Making Successful Drone Maps

Photogrammetry is more art than science

DroneDeploy's Blog
Published in
4 min readJun 25, 2015


By Ian Smith, Sales & Marketing @DroneDeploy

At DroneDeploy, we define a good drone map to have:

  • 99%+ image coverage of the area of interest
  • High data quality
  • Fast delivery

But, on occasion, this cannot be achieved and you may see gaps (unstitched regions) in a map. This could be caused by a whole host of factors.

Stitching can be considered to be a ‘black box’ process; data is input but the mathematical process that drives the stitching is complex and difficult to predict — or even to precisely understand. In that sense, you could think of mapping with a drone as a bit of an art.

There are various causes of stitching failures

Below are some examples of IR (infrared) images (taken with an AgEagle using DroneDeploy) that show the comparison between a normal image and an image with an undesirable effect. The effects have been exaggerated for clarity.

Motion Blur

(caused by fast-moving drones or vibration — less is better)

Unfocused cameras

(camera out of focus — in focus is better)

Vignetting on images

(dark areas around the edges of the image — less is better)

Insufficient image overlap

Aiming for 70% or greater image overlap is recommended when mapping with a drone

The graphic above shows the progression of consecutive images taken from 0% up to 70% overlap. The higher the image overlap, the easier it is for image processing software to stitch together your images. This is because there are repeated areas from the images before it.

It’s similar to making a photo collage on your desk from actual photographs and trying to line them up so that they align perfectly. High overlap is best when melding all of the images together.

Non-nadir photos

(e.g. photos taken during turns )

In this image, nadir is straight down towards the ground. This condition is more exaggerated with fixed-wing drones

Non-nadir photos affect fixed-wing aircraft more than multirotor aircraft since during turns, fixed-wing aircraft have to bank at higher angles. A photo taken at an angle will be distorted in relation to the others.

This condition can be reduced by making sure that your flight plan is set in a way that allows the aircraft enough time to complete its turn before performing the next pass over the area to be mapped.

Photos taken at low altitude

Don’t do this

If photos are taken at too low an altitude and at high ground speed they can be blurry, hard to stitch together, and you will also not be able to cover as much area in one flight as you would be if you flew at higher altitudes.

Remember to always obey your local/national altitude restriction regulations.

Homogenous imagery

(e.g. water, full crop cover in fields)

by Elias Gayles, Flickr

Water is notoriously difficult to map by drone photogrammetry due to its constantly changing surface, refraction/reflection of light, and tendency to have hard-to-determine patterns.

Just check out what happens to the water in this example orthomosaic image created with DroneDeploy and a DJI Inspire 1:

An orthomosaic image with 19+ instances of visual artifacts due to difficulty in stitching water

And in the 3D model of the same map (note the jagged, sharp water of death that reaches 100 feet in the air):

The anomaly of homogeneous imagery affects all image processing software. It’s just that difficult for computers to process.

If you must map bodies of water, give the very expensive (and slightly impractical) aerial LiDAR methods a chance.

The moral of the story?

We’re here to help.

If you encounter any of these problems, contact our team ( or try troubleshooting by checking for any of the above issues in the ‘projections’ and ‘camera roll’ features of your map page.

Happy mapping,

Click here to read part 2

Want to get started with drone mapping?

Check out our website at and sign up for free, here.

You can check our latest drone and device compatibility here.



DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones.