HERE + UNIFLY joining forces to map airspace

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According to Engadget in March 2017, there are over 770,000 drone owners registered to fly in the US. That’s up from 670,000 at the beginning of 2017, meaning 100,000 users signed up in just three months alone. The FAA has also issued 37,000 Remote Pilot Certificates that let drone owners do the filming, inspection and other commercial operations. So, it’s not only our roads that are congested.

The growing popularity of drones, whether for leisure or commercial use, has highlighted the challenge of facilitating traffic in very-low- altitude airspace. As they are airborne objects, drones fall under aviation law. However, that’s only part of the challenge for drone flyers. Because they fly in the low level airspace, drones also need to take into account obstacles, buildings and people’s privacy.

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For autonomous drones to operate safely and predictably, access to rich and accurate data sources is key. Standards to support interoperability, just like those practiced by the aviation industry, are also needed. To meet these needs, they HERE is teaming up with UNIFLY, the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform, to develop 3D airspace maps for drones.

In the first phase of their collaboration, the companies plan to enable an airspace map for drones that covers both rural and urban areas, and marks out no-fly zones, such as airports, residential areas and sensitive government installations.

In the second phase, the companies plan to further develop the system to support the management of drone traffic flow and even collision avoidance, much like air traffic controllers do for the airline industry today. Longer-term, the aim is to explore how drone transportation and logistics can be integrated seamlessly into the broader transportation system.

The Unifly UTM platform connects relevant local and aviation authorities with drone pilots to safely integrate drones into the airspace. HERE, meanwhile, is developing the Reality Index™, a rich real-time digital representation of the physical world. Based on the companies’ commercial agreement, Unifly will integrate HERE map and location data from the Reality Index™ into its applications to provide a more and more robust picture of the low-altitude airspace.

Drones: the ultimate users of the Reality Index™

A drone generally needs a map from the ground up to an altitude of about 150 meters; in future, a flying taxi may need the map to extend higher. Drones need to take into account obstacles, buildings and people’s privacy. As airborne objects, they are also subject to various airspace regulations.

HERE and Unifly are mapping the airspace for drones, marking our no-fly zones such as airports, residential areas and sensitive government installations.jpeg

(A 3D visualization of the world, Image Source:

For drones to operate safely and predictably, access to rich and accurate data sources is paramount. These data sources must also be kept updated to ensure usefulness. Just as HERE today turns the real-time sensor data generated by millions of vehicles on the road into map information and new location services for drivers and passengers, drones themselves could also be employed to enable the self-healing of the airspace map. Equipped with various sophisticated sensors, drones could detect changes in the real-world environment and feed data back to the cloud to support map updates.

By aggregating data from many drones, the airspace map could also be enriched with precise information about hyperlocal weather conditions, potential hazards and the best navigable routes.


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The Benefits and Challenges of UAVs

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Benefits and Challenges of UAVs

Classification of UAVs

Classification of Drones by Size

Large Size Drones

These drones are used in the attack, combat and reconnaissance roles. Large size UAVs can fly to a very long distance without recharging or refueling. Large attack systems can carry missiles that can be fired remotely after observing and locking in the target. Reconnaissance UAVs are used to observe and secure a very large area.

Medium Size Drones

This range of drones is generally used in reconnaissance or to gather data. Such units are deployed in military, commercial, industrial and agricultural fields.

Small Size Drones

These drones are the most widely used units. UAVs of this size are used by commercial establishments, government departments, professional photographers and hobbyists.

Miniature Drones

These units are used for very specific purpose. Miniature drones have been developed for military usage. The device is small enough to fit in the palm. Military personnel use it for spying during a close combat mission. It can be used to view the inside of a standing or damaged building during search and rescue operations.

Classification by Design

Aircraft Design

This type of UAV has propeller on the tail or nose. Some wing design units have propellers on the wings. Jet propulsion is also used in large UAVs. There are small units that can be launched even from hand but larger units require a small runway to get off the ground. The advantage of this design is that this type of UAV consumes lower amount of energy compared to UAV with tilt rotor design.

Tilt Rotor Design

This type of UAV is also called quadcopter because of use of four rotors for lift and propulsion. It can lift off and land anywhere in the same way as a helicopter. These UAVs are the most widely used units due to ease of launching and landing. There is no need of runway or catapult to launch the aircraft.

Classification by Usage


UAVs have been used widely in attack and combat roles. Military use of drones includes reconnaissance and observation from the sky. Cargo drones are used to supply weapons and cargo to the military units.


There are a wide range of commercial applications of drones. A camera equipped drone is used to map an area. It helps know if the proposed construction site is suitable for construction of a particular structure. UAV is used in commercial sector to take photos and videos of buildings, construction sites and ground areas. Real estate developers use such photos and videos to advertise their building projects.


