The APSU GIS Center uses drone mapping frequently. But what is drone mapping? And why does it matter?


Drones play an important role in how maps are made today. Maps are created with photogrammetry. “Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. The output of this is normally a map, measurement or 3D model of a real-world object or scene.”  Although photogrammetry has been around since 1867, drones have made the process easier, faster, and more cost effective. Previously, helicopters were used to gather accurate data of large properties. Drone technology continues to advance; drone mapping is more popular than ever.

Use of Modern Drone Mapping

Drone measurements and maps are used for a variety of reasons around the world. Drones can be used at events and festivals to monitor crowd sizes and line length. Event staff need to know when to deploy more workers to shorten lines. Organizers can see when the event is at capacity.

Drone Mapping also serves an important purpose for rescue workers.

The UK uses drone mapping during water rescues. Drones document safe paths within the water for rescue workers. The potential for using drone mapping to find signs of a missing person, such as underwater footprints, is also being explored for the future.

GIS Center Drone Mapping

At the APSU GIS Center, drones help clients in the region. We collect data via aerial imagery. That imagery can be converted to digital terrain models. ESRI Drone to Map software is used to process data into RGB images and digital terrain models to show differences in elevations. The data can also show contour elevations. The models are useful for the GIS Center and our clients for several reasons.

Our models help clients plan out the usage of their land. The GIS Center also uses drone mapping to access areas that are difficult to reach or in some way inaccessible. For example, drone mapping is particularly useful during natural disasters.

Several years ago, the GIS Center jumped into action after a tornado affected Montgomery County. We used drones to identify which areas were damaged. Then, we provided emergency management and damage reports for Montgomery County.

Since then, we’ve increased our drone use. The GIS Center recently used drone mapping to create a virtual reality experience. Interested parties can now tour the APSU GIS Center virtually.

The Future of Drone Mapping

As drone mapping continues to advance, the possibilities for the industry are expanding. Experts and industry leaders have identified how drone mapping may evolve in the coming years: autonomous drones, object detection, and an increased role in search and rescue operations.

Drones are also becoming more accessible locally. APSU students can experience drones with the APSU Drone Club. Beginners are welcome to gain confidence in drone flying through virtual reality and hands on training offered by the club. For more information, visit the drone club on Facebook and Peay Link or contact