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Mappt & QGIS Workflow: Using Drones to Enrich Field Assessments

DEM Dubai Airport Satellite Imagery Digital Surface Map orthomosaic sentinel 2 multispectral bands satellite imaging corporation

When it comes to fieldwork, the best outcome (aside from zero injuries) is to return having collected as much high-quality data as possible. We all want to ensure our project goals are reached successfully, so using a wide variety of relevant data to address the project criteria is a good strategy. An example of this is producing high resolution Digital Surface Maps (DSMs) using drones to complement field surveys conducted on-foot. These DSMs can provide additional information such as elevation, NDVI indices and more to complement the field survey data. 

DEM Dubai Airport Satellite Imagery Digital Surface Map orthomosaic sentinel 2 multispectral bands satellite imaging corporation

Digital Surface Map of Dubai International Airport by Sat Imaging Corp.

The workflow below describes the process for creating a DSM with QGIS to produce a data-rich field map, which complements field survey operations conducted using Mappt.

The Mappt team conducted a field survey at Kensington Bushland, in which we collected a range of points to characterise the local vegetation using Mappt.

Kensington Bushland, City of Victoria Park, walk leisure recreation natural park for

Kensington Bushland, City of Victoria Park

Each survey point contained a range of attributes for the field worker to fill out on location, including plant species, condition, time, % coverage etc. We created the attribute form using Mappt’s handy drop-down feature to collect all the field data. This was of course put together and pre-loaded prior to heading out into the field, like the intelligent and efficient field workers we are 🙂

(Click HERE for a free copy of our Ultimate Field Checklist)

Of most interest for this assessment was the species and condition of vegetation at the field site. The project goal was to explore trends that may explain any gradients in the species structure, coverage and/or condition. We collected additional drone imagery over the survey area, which was used to provide valuable complementary information on the vegetation community.

 

Now that we’ve returned from the field in good spirits and relatively unscathed, it’s time to begin our workflow process for the field survey!

Loading Mappt data into QGIS

First, we want to export the survey data collected using Mappt and bring it into QGIS. To do this, we want to navigate to the saved project file within Mappt and then click the export icon. We then want to select all layers, choose the GeoJSON format for QGIS, then choose to export to external apps, lastly selecting Google Drive as the export location. (See below)

Mappt user interface field mapping collecting georeferenced images for vegetation assessment screenshot_20190605-110141

That’s it, put down the tablets people! You’ve successfully collected and exported your field data from Mappt. Pretty easy right?

Now we want to move over to our desktop computer and load the Mappt data in for further processing in QGIS. Open up a new project in QGIS and check that the CRS projection is set to WGS 84 (under Project > Properties).

Next, add Google Satellite as a base layer for your project (click on the Web > QuickMapServices > Search QMS, then click on Google Satellite in the window that opens in the bottom-right).

 data-source-manager-icon

Click this icon to Import the Mappt data from Google Drive into QGIS through the Data Source Manager.

 

 

Now double-click on the Vector file in the Layer Window to make any style changes desired. For my data, I have characterised survey points into species type and given them different colours. I also filled in the polygon for the reserve area, and indicated my survey entry and exit points with coloured lines.

mapptdata

Now you’ve got your Mappt survey data looking schmick in QGIS, it’s time to bring in the drone images to create a DSM overlay! First, we will need to combine all the photos from your drone together into the one orthomosaic (to rule them all).

Creating a Digital Surface Map using Drone Deploy

Go to http://dronedeploy.com and create an account if this is your first time using it. Then simply upload all your images into the window and drone deploy will create an orthomosaic for you! You can change the processing time by toggling the speed vs quality bar under the ‘Advanced’ tab. Click ‘Upload Images’ to begin the process.

It might be time for a tea break now, as this does take a while.

drone deploy mapping software online orthomosaic creator drone imagery

Once the map has finished processing, you have the option to export the orthomosaic as a natural colour GeoTIFF, as well as NDVI index and Elevation map. Export any that you want and ensure they are GeoTIFFs.