Farmers use drones to spray pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals. Special camera and sensors are used to spot problems in the crops. Diseased parts of the crop can be spotted early. Different types of data related to the farm, crop, land and atmospheric conditions can be collected. This data is used to ensure healthy crop and successful harvest.


Law enforcement agencies use drones to fight crimes. They use it for surveillance of a suspected target. Real time surveillance is useful during active crime scenes where sending the police personnel without knowing the ground situation can be dangerous.

3D Mapping

Advance 3D imaging equipment installed in a drone is used to survey landscape. Thousands of high quality images are stitched together to create precise and high definition 3D map of a ground area. It gives a better understanding of the geographical features of the area.

Disaster Relief

It is difficult to know the magnitude of destruction immediately after a disaster. There is urgent need to find the ground information quickly. Sending search and rescue teams to such an area without prior knowledge of ground conditions may result in waste of precious time. A UAV helps know exact locations where help is needed.

Hunting Hurricane

Drones equipped with scientific equipment are used to observe storms and other natural disasters. The data collected and analyzed from such operations are used to develop predictive models that help predict an impending disaster with better accuracy.

Product Delivery

This type of commercial venture is yet to take off due to regulatory constraints. However, many companies are working actively in this field. It is going to be a lucrative field for the sellers of products.

Research and Development

Scientists use drones to gather different types of data related to the ground, sea and air. They can find useful data without sending several teams to the target locations. Accurate scientific data from various locations can be collected quickly and easily.


UAVs are now used widely to protect border areas from intruders. It helps gather intelligence information in the battlefield. The information proves useful in protecting borders, combat units and security installations. Military personnel can avoid high risk missions or go to such missions with better information of the ground situation

General Users

Hobbyists use small size drones for recreational purposes. These units are used to enjoy the thrill of flying an aircraft. Now many UAVs made for general users have camera to take photos and videos. Some new UAV models can follow the moving drone pilot. There are strict drone flying rules and regulations that hobbyist drone operators must know.

There are various problems, issues and challenges associated with UAVs. It is difficult to regulate flying of small drones. Thousands of small drones are sold every year. These products are available easily online and offline. A small drone can be built even by a novice using easily available parts from the Internet. Even a small drone poses high safety risks to large planes and ground installations like fuel depots. There are occasional instances where operators lose control of their UAV during the flight. There have been no serious accidents so far but there are many reports of criminals using drones to supply illegal and banned items into prisons. The insurance aspect is not fully defined and developed. There are privacy risks to people. Drones can fly high and record visible parts of a private property. It can be used to look inside homes through windows.

Government authorities have been trying to overcome these challenges with proper regulations. There are many rules and regulations for UAV ownership and operations and law enforcement agencies are already using different technologies to stop rogue UAVs. The options include signal jamming as well as capturing and attacking to bring down the rogue UAVs.

The drone industry is also advancing at a rapid pace. Large numbers of UAVs are being sold and used all around the world, and the market for military drones is expected to exceed $10 billion by 2017. Private UAV sales are expected to cross $82 billion in the first 10 years. At the same time, the drone industry is expected to generate more than 100,000 jobs. Use of such technologies help improve living conditions. There are benefits and challenges in use of UAVs. Governments are trying to keep pace with these developments by framing proper rules and regulations.

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Mine Removal Drone

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The Mine Kafon Drone (MKD) offers an innovative solution to landmine removal, providing a reliable demining system that delivers accurate updates and information on mine clearing operations. Mine Kafon Drone: an unmanned airborne demining system, uses a three step process to map, detect and detonate land mines.

The Mine Kafon Drone flies over dangerous areas to map, detect and detonate land mines from a safe distance. The drone works autonomously equipped with three separate interchangeable robotic extensions. These three methodologies combined makes the MKD up to 20 times faster than traditional demining technologies. As well as being safer, it also up to 200 times cheaper.


1. Mapping

First, the drone flies over the whole field with an aerial 3D mapping system to identify all the dangerous areas with GPS way points.

 2. Detection

Equipped with a robotic metal detecting arm the MKD hovers above the ground at approximately 4 cm to detect mines. Every detected mine is geotagged on the operator’s system to construct a map of known mine locations.


3. Destroying

For the final phase of the process the MKD, attached with a robotic gripping arm, places a small detonator on every detected mine. The land mine is then detonated from a safe distance using a timer.

3. detonation

Today, landmines can still be found in more than 60 countries, constituting a significant risk to communities across the globe. In these countries, the victims are mostly civilians – children, women and the elderly – with tens of thousands of innocent people killed every year, and much more injured, serving as a horrific reminder of the past.

Using current technologies, clearing or even detecting all land mines across the entire world would take over 1100 years. The established processes are slow, dangerous and expensive, and completely unacceptable if we want to solve the problem in our lifetime.

