Month: October 2022

What Is an Orthomosaic Map, and Who Does It Help?

Drone photogrammetry is increasingly being used in a broad range of industries and government applications. Using software, the images that drones collect can be turned into maps that allow you to accurately measure true distances and volumes to get a better understanding of the spatial relationship between structures and other objects. The process to create an orthomosaic starts by capturing drone images, which are then translated into a map-quality image.

What is an orthophoto?

Unlike a regular aerial photograph that gets distorted by the perspective of the camera, an orthophoto is normalized so that it provides a purely top-down view. In an orthophoto, you can’t see the sides of buildings—just the view from directly above, much like a map. 

orthophoto of river

To achieve this, orthophotos are geometrically corrected to eliminate the perspective view from the camera angle. Because of this correction, orthophotos are more accurate than aerial images and can be used for measurements in the same way that maps can.

What is an orthomosaic?

An orthomosaic is essentially a large map that is made up of smaller orthophotos. Each aerial photo that a drone pilot captures is pinned to a geographic position. Photos need to have an overlap of at least 70 percent to create an accurate picture and only include relevant images (not takeoff or landing). This is why flight planning is so important.

Mapping software uses geographic data to seamlessly stitch the images together. It’s like a 3D puzzle that forms a cohesive high-quality image once all the pieces are assembled. Of course, drones don’t capture images that are perfect puzzle pieces. The photos have to be normalized for factors such as:

  • Altitude
  • Lens distortion
  • Camera tilt
  • Environmental conditions
A screenshot of Mapware Fly showing the Flight Parameters sidebar: altitude, drone speed, camera angle, front overlap, and side overlap

Once normalized, the photos can be combined to make a 2D orthomosaic. The result is highly accurate images that can be used to measure topography, buildings, materials, and more. Users can zoom in to get highly detailed information and use software to calculate distances, count items, and so on.

How can an orthomosaic be used?

Orthomosaic maps are used in a wide range of government applications and private sector industries, and the list is growing longer every day.

Environmental Monitoring

Orthomosaic maps created from drone imagery can be used in a broad range of environmental monitoring applications, including:

  • Capturing changes in vegetation
  • Creating remote sensing maps to identify encroachment of invasive species
  • Identifying soil erosion patterns
  • Viewing changes in the landscape over time
  • Evaluating habitat conditions of protected species
  • Analyzing water levels

Because they are such powerful tools, government agencies have launched initiatives such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program for site mapping, terrain modeling, and more. 

Disaster Preparation and Response

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses drone services to identify high-risk conditions and to help fight wildfires. Municipalities can also use orthomosaics produced by drones to assess damage after a natural disaster or emergency and coordinate responses with as much information as possible. To prepare for these unpredictable events, drone mapping of high-risk areas helps identify evacuation routes and prepare tactical responses.

Engineering and Construction

Whether designing for the private sector or government projects, architects, engineers, and contractors can use drone mapping to gather:

  • Site access details
  • Infrastructure measurements
  • Measurements to estimate material costs
  • Progress photos of construction sites
  • Inspection photos after building completion

From assessing the site to capturing as-built images, drones can be incorporated into every phase of a construction project to efficiently provide valuable data.

Telecommunications and Utilities

Utility companies can use drones to monitor conditions in remote and difficult-to-access areas without deploying costly field crews. Drones can also be used to explore the unknown and assess site conditions for expansion into new areas, including those where roads do not yet exist. 


Farmers, ranchers, academic programs, and government agencies use drones to:

  • Assess crop health
  • Compare conditions from prior periods
  • Test different seeds, fertilizers, and soils 
  • Count livestock

Recently, the USDA has used drones to research irrigation water quality to develop new safety standards for the agriculture industry.

Create orthomosaics with Mapware.

With Mapware, you can create a flight plan that allows you to capture high-resolution photos with the correct amount of overlap. Mapware software allows you to turn those images into an orthomosaic map that you can use to compare previous maps, take measurements, or whatever your specific application requires. No matter what sector you work in, chances are you can rely on drones to capture data more accurately and efficiently. 

Ready to put Mapware to work for you? Start a free trial today!

Geospatial Intelligence Constructs Better Planning for Engineers

One of the keys to successful engineering and construction is having a clear understanding of where objects are in relation to each other. Engineers use this information when planning to determine where to put foundation elements and what their specifications must be.

Essential data includes the distance between buildings and other structures, geological features, trees, and more. There are many ways to gather this information, from surveying in the field to aerial imagery and everything in between. Collectively, this data is called geospatial intelligence.

What is geospatial intelligence?

Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is essentially the collection of imagery intelligence and geospatial information that engineers and other professionals use to define the characteristics and locations of features on Earth. Data can be collected both from the ground through surveying and from the air. The right approach will depend on the end goals and scale of the project. In many cases, both types of data are valuable and may even be necessary.

