growing by the day, businesses can take advantage of increasingly competitive pricing.

UAV mapping services also help prevent surprises. There’s nothing worse than when employees visit a job site only to discover that an accident has occurred or that the site is simply not as they expected. When these issues or unexpected events occur, companies must halt operations to determine the best way to address and solve the problem quickly. With UAV mapping solutions, companies can minimize unknowns, find and address issues more quickly and keep their operations running smoothly with a clear scope of work and directive for their workers.

Drone 3D Mapping

As drones have advanced, so too has the software that supports these aerial mapping platforms. A perfect example of this is seen with the rise of drone 3D mapping software. Many industries are taking advantage of 3D mapping due to the ever-increasing number of use cases for this information. Thanks to drones, the following industries have adopted aerial imaging as a cornerstone of their project success:

  • Construction
  • Land Surveying
  • Mining
  • Inspection
  • Land Development
  • Forestry
  • Agriculture
  • Emergency Management

When paired with only a few traditional survey points, aerial imagery can deliver the best of both worlds by providing sub-centimeter accuracy with robust 2D maps and 3D models. These comprehensive 3D renderings are not only as accurate as traditional survey methods, but cover 100% of the survey area. Instead of relying on scattered individual survey points, these high-accuracy aerial maps paint a crystal-clear picture of the project area. By pairing accurate information with context gained from the imagery, companies are able to plan for projects more effectively, execute efficiently and handle emergency response situations when they arise.

Most drones are designed to complete a broad range of general mapping tasks. These drone platforms are generally outfitted with high-quality RGB (red, green, blue) cameras very similar to what you might find in a camera or smartphone. For less than $2,000, the Phantom 4 Pro by DJI is one of the most capable and commonly used platforms for mapping. For more specialized tasks, different sensors can be utilized. These sensors range from near-infrared to LiDAR to leak detection sensors for hazardous gases. What was once cost-prohibitive or inaccessible a few years ago is now cheaper and easier to use than ever.


Using analytics, we can assess where there is potential for geohazard activity, like a landslide.

Thanks to software platforms like the SolSpec Aerial Analytics Engine, companies can now gain more information about their projects in an easy-to-understand way. After a mapping mission is flown, the images are uploaded for processing which will output high-resolution maps in a matter of hours. These maps contain an incredible amount of information that is often difficult for humans to analyze without the aid of a computer. SolSpec has created software that uses high-tech algorithms to analyze the imagery and produce reports that solve specific problems. With all of the legwork done and a report in-hand, companies can focus their efforts on what they do best: Getting the job done on time and under budget.

SolSpec’s software features built-in aerial data analytics tools, giving clients actionable results fully integrated into the map view, which is as easy to use as Google Earth. Currently, SolSpec’s analytics are tailored to meet the specific needs of the oil & gas industry. However, the SolSpec Viewer works equally well for a wide range of enterprise customers, such as mining, utilities, and civil construction. SolSpec has plans to grow their analytics software suite to service these industries as well in the near-term.

The technology and applications for aerial mapping solutions have matured rapidly in only 5 years’ time and will continue to grow exponentially as more applications and use cases are discovered for aerial imagery. For more information about the ways that drones are helping companies protect themselves, minimize environmental impacts and increase the safety and integrity of the infrastructure around us, contact us for a few consultation.