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Nov/Dec 2018 Vol 24 # 11-12 . 3D Mapping with the DroneDeploy App

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3D Mapping with Your DJI Phantom or Mavic Drone

By Howard Berenbon

So, you've got this expensive and cool DJI Phantom drone and you've been flying around your town taking some great aerial photos and videos. It's definitely fun to do, especially with that DJI drone that that uses GPS location and sophisticated stabilization so every flight can be a success. It even has obstacle avoidance to help prevent crashing into things like trees, houses and people. And the battery life is phenomenal, so you can fly that bird for up to 25 minutes. All that flying for impressive aerial photos and video is cool, but there's one application that may even be cooler, that's 3D mapping. I bet 99 percent of the DJI users aren't aware of the free app will do the 3D mapping with ease. Well, read on!

DroneDeploy App from

So, with very little setup, and no computer programming required, you can easily send your DJI aircraft skyward to make a 2D and 3D map of your area. In fact, the DroneDeploy app uses the GPS location to accurately map the selected area. DroneDeploy functions very much like the DJI Go app that controls their drones. But it specifically allows you to select an area using the Google map of your mapping location. Once your area is selected, it displays the number of acres it's going to map, and the time and number of images required.

To make a 3D map, DroneDeploy sends the drone in a grid pattern above the location taking overlapping jpeg images, and then later, you send the images up to to stitch the photos into a 2D and 3D map. The 2D map can be used by surveyors to measure the land, and very accurately, down to inches. A third map i generated for Plant Health, that displays the moisture content, or lack of, useful for farmers to determine if more irrigation is required for the dry areas. A fourth map is elevation.

Once your grid is selected, you press the Fly button on your controller's video display, usually an Android or Apple device, and it automatically flies the aircraft to the selected height (I used 200 feet for my demonstration) and flies the drone back and forth until it's covered the area, and then flies home to the GPS home point (your take off location), and lands automatically. At any point in the flight you can take manual control of your drone, and I did take control when it started its decent. Check out my Youtube Video below of the 3D mapping process.

3D Mapping Example on Youtube

Now to the Cost

The DroneDeploy app is free to use, but the 3D mapping stitching service costs. You can first start with a 30 day free trial account, which allows you to upload up to 500 images per 3D map. After you upload your images, it can take several hours for processing, and they'll send you an e-mail notification when done. Then you log in to your DroneDeploy account and can view, download and manipulate the images. If you're a licensed pilot, you can charge your clients for producing 2D and 3D maps using DroneDeploy. After your 30-day trial is up, and you have a real need to produce 3D maps, you can sign up for the Pro version for $83 a month, which will process to 1,000 photos per map. They also offer the Business plan for $250 a month, which allows up to 3,000 images per map. For information, visit

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