DroneMapper: Using Global Mapper for UAV Data Processing

Once the GRID generation is completed you have a bare earth DTM which can be exported as a GeoTIFF or any other elevation format via Global Mapper.

DroneMapper is one of the success stories in the fledgling field of UAV data collection and processing. After several decades of experience working in the aerospace industry, CEO Pierre Stoermer was quick to recognize the potential for drones as a viable low-cost alternative to manned aircraft for this purpose. Serving customers in a wide variety of industries and business sectors, including agriculture and mining, Stoermer recognized the importance of efficient data management and processing, both for their internal processes and for the value added products that the company delivers to their customers. This lead Stoermer to Global Mapper for UAV data processing.

CHALLENGES

Like most small businesses, one of the main challenges faced by DroneMapper was finding tools that provide the right level of functionality but that fit within the company’s inevitable budgetary constraints. As with any business expenditure, investing in technology must bring some degree of assurance that there will be a return on this investment. Traditional GIS applications are notoriously complex and cumbersome, requiring an inordinate amount of time and a high degree of training and expertise to effectively operate, which significantly impacts the overall cost of any project.

Without a dedicated GIS technician at DroneMapper, the operation and maintenance of the GIS data processing workflow is the responsibility of the current staff. The selected software must therefore be easy to learn and easy to apply.

DroneMapper has an expanding client and customer base, whose needs and requirements necessitate an efficient data processing platform that can generate deliverables in a wide variety of formats and with varying specifications.

A 3D view of piles in Global Mapper that were measured to give the viewer perception of their relative sizes.

SOLUTIONS

Unlike most companies who, when faced with a technology decision, evaluate multiple software alternatives, DroneMapper found Global Mapper first and has stuck with it. The range of functionality in tandem with the unparalleled format support were enough to convince them that Global Mapper was an ideal solution for their needs.

A visualization of what has been filtered from an initial point cloud and digital elevation model.

This versatile, fully functional GIS application has been steadily gaining an eager and dedicated worldwide following among geospatial professionals. Recent development work has focused on the visualization and analysis of 3D data, especially LiDAR and other point cloud formats. According to Stoermer, “Global Mapper provides an outstanding set of tools for efficiently assisting us and our client base in an affordable manner”.

GLOBAL MAPPER FOR DATA PROCESSING

Global Mapper is at the core of most of DroneMapper’s data processing workflows. The company employs the software’s intuitive 2D and 3D visualization tools to provide initial quality control of ortho-rectified imagery and DEMs.

Further along the production line, Global Mapper is the go-to application for filtering point cloud data to create accurate, bare-earth Digital Terrain Models. These DTMs allow the company to generate customized contour lines that can be exported in shapefile or virtually any other vector format. Global Mapper’s powerful cut and fill analysis capability and volumetric calculation tools are used to precisely measure volumes, providing DroneMapper’s clients in a variety of industries with site-specific intelligence that is essential for efficient project management.

Employing Global Mapper’s powerful raster calculation functionality, DroneMapper is able to quickly and accurately analyze vegetation patterns by generating NDVI grids. This provides an invaluable service to clients in the agriculture and forestry industries.

BENEFITS

DroneMapper’s decision to settle on Global Mapper for its spatial data management allows the company to perform both internal data processing as well as customer services on one powerful and easy-to-use platform. The application’s SDK will also provide an opportunity for future custom development projects and will allow DroneMapper to adapt Global Mapper to more specifically meet their needs.

ABOUT GLOBAL MAPPER

Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.

ABOUT BLUE MARBLE GEOGRAPHICS

Trusted by thousands of GIS professionals around the world, Blue Marble Geographics is a leading developer of software products and services for geospatial data conversion and GIS.  Pioneering work in geomatics and spatial data conversion quickly established this Maine-based company as a key player in the GIS software field.  Today’s professionals turn to Blue Marble for Global Mapper, a low-cost, easy-to-use yet powerful GIS software tool. Blue Marble is known for coordinate conversion and file format expertise and is the developer of The Geographic Calculator, GeoCalc SDK, Global Mapper, LiDAR Module for Global Mapper, and the Global Mapper SDK.

LiDARUSA: Using Global Mapper to Analyze Stream Morphology for Erosion Control

LiDARUSA uses Global Mapper to analyze stream morphology for erosion control.
LiDARUSA team needed the LiDAR processing tools functionality of Global Mapper to process extremely high amounts of data in an accurate and efficient manner.

