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Model the world in 3D with drones

High Quality Deliverables

A 3D drone mapping is essentially a land survey, but completed much faster, safer and cost-effective when compared to using traditional techniques. 3D drone mappings can be completed for terrains, roofs, earth material stockpiles, and operational or maintenance tasks. The deliverables include 3D point cloud, 3D mesh, 3D CAD drawings, 2D orthomosaic and volumetric measurements. These deliverables are provided in a large variety of file formats that can be accessed by most survey software applications.

There are several technologies that deliver the best results for 3D drone mappings of land surveys. Drones can use laser sensors as well as high resolution cameras. The laser sensor is known as LiDAR. The high resolution camera system is called photogrammetry. Both have their pros and cons and the choice depends on the project requirements.


Photogrammetry is as old as the camera itself and used for topographic surveys as early as the 1850’s. Photogrammetry uses photographs to extract 3-dimensional measurements from 2-dimensional pictures. Today’s modern high-resolution cameras are small enough to be mounted on small drones which are subject to less restrictions than larger drones based on take-off weight. Yet with HD cameras powerful enough to take 40 megapixel pictures, the resolution provides enough data to generate a 3D terrain mapping accurate to within 1cm.


LiDAR is sometimes also referred to as "LIDAR", "LIDaR", "Lidar" as well as 3D Laser Scanning. The term refers to Light, Detection and Ranging. The technology uses a fine laser that emits pulses of ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to objects and uses a special sensor to detect the reflected energy. LiDAR is extremely accurate and when completed by a surveyor at ground level or by a drone at low altitudes, the accuracy can be sub-centimeter. LiDAR maps that were created using airplanes at higher altitudes are less accurate and not useful for most projects.

LiDAR vs Photogrammetry

There are a significant number of articles debating this topic online and it really comes down to the use case. Overall, the equipment is far more expensive which can increase project costs.

Based on our experience at Inflights, photogrammetry works well when:

LIDAR is good when:

Inflights has developed a proprietary method to be able to use photogrammetry also for areas where there is some vegetation like trees. Using advanced technology the experienced engineers are able to model the terrain under trees with reasonable accuracy.

Important to note is that recent advancements in LiDAR technology are continuously reducing the size and cost of equipment.

Output of Surveys

In either case, the data that LiDAR and Photogrammetry produce is then converted into a 3-dimensional image. In the case of land surveys, a 3D point cloud model of a landscape is the main output. Other deliverables include a texture mesh, orthomosaic, and digital surface models. LiDAR has the extra output of multispectral images that are ideal for agriculture and measuring in low-light environments.


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Deliverables for drone mapping

3D point cloud

A point cloud is a set of points in space. Drones with high-resolution cameras capture RGB images of terrain and objects to make digital elevation maps. The data points are processed by the Inflights crew and delivered to you. Your area of interest is modelized with a cloud of points, each with the original color.

  • Cloud of points
  • Choose the density to keep control on your file size
  • Resolution up to 0.5cm
Available file formats
Texture Mesh

A 3D texture mesh is ideal for collaborating and planning projects at any scale. It is a reproduction of the edges, faces, and vertices of terrain and objects. Your building or terrain is approximated with a set of triangles. Each triangle has a picture projected on it to visualize the as-is-situation.

  • Set of triangles with projected pictures
  • Resolution up to 0.5cm
Available file formats

When Google Maps is not enough. Your building or terrain is measured with a set of triangles. Each triangle has a picture projected on it to visualize the as-is-situation. Drone pictures are corrected for image distortion and reassembled to render a precise orthomosaic map. Each pixel contains 2D data (X, Y) that yield accurate measurements, such as horizontal distances and surfaces of rooftops.

  • Resolution up to 0.5cm
Available file formats
Tiled JPG
Digital Surface Model

Your object is approximated with 2D raster where each point stores the height of the surface (Digital Surface Model - DSM) or the height of the terrain (Digital Terrain Model - DTM). Each pixel contains 2D data (X, Y) and the altitude (Z value) of the highest point for this position.

  • Resolution up to 0.5cm
Available file formats
2D and 3D CAD Drawing

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) drawings are quickly and accurately developed using powerful software. The files can then be used by your team in many software programs in their design workflow.

  • 2D and 3D CAD Drawing
  • Ready for printing
  • Compatible with most applications
Available file formats

Compatible with

The digital file formats mentioned for each of the deliverables above can be accessed with most applications on the market.

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