Using AeroPoints to Produce Highly Accurate Elevation Maps

M3 Aerial Productions has been operating across the Canadian Prairies since 2015. The company uses fixed-wing and multirotor drones to provide aerial imaging services to clients in the agriculture and real estate industries.

Matthew Johnson with his AeroPoints
Matthew Johnson of M3 Aerial Productions with his AeroPoints


About a year ago, M3 Aerial began to assess the viability of using RTK-equipped drones to accurately map elevation for farmland. However, the high cost of those systems led them to consider alternatives.

During this period, owner of M3 Aerial Productions, Matthew Johnson, saw an article on Twitter about AeroPoints smart ground control system. He started doing some research and ROI calculations.

“They seemed almost too good to be true! I really liked the option to be able to use any drone from our existing fleet to capture the imagery.” says Matthew.

M3 Aerial tested their first set of AeroPoints in April 2017, and the results blew them away. They use AeroPoints primarily to create digital elevation models for their agriculture industry clients. This is a high-value endeavor, as detecting low areas of farmland and knowing how to drain them is crucial for farmers in this area managing the costs of their operations.

“A low spot in a field could result in 20-plus acres of drownout stress to a crop” Matthew explains. “We set up all 10 AeroPoints across a quarter- or half-section of the field and are able to deliver extremely high accuracy elevation maps to our clients.”  

Using AeroPonts in the field

When asked what he likes about AeroPoints as a product, Matthew points to their ease-of-use, and the fact that they don’t add additional time to the company’s drone mapping workflow. He explains that laying out the points takes no more than 5–10 minutes. He simply drives around the field, drops an AeroPoint on the ground, presses the button to turn them on, then carries on to the next GCP location.

AeroPoint placed on a surveying site

Matthew has found the AeroPoints processing interface (part of Propeller’s cloud-based processing and analytics platform) similarly easy to use.

Matthew says that while many of his clients are Propeller platform users, some are locked into other products. That’s why he loves that AeroPoints data can be used with just about any commercial processing software.

Since adopting AeroPoints technology, M3 Aerial Productions has noticed a significant improvement in the accuracy of their drone data, especially in elevation. When asked about accuracy validation or independent tests, Matthew shared that they did a test flight for another company to compare their ground-based RTK mapping solution with AeroPoints, and found that the resulting data corresponded very closely.

Armed with AeroPoints, M3 Aerial now plan on branching into the mining, and oil and gas industries. Matthew believes this is where AeroPoints will really shine. “I think AeroPoints are incredibly novel and can replace traditional survey equipment, especially in the context that we would like to use them,” he says.
“There is a massive application for AeroPoints in agriculture, however, the main focus [is] more towards the mining applications, with the online platform empowering the end user to measure and calculate valuable metrics from the drone data.”  

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