Decision makers use the data gathered through geospatial intelligence combined with other data to paint a complete picture of the limitations and opportunities present in a particular project, whether it’s for construction, agriculture, disaster response, or insurance. Ultimately, having access to this type of actionable intelligence allows engineers to make better and more informed decisions.

Where does geospatial intelligence come from?

GEOINT can come from a variety of sources, but one of the most common methods is imagery collected by cameras or sensors on satellites, aircraft, or drones. Using spatial metadata, visual information, and sophisticated software tools, analysts can derive the intelligence needed for the application at hand. 

Depending on the type of information desired, some of the data sources include:

  • Video
  • LiDAR
  • Color imagery
  • Infrared
  • Hyperspectral
  • Multispectral

Who benefits from GEOINT?

Geospatial intelligence is used in a broad range of industries and for a wide variety of applications that benefit individuals, organizations, and government, including:

  • Commercial businesses: Real estate investors, oil and gas researchers, travel and tourism companies, and many other industries rely on GEOINT data to make informed decisions. 
  • Defense: The military uses geospatial intelligence on a daily basis to monitor areas, plan missions, execute operations, and more. 
  • Disaster response: Firefighters and other response teams use GEOINT to assess conditions remotely, get precise location information, and set up appropriate safety protocols before entering a hazardous zone.
  • Agriculture: Farmers and consumers benefit from GEOINT with the ability to develop more efficient planting practices, minimize fertilizer use, and reduce water consumption through targeted irrigation.

How does geospatial intelligence support public civil works planning?

Accurate measurements are essential in any type of engineering. GEOINT provides this information in a range of use cases.


Plan for construction and evaluate existing structures with site analysis techniques such as surveying and drone mapping. Engineers can overlay imagery with 3D models, zoning maps, protected areas, and more to make informed decisions about site placement and structure orientation. 


Geospatial data is also used in civil engineering for road planning and logistics and analysis of traffic flow. Overlay images with data from other sources, such as demographic information, flood projections, planned changes, and so on.   


Engineers and other professionals incorporate GEOINT data to inform environmental impact assessments, natural disaster response, and stormwater pollution prevention plans. Field data and remote sensing can be used to measure and monitor soil quality, invasive species, and other environmental factors that may impact a project. As with other applications, the data can be merged with other intelligence sources to support more informed decisions and make plans or predictions for natural disasters.

National Security

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a government agency that provides GEOINT for the military, intelligence professionals, first responders, and more. The agency is both proactive and reactive by analyzing threats, monitoring areas across the globe, and providing real-time data to the military and first responders. Other capabilities include supporting security operations, counterterrorism activities, border patrol, and humanitarian efforts.   

How do drones contribute to geospatial intelligence?

GEOINT is gathered in a number of ways, including from geographic information systems, databases, GPS coordinates, data collected in the field, and much more. No matter which tools are used to gather information, recent images and remote sensing are essential for providing an accurate depiction of the current conditions of a site.

Modern Efficiencies

Before the advent of drones, the only way to gather imagery and data from above was to take photos and videos from an elevated position, aircraft, or satellite. However, cranes or other nearby high points have limitations, flying an aircraft is expensive, and satellite imagery is not always accessible. The weather might also play a role in the ability to gather aerial imagery from aircraft or satellites.

Drones provide a more affordable and accessible means for gathering geospatial intelligence. They can be quickly deployed and are also able to fly below cloud cover and in a broader range of weather conditions. 

Exploration of the Unknown

Drone technology makes it easier than ever to get a complete picture of a previously unexplored area, including accurate measurements for geospatial intelligence. Detailed maps can be created without ever stepping foot on the site. With a single drone flight, engineers can easily collect enough data and aerial imagery to support project success.

Smaller Footprint

With drones, accurate, actionable intelligence can be gathered with virtually no environmental footprint. This is particularly important in sensitive areas where access is limited or challenging. This benefit also helps reduce the cost of gathering data because there is no need to rent equipment and compliance with environmental regulations is less onerous.  

Robust Data

In addition to imagery, a variety of sensors can be employed to gather specific types of data. When combined with software that provides measurements and analysis, engineers have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

Data Sharing

More data equals more informed decisions. When working across teams or groups with multiple stakeholders and consultants, having geospatial intelligence readily available improves efficiency. Being able to share and compile data from different types of geospatial professionals and multiple intelligence sources enhances collaboration and improves business outcomes

Professional Opportunity

In addition to the technical benefits, drones can also support career development and progression for engineers. Embracing the latest technology can advance your career and contribute to company success. 

Use Mapware to gather GEOINT.

Geospatial intelligence professionals and engineers can use Mapware and Mapware Fly to gather and analyze data, share information with project stakeholders, and simplify workflows among teams. 
No matter what type of engineering—structural, civil, and more—drones can be employed to gather accurate data, improve efficiency, and enhance outcomes. If you would like to see how it works, start your free trial today.

learn how the public sector drives innovation with geospatial intelligence and data driven mapping ebook

This article, originally posted on October 6, 2022, was updated June 29, 2023.