Now, we want to bring QGIS back up and load in the files, once again using the Data Source Manager.

raster-icon Click this icon within Data Source Manager to load the GeoTIFFs as raster files.

Again, we can change the opacity and style of each layer to get the desired style. For my orthomosaic, I chose to reduce the opacity of the natural colour layer so that the elevation can be seen.

orthomosaic-data

There are some interesting features of the elevation that seem to overlap with some patterns in the vegetation structure! We should create a map to show the boss.

Creating a map in QGIS including Mappt survey data and DSM data

print-layout-icon To do this, we want to click on the Print Layout icon in QGIS.

This opens a blank page from which we can begin to draw our map.

addmap-iconIn the Composition Window that’s just opened, click the ‘Add Map’ icon.

Then click and drag an area over the canvas in the window to produce a map. The map produced is based on the view in your main QGIS window, so you may need to do some final style tweaks to finalise the image.

map-icons You can then add a Title, Legend and Scale bar to your map using their respective icons.

You can customise all of these to your liking by clicking on the feature then using the ‘Item Properties’ window on the right to adjust the information displayed.

imageicon Next, add a North Arrow by first clicking on the ‘Add Image’ icon.

Then, navigate over to the ‘Item Properties’ window and click on the ‘Search Directories’ drop down. Here you will find a number of images that are suitable as a North Arrow.

Lastly, click on the map itself and navigate through the item properties until you find the ‘Grids’ drop down (See below). Click on the green plus icon to add a grid, then click Modify Grid to set the scale. Once your grid is displayed nicely, lastly change the frame style to ‘Zebra’ and then close out.

grid

Voila! Your map is now complete for reporting. For my data I’ve found a pattern between increasing elevation on my DSM, and abundance of Banksia menziesii. Neat!

QGIS map of kensington bushland created using mappt and drones to produce digital surface map and vegetation survey data

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Why Geospatial Technology is set to explode in 2017

When we think of the term ‘geospatial’ what springs to mind? Maps? Satellites? Space?
Of course those subjects are relevant, however, geospatial refers to all things related to location.

Data, drones, maps, cameras, sensors, cars, infrastructure and your mobile phone. The rapid expansion of this industry is happening right now, so why is this so important for us in 2017?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have the ability to integrate into every aspect of our lives. The recent and rapid increase in technology has enabled this integration, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to proceed. With more data and connectivity than ever before, humans have the power to solve real life problems.

So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for us this year.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the massive network of connected devices and sensors that transmit messages back to us in real time. Yes, ‘smart’ devices. Smart homes, smart phones, smart cars and smart cities.

Cisco estimates the IoT market will be worth US$19 trillion within the next 10 years, and by 2020 the internet will have over 50 billion connected devices! Google and Apple have already built networks with over 5 million developers.

The geospatial enablement of these connected devices play a pivotal role in the IoT marketplace. Smart cities, for example, have the capacity to solve traffic congestion, improve waste management and help make our cities safer.

A recent example is the waste management app Bigbelly. The app uses cloud computing to transmit data specifying which rubbish bin locations are full and need to be collected. This has already begun to radically improve waste management systems in over 45 countries and will, in turn, reduce pollution as a global effect.

iot

Satellites

The latest stats from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) suggest there are currently 1,419 active satellites in orbit as of 30 June 2016, with thousands more under construction.

Interestingly, government-funded platforms are in decline, and privately funded micro-satellites are on the rise – costing a fraction of the price. This shift in operations will not only make satellite imagery more available, but cheaper and more abundant.

In 2015, Earth Observation Systems (EOS) alone contributed AUD$496 million in direct economic benefit to Australia and generated around 9000 new jobs.

In a bid to make internet accessible in lesser developed countries, Google has teamed up with O3B and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to deliver the internet via satellite. One solution, known as Project Loon, involves a high-altitude balloon network floating in the stratosphere.

