The future of Urban Planning: Drone based 3D maps and pipelines in Lucknow

Ayushi Mishra
Published in
4 min readAug 20, 2018


Water is a basic requirement of the cities of the future. To sustain our overburdened city infrastructure, extensive planning must be in place to allow for robust water supply management. Drone based analytics in combination with legacy GIS approaches have the unique advantage of cost effective and accurate data. All this in addition to accessible visualisation and spatial analysis, which form an important basis for urban infrastructure planning.

Faizullaganj is a small part of Lucknow, a populous neighborhood which struggles for a reliable supply of drinking water. The Lucknow Jal Nigam (Local development authority for water) recently took the laudable step to leverage drone technology to streamline the process of pipeline planning. Conventional surveying methods take around 8–10 months to cover the entire area. It requires more manpower to work on the field as well as off the field in planning and analysis.

Surveying techniques used in infratructure construction have evolved painfully slowly. Terrestrial surveying has dominated the industry with surveyors generally using total stations or Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) systems. However, newer technology such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is creating interest.

In Faizullaganj, by using drone analytics, the six months timeline is reduced to a few weeks. Total manpower required also shrinks to one third compared to manual ground surveys. In effect, the operational costs reduce drastically. Moreover, there were also significant benefits of using UAV technology from the perspective of workplace health and safety, project management accomodations for variations from initial planning, and for resolving post-pipeline disputes between landholders and pipe laying contractors. A happy byproduct is a highly accurate, dynamic, and interactive map of the area that provides digitised information about the land and can be used for all urban development and planning eventually.

How does the planning happen on a 3D map?

Our application is designed to aid the process of planning, designing, and construction of a pipeline system, as well as to provide the necessary information for cost estimations, specifications, and field maintenance.

There are two kinds of maps we work with — Orthomosaics and elevation maps. The former is the basis of identifying types of roads and junctions in a road network. The latter helps in optimising for pipepline route keeping in perspective the elevation profile and account for maximum population coverage and durability. We can use this data for cost and maintenance calculations in addition to layering a multitude of further information such as land-use, closed areas and nature reserves, planned technical installations, crossings, as well as cadastral data.

At DronaMaps, we believe that high resolution aerial orthomosaic imagery, detailed digital surface models (DSM) and high density point clouds all generated from UAV data will become the benchmark for the design and rehabilitation stages of surveying and construction. As the resultant accuracy is within acceptable standards as compared to RTK survey data along with operational cost savings.

The disruption, of course, merely starts with pipelines, the technology can be a game changer to the entire field of urban planning and design. India has the capacity and the need to build sustainable cities. The problems we face are different from the developed world, where cities don’t have populations of over 10 million neither are they creating many new ones. India on the other hand is whipping itself into a chaotic frenzy without a systematic approach or the tools to plan for the habitations of our future. As the problem is uniquely our own, there are no ideas to borrow. We must find our own solutions and this technology would to be pivotal to it.


  • Total area covered : 17 sq Km
  • Total length of road mapped : 403.179 Km
  • Number of road (Junction to junction ): 7194
  • Number junctions mapped : 5849
  • Delivery time: 2 weeks
Elevation map (Faizullaganj)
Orthomosaic (Faizullaganj)
Screenshot from a 3D map (Faizullaganj)
Colorcoded Painted, Tiled, CC, and Earthen roads (Faizullaganj)
Junctions and their elevations (Faizullaganj)



Ayushi Mishra

Nerdy| Artistic| Quirky| Director of Strategic Partnerships@DronaMaps