GIS & Drone Data: Better Together

Our planet is data rich, however it is only now that mobile and stationary sensors are being deployed in mass to acquire data at an ever growing rate. Almost every strand of visual data can easily be tied to a x,y,z coordinate in space and time. Hourly, we experience examples of this happening across the world in the form of weather radar, cell phone coverage maps, traffic information, and more. Today, the go to solution for visualizing this mostly asset specific data, and extracting valuable insights is the primary job of GIS.

What is GIS?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer data system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information. A system that allows you to view multiple layers of data simultaneously. A powerful tool for visualization, spatial analysis, and mapping. A nuance to consider is a relatively new element of GIS is Geospatial information. This is data referenced to a very specific place — a set of geographic coordinates — which can often be gathered, manipulated, and displayed in real time and/or over time.

Consumer GIS

We all interact with GIS systems and its derivative data every single day — usually this is in the form of Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze. All of these are examples of a consumer GIS system. It may seem basic at the beginning, however with a quick search for coffee, you will see the data layers rise to the top that match that search, and within each of these data points, we see reviews, ratings, and location. With the tap of a button our consumer GIS system optimizes our driving route, plans for safe bicycle pathways, and estimates our arrival times based on transportation mode, and traffic data. As you can see, there is much more going on under the hood.

Tools like this have existed digitally since the dawn of the internet. ESRI, the world’s largest GIS company actually began operations in 1969, as a land-use consulting firm compiling static data and maps into insights landowners could use. In the digital age, ESRI, and their product offering ArcGIS has revolutionized the way many industries operate and consume GIS data. Most every business interacts with GIS data to make informed decisions. Where should I build my next retail location? How best can I optimize my delivery routes? What is the demographic of my city by neighborhood? How many bridges in my area are considered to be in critical condition? GIS informs consumers and businesses to make better decisions faster.

The Role of Drone Data

As referenced above, GIS is the hub for all geospatial data, a representation of the statistics and intelligence of our real world. However we are often forced to use a limiting, top down two-dimensional view of our ever-changing 4-dimensional world. This isn’t just a less than accurate representation of our planet, it creates problems with the data itself and tends to obfuscate the real insights available in the data. This presents a new opportunity for the GIS community to introduce innovative new data types for advanced problem-solving with new tools, methods, and 4D data. Take, for example the shared experience of a current GIS system user:

“…my past site accuracy surveys often found huge issues with data quality and accuracy. I’ve witnessed figures as high as 40 percent inaccurate data, and of course all this inaccuracy costs the organization in wasted operating costs, increased capital expenditure, reduced customer service levels and an overall hit on profits.”So how can you improve accuracy? A simple technique that you can adopt is to increase the frequency and quality of reality checks. The technique works on the basis that every item of data will experience data quality degradation if there are no reality checks at some point in the future. The idea is that by increasing both the frequency and quality of your reality checks, it’s less likely for your data to become inaccurate.” — SAS user.

Geo-Registration and more relevant, frequent precision-captured 4D data related to the GIS data will solve many of those quality problems. Your data set may be an array of pins or shape files, on top of a base map of satellite, topographical or open street data. These, we know are useful, the problem is, one can never consume the true nature of that place in and over time. These pins or shape files will, within the next 2 years, be dispatch-able to the millions of active, and commercially licensed drone users in the world with autonomous missions designed for capturing these defined data sets over time. Gain a temporal view of your local parks or arts districts, monitor city planning over time. Validating existing data sets. Quickly and affordably. See your world transform, and the work you do make an impact. Very exciting possibilities, indeed.

The Next Era of GIS

With all this information tied to physical coordinates in space and time, we are now presented opportunities to find new ways to validate this data, to take a 2D view of the world with data, and incorporate it into vivid real time geospatial view of these points in space. Mapping and integrating real imagery into your GIS workflow. Airplanes and satellite imagery can be tasked through many GIS tools, however, this data comes at a high cost, and a low fidelity. Thusly, this data can be very cost prohibitive, resulting in infrequent captures over time. Autonomous robotics and drones offer a unique opportunity to the GIS world. With the ease of autonomous captures, and proliferation of drone technology, this precision-captured aerial data is proving to be more effective, and less expensive year over year. The ability for an autonomous robot, like a drone, to capture precise 4D data over time, is the catalyst to enabling technology like machine learning, computer vision and predictive insights. A prolific amount of data captures, over time, enables change detection to be automatically determined. Frequent reality checks and predictive recommendations on demand are going to transform several industries.

View this 360 photo of

The following example is from a 360 camera mounted atop the space needle in Seattle — A timelapse of 3 years, and hundreds of construction projects, shows the rapid growth the 18th largest city in the US. and this is just one of the 4D data points on our planet. Imagine the possibilities and brilliant insights that will be realized when we start to visualize and capture other 4D data points.

We may know how old you are, the type of job you have, the neighborhood you like to live in, your spending habits, but what we don’t know is what does that actually looks like. What does your neighborhood, access to parks, effects of gentrification actually look like. How could this temporal geospatial visual data change the way we think, plan, and execute on every project, already informed by the world of GIS.

How Do You Bring GIS & Drones Together?

We do this through Hangar’s Robotics-as-a-System and a network of drone service providers, data consumers and new transformations and processing solutions. The industry now has a platform, to take flat data layers, and quickly turn those points into 4D data points. As Hangar is now a member of the ESRI Start-up Program and is developing deep connectivity for ESRI users to leverage new 4D data and imagery, we are leading the way. By-the-way, if you are attending the ESRI Partner Conference 2018 March 3 -6, please stop by and say hello in the Start-up Exhibitor Pavillion Booth Z10 and let us show you some of the work in development between Hangar and ESRI’s ArcGIS Online, ESRI’s advanced Imagery products and Hangar’s 4D data.

For more information on the platform for data transform partners, drone service providers and data customers to leverage customized solutions and maximize efficiency, Hangar provides the lynchpin to integrating automated real world geospatial data products across multiple industries.