3D Robotics’ New 3D Mapping Drone

3D Robotics has been a big name in the drone game for about as long as we’ve had drones, and now they’re bringing in two more major brands, Sony and autodesk, to create a high end version of its existing Solo drone. Cartographic nerds rejoice – this drone will be tooled for one thing. It’s meant to scan locations and upload 3D models to the cloud while in the air, allowing for quick, on-site data disbursement.


Better Data Faster


The new surveying drone is largely being represented as a tool for construction sites, but its applications could extend far beyond that. Tablet control allows surveyors to trace a flight pattern directly onto Google Map and keep an eye out as the drone flies over the site. Lower resolution aerial surveys can also be done with the GoPro camera set underneath the drone.


Sony provides the high resolution option, offering up the industrial UMC-R10C camera, which allows for shooting at 20MP and can zoom in to focus on specific portions of a site. No laser scanning technology is needed, and the control and maneuverability of the drone allows for focused, unobstructed visual aerial surveying in a way that is rarely seen today.


Autodesk, for its part, is contributing a software platform called FORGE, which is able to parse and process data on camera angles and field location. Data is made available through both the Solo tablet and Autodesk’s servers, allowing for quick 2D and 3D map conversions. For the construction industry, this allows for quick comparisons of a plan against the actual terrain and what’s in the process of being built.


Of course, it’s not likely that this is going to stay construction-focused for long. As with much great technology, there’s endless possibility for cross-over into other sectors and fields here. 3D Robotics is already planning to introduce other camera options, including multispectral and thermal, which would allow for agricultural sites, chemical plants, oil rigs, and others to scan for materials from the air, rather than having to put people on the ground.


By The Numbers


Of course, this isn’t a hobbyist drone, so it doesn’t come cheap. The Site Scan package, which comes with the Sony camera, a Sony zoom lens, a Sony prime lens, and the Autodesk loaded Sony tablet, will set buyers back some $4,999 for the equipment, along with a $499 service fee and a one-year commitment.


An option with just the GoPro comes in at a slightly more affordable $3,249 for the equipment and the same fee and commitment as the other model. While the GoPro option is available now, the Site Scan package will officially launch in June.


Compared to actually owning your own aerial laser scanning equipment, the drone is an affordable option, but it’s a serious enough investment that it might take a little time before the tech trickles down into the small-business side of construction. That being said, there could easily come a day when this becomes a jobsite necessity.

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