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Posted by on Aug 15, 2016

How to make a 3D map using a DJI Phantom and Skycatch software

How to make a 3D map using a DJI Phantom and Skycatch software

One of the most common misconceptions I’ve heard in the drone world regarding DJI’s products: they are just meant for taking aerial photos.

While that’s true, it’s also true that a simple $500 drone can create images used for commercial purposes that can save businesses thousands of dollars. One of the most impressive use cases to me? Skycatch’s software, which autonomously creates an aerial map of any area. San Francisco-based startup Skycatch is a software that automates aerial mapping and analytics for construction, mining, energy and other use cases.

Prior to trying out Skycatch, I had never been involved with a fully autonomous Phantom mission. While I’ve made use of autonomous features like return-to-home or follow-me, I’ve never just tapped a button, witness the drone fly a pre-determined route and then witnessed the drone return to its starting point. With Skycatch, the only “non-autonomous” operation a human needs to do is set the drone out of the box and tap a button to start the operation.

Mapping a few blocks takes about 10 minutes. 10 minutes later, you’ll receive a memory card full of images, which you upload to Skycatch’s server and they return to you with a stitched map.

Here’s a video demo of how it all works: 

I’ll admit, I was afraid flying a fully autonomous mission. What if the drone goes haywire and hits a tree? But I had no reason to fear. The app is incredibly easy to use. I pressed a button on my phone, the drone took off, flew a route it designed itself, and came back to me 13 minutes later.

The DJI Phantom for a long time has been touted as an epic toy, but Skycatch has proven that they aren’t just a toy — they have a real purpose in commercial applications, like helping construction sites monitor change over time by running the same missions on a regular basis with nothing more than a DJI Phantom and Skycatch’s Commander smartphone app.