LiDARUSA employs a variety of airborne and terrestrial data collection and processing technologies to provide clients with accurate terrain models and volumetric measurements. The stream study project, which was spread across several non-contiguous areas in Western Tennessee, initially required the acquisition of a series of high-density point cloud datasets, each containing billions of points. This data was then processed to identify and reclassify ground points, which were filtered to create a high-resolution ground model.

As part of an ongoing analysis process, additional data will be captured over a prescribed time series and incremental changes in the stream morphology will be measured and analyzed to instigate erosion control procedures.

CHALLENGES

Because of the nature of the terrain and vegetation cover, neither traditional survey methods nor fixed wing- or helicopter-based data collection were viable options in this project. Instead, LiDARUSA technicians employed a UAV mounted LiDAR collection platform, which is quick and relatively inexpensive to deploy.

While the raw data accurately represented the surfaces that were encountered, there was no distinction made between bare earth and any non-ground features such as tree cover or other obstructions. In order to be of value in the terrain analysis and ultimately in the change detection process, the nature of the surface detected by each point had to be identified and those points representing anything other than ground had to be removed before creating a ground model.

Because a UAV-mounted collection platform was in relatively close proximity to the target surface, the concentration of points and subsequently the volume of data was enormous. Each point cloud contained billions of points with over 1,000 points per square meter so the LiDARUSA team needed to find LiDAR processing software that was able to process extremely high amounts of data in an accurate and efficient manner.

SOLUTIONS

Global Mapper and the accompanying Global Mapper LiDAR Module were chosen by LiDARUSA because they included all of the required point cloud processing capabilities and they provided the means to maximize the return on investment in LiDAR data.

This versatile, fully functional GIS application has been steadily gaining an eager and dedicated worldwide following among geospatial professionals. Recent development work has focused on the visualization and analysis of 3D data, especially LiDAR and other point cloud formats. Global Mapper has allowed LiDARUSA to meet the challenges of processing large amounts of raw data into a usable commodity for its clients.

LiDARUSA uses Global Mapper to process large amounts of raw data
Global Mapper has allowed LiDARUSA to meet the challenges of processing large amounts of raw data into a usable commodity for its clients.

GLOBAL MAPPER AT WORK

Global Mapper played an essential role in the stream morphology project. The automatic ground point detection process provided the necessary data intelligence to allow non-required points to be quickly and easily removed from the point cloud. Using a customizable algorithm applied to the geometric structure and other attributes of the unclassified data, ground points were identified and isolated prior to creating an elevation grid.

An innovative cross-sectional viewing function in Global Mapper was used to display a cutaway view of a swath of points and to allow manual reclassification or removal of erroneous points. The extent of the swath from a defined linear path was adjusted to allow a more focused view of a target area.

Global Mapper’s powerful gridding tool was then used to convert the ground points into a terrain model, forming the basis for many of the software’s terrain analysis functions. The resolution of this gridded raster layer was optimized from the average point spacing in the original data. Tools in Global Mapper allow the raster layer to be cropped, feathered, tiled, or reprojected before being delivered to the client in any one of dozens of elevation data formats.

To analyze the degree of change between current and future collection periods, LiDARUSA’s technicians will be able to create a model of the difference between two gridded layers by subtracting the Z-values embedded in the pixels of each overlapping layer. The result will be a difference model in which areas with the most change are easily distinguished using either a stock or custom elevation shader. Furthermore, Global Mapper’s volume calculation capability will be used to provide precise measurements of the degree of erosion over the time period.

BENEFITS

The choice to use Global Mapper was an easy one for LiDARUSA. According to Daniel A Fagerman, Chief Technology Officer, the most important considerations were the low cost of the software, the availability of the LiDAR Module, and the ease-of-use of the required tools.

ABOUT GLOBAL MAPPER

Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.

ABOUT BLUE MARBLE GEOGRAPHICS

Trusted by thousands of GIS professionals around the world, Blue Marble Geographics is a leading developer of software products and services for geospatial data conversion and GIS.  Pioneering work in geomatics and spatial data conversion quickly established this Maine-based company as a key player in the GIS software field.  Today’s professionals turn to Blue Marble for Global Mapper, a low-cost, easy-to-use yet powerful GIS software tool. Blue Marble is known for coordinate conversion and file format expertise and is the developer of The Geographic Calculator, GeoCalc SDK, Global Mapper, LiDAR Module for Global Mapper, and the Global Mapper SDK.