Loon has been tested in multiple countries, and is currently operating in Sri Lanka, making it the first country to have universal internet access via the helium balloon system.

a-train_satellites

Drones

Drones: arguably the most exciting devices zipping around today! Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), known to many as drones, are cultivating crop yields, filming Hollywood blockbusters and delivering pizza straight to your door.

Drones are dominating a market that’s forecasted to skyrocket by more than 6,000% by 2020. ABI Research estimates the small drone market will surpass US$8.4 billion by the end of 2017.

According to Dan Kara, Practice Director of Robotics at ABI Research, the commercial RPAS sector is where the market’s thriving, with revenues expected to exceed US$5.1 billion by 2019.

The capabilities of drones are still being recognised. Dangerous human jobs like wind turbine inspections, the mapping of collapsed buildings or oil spills during emergency situations are some of the exciting applications serving major benefit throughout the world.

Accessibility and affordability is also becoming mainstream, with drones available to anyone over the counter and online.

drone-1142182_960_720

Wearable devices

While wearable technologies may seem ultra-futuristic, these types of devices are not far away from the masses.

The market for wearable devices is predicted to grow at 99% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020.

Fitness tracking bracelets only scratch the surface of the wearable device market, as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are cropping up in a variety of industries.

In the field of geospatial, Topcon is working with DAQRI to create wearable technology (smart helmets) for surveying, construction, engineering and mining professionals.

Their aim is to make work safer through augmented reality and give users a hands-free tool that can be used onsite. Affordability is also becoming crucial.

With the help of our smartphones, VR headsets are available for as little as AUD$35. Although not fully revolutionised, it is estimated that more than 26 million VR headsets will be distributed by 2020.

DAQRI Smart Helmet

DAQRI Smart Helmet – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCAShzXhBCI

GIS (Geographic Information System)

When explaining what a GIS is, National Geographic sums it up nicely:

“A GIS is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships. ”

Gone are the days when only qualified specialists could navigate a GIS and in specialist industries like remote sensing. Nowadays various GIS are used across a range of industries from real estate and agriculture, to local government authorities and educational institutes.

Mobile GIS devices are particularly beneficial as they enable anyone to create and gather location-based data on the go.

Our mobile GIS application Mappt allows you to create, edit, store and share geospatial information with your fingertips.

We differ from other GIS platforms because of our easy to use features, mobile and tablet integration, offline capability and our very affordable licenses. This makes Mappt the perfect GIS for beginners, and an easy to use advanced mapping tool for veterans; this is why businesses in over 130 countries use our software.

GET MY FREE MAPPT TRIAL

mappt

Let’s wrap it up

With nearly half of the world’s population (that’s 3.4 billion people) connected to the internet, and a ‘space race’ to connect the other half, Location-Based Services (LBS) and the geospatial realm will continue to experience explosive growth over the next couple of years. Whilst leading technology companies like Google are in the lead, emerging smaller businesses are setting exciting standards.

As technology moves forward there is an exciting ambiguity as to how much digital transformation will shape and improve our lives.

Through rapidly growing modernisations such as the Internet of Things, satellites, drones or even virtual reality headsets, humans have never been more connected – geospatially or otherwise.

Although there are pressing matters like privacy and security, the opportunities for powerful geospatial innovations are endless.

If you want more than today’s slice of information, please refer to the CRCSI Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry report.

 

siobhan-profile2Siobhan Herne
Marketing and Communications

Siobhan has no background in GIS, she’s a beginner, just like you. Follow her stories for an easier digest of all things geospatial.

 

Sources

Coppa, I., Woodgate, P. W., and Mohamed-Ghouse Z.S. (2016), ‘Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry’. Published by the Australia and New Zealand Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

http://www. sciencealert.com/google-s-internet-balloons-will-soon-connect-all-of-sri-lanka-with-wifi

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-09/world-drone-market-seen-nearing-127-billion-in-2020-pwc-says

ABIResearch, “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Market Exceeds US$8.4 Billion by 2019”, abiresearch.com

CISCO, “Industry Perspective: Understanding the Internet of Everything”