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Drone-Based Agricultural Technology

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The Indian government has launched a collaborative research project involving use of drone technology in farming sector for assessing quality of soil and compensation for losses due to flood, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a Lok Sabha query. The project aims to implement Hyperspectral Remote Sensing using drone systems and developing a locally researched prototype for soil health monitoring and integrating it with satellites for large scale agricultural applications in the future.

Drones will soon be seen scouting over farm fields in India, gathering required geographical data using sensors, pictures, etc. and transmitting such information in real time. This technology will be used primarily in farming sector at regional/local levels for assessing land and crop health; extent, type and severity of damage, issuing forewarning, and settlement of compensation under crop insurance schemes.

Govt to use drones for agricultural mapping, crop and insurance assessment - MediaNama

Drone technology based unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has ability for smooth scouting over farm fields, gathering precise information and transmitting the data on real time basis. This capability could be used for the benefit of farming sector at regional/local scale for assessing land and crop health; extent, type and severity of damage besides issuing forewarning, post-event management and settlement of compensation under crop insurance schemes.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) through the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has formulated a collaborative research project entitled “SENSAGRI: SENsor based Smart AGRIculture” involving six partner Institutes (Agriculture & IT) to be funded by Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA), Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), Govt. of India and ICAR.


News Article


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3D point cloud software in the geospatial industry has been steadily improving as LiDAR and 3D imaging technologies have rapidly evolved.  New innovative breakthroughs have now made it possible to move from traditional, limiting data management techniques to instantaneous data access and visualization.

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Recent technological developments such as Semi-Global Matching (SGM) and Structure from Motion (SfM) are creating enormously dense and massive 3D point clouds.  These technologies along with hardware advancements of terrestrial, mobile, and aerial LiDAR scanners are generating huge datasets that contain an enormous amount of exploitable detail.  End users are often not able to take advantage of all the data.

A new revolutionary approach offers a solution to access and visualize unlimited amounts of data density and size in real-time on a typical workstation or laptop.  By providing real-time visualization and 3D data retrieval, decision makers are afforded unbounded access to all full resolution data for rapid and enhanced decision making.

A new revolutionary approach offers a solution to access and visualize unlimited amounts of data density and size in real-time on a typical workstation or laptop.  By providing real-time visualization and 3D data retrieval, decision makers are afforded unbounded access to all full resolution data for rapid and enhanced decision making.

This solution now provides the ability to host 3D point cloud data in a central repository for enterprise dissemination and visualization.  Fast and usable internet streaming of dense 3D data is also now available.  As this technology matures, user specific data analysis tools will be developed providing instant data access and manipulation allowing for improved data quality and more efficient project turnaround. The grey line between real world and virtual world is rapidly becoming smaller.

The power of this technology in the current Geoverse COTS software is apparent, allowing users to rapidly disseminate their data across the country from one central storage server.  Developers of analytical geospatial software are now embracing the new breakthrough.  Hexagon has their new point cloud format – .HPC for streaming across the Internet.

Merrick & Company is currently developing its long-standing LiDAR production software MARS© to incorporate the Unlimited Detail (UD) technology which will dramatically increase production times and allow our users to more efficiently manage their LiDAR projects.  Other special development geospatial projects are ongoing such as the Ball Aerospace / Merrick & Company “Server in the Sky” – placing UD at the sensor head for real-time streaming from the sky to ground.

The future is exciting and the possibilities are endless.  Scan away, we can now handle any amount of point cloud data!

Please contact Josh Beck, GISP for additional information –


Esri Announces the Release of Drone2Map for ArcGIS

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Drone2Map for ArcGIS is a desktop app that turns raw still imagery from drones into ortho-mosaics, 3D meshes, and more, in ArcGIS.

  • Create 2D and 3D maps of hard-to-access areas.
  • Monitor change, perform land analysis and inspections.
  • Get imagery on demand.


Together with many other capabilities in ArcGIS, Drone2Map helps you unlock the insights hidden in your imagery. As drones continue to revolutionize how we work today, Esri can help your organization gain the benefits of this emerging technology.Add a map to PowerPoint

2D mapping

Create high resolutions ortho-mosaics, digital surface models, and multispectral indices.

Download sample data for 2D mapping

Enrich your data

3D mapping

Create detailed 3D colorized point clouds, 3D textured meshes, and 3D PDFs.

Download sample data for 3D mapping

Drone2Map detects your camera and sensor parameters and intelligently applies the right defaults to turn your imagery into stunning information products inside ArcGIS, where they are useful immediately. You can also do in-field rapid processing of your drone-captured imagery to make sure you captured what you need, avoiding costly return trips.

Download Drone2Map Trial