Drone Altitude

What does ODM prefer? A set altitude for the entire dataset, or set altitude over the various landmarks?

DroneDeploy for example stays at the same height for the entire flight.

MapsMadeEas’s MapPilot uses a Topology information to constantly changes the height of the drone to be a set distance above each point of the flight.

OR doesn’t it matter (each of the above example’s cloud processing prefers their own approaches and state its preferred their way)



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Shouldn’t matter provided overlap/sidelap are sufficient at the different flight heights, and that you’re hitting your target GSD regardless of the flight height.

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I agree with @Saijin_Naib - altitude isn’t really a factor for ODM, but good coverage of your subject surface is. I fly a lot of vertical faces (manually), and the altitude on those is all over the place.

Within certain tolerances, varying flight height can actually be helpful, especially for 3D and elevation modeling. You can think of it as a sampling problem: by sampling different heights, you get better sampling information about height, and improve your model.

Typically, we fly at a single height either a single height above ground surface or the flight origin for a couple of reasons. For the rest of the paragraph, I will be guessing at what DroneDeploy and MapsMadeEasy or trying to accomplish with their recommendations. Flying a single height above the origin, if we have some variation in terrain heights and trees and buildings etc, gives us some of that variation in effective height that helps us get better 3D and elevation data. It doesn’t work well in very flat areas to do this, but is good in many circumstances, and is simple to flight plan. Flying at a single height above ground gives us even sampling across our study area, and ensures that, for ground pixels anyway, we have a know sampling resolution and optimizes for better XY sampling.

DroneDeploy and MapsMadeEasy are platforms that are trying to optimize the quality of the outputs of the datasets processed through their platforms in different ways, but the reality is, you can decide your own requirements, and fly accordingly. That said, I almost always vary height or height and camera angle, because correcting for distortion in Z aids a lot the overall quality of any imagery collected.

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I came up with this idea, If i were to map let’s say 10 acres, i would first fly at drone deploys standardized 200 feet and then do an additional run at a lower or higher altitude depending on the complexity and the topology of the area so i get more samples of angles and heights which would ultimately lead to a better model.

I feel like having a two layer model for medium to small mapping plots can help create a better model than having one at a standard height.

i also want to add that while mapping around objects like sheds, ditches, singular houses, irrigation ponds, canals etc which has a sharp rise/fall in height, the more samples we have the better.

Ive often seen this issue while bench marking where structures such as houses etc kinda don’t have the shape they are supposed to have, when i press the show camera button to analyze where the images were taken i see that the number of images captured thought the land was oblivious to the details. a place with lots of details got the same number of images clicked just like a place with little to no detail to capture.

I feel like it beats the point of aerial mapping if we don’t pay attention to details.

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You should check out @smathermather’s blog series on optimizing flight planning, which is also covered to some extent in the brilliant OpenDroneMap: The Missing Guide


Thank you, i will do so for sure. Since i don’t own a drone or have expertise in GIS i want some confirmation to know if i am remotely on the right track/ have acceptable ideas.


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You’re onto something, for sure.

I have a drone, spent a few years doing agricultural field survey and am a GIS professional, and I learned a TON from Steven’s writings. I only wish I had found them back when I was still doing field survey.


thank you so much for your time, support and encouragement. I couldn’t be more grateful. :pray:


I need to write new posts: I have new recommendations. These recommendations aren’t bad, but they are expensive from a flying time perspective. :smiley: I’ve got some slightly modified ones that will still give good results, but reduce that field time when needed.


Did you ever put these newer ideas down into a blog? I read through the posts above. Learned a lot, but need to reread again. Any further j sight always welcome.

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If he does, I have to forward it on to Kelly Schrock of Solex so there will be at least one Flight Planner that is smathermather-cm Approved ™️

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