Anyone who has been involved with the geospatial industry can undeniably say, drones have impacted the way they work. Whether it is photogrammetry used for measuring a stockpile or LiDAR for measuring the surface in vegetated areas; these tools have lowered the barrier to entry for geospatial professionals. Before drones, for these types of projects, there were often two approaches: survey boots on the ground, or remote sensing from manned aircraft. Both still have their place and are widely used, but drones have found a niche that existed somewhere in-between. The products we create with these systems are familiar to geospatial professionals. Orthophotography like the backgrounds in google maps, Contours to display terrain, or CAD drawings to show the parcels of a new subdivision. The challenge for professionals has become selecting the right hardware and software to build these familiar products and learning the new toolset. For some, this has been disruptive, for others, it is a natural progression.
While the impact of drones is undeniable for geospatial professionals, the truth is that we are still approaching old problems in a similar way. Drones give us the opportunity to completely reinvent our tactic. We have an opportunity to view these as an edge device in part of a more complex ecosystem of technologies. In a connected world, we need to learn how we can change our workflows to take full advantage of the tools we now have. Tools like drones, augmented reality, 5G, cloud processing, and machine learning give us the opportunity to rethink our approach. To optimize these geospatial technologies, we need to start connecting the dots to create fully integrate workflows that empower people to work smarter.