Watch this drone automatically map a countryside

Mapping is hard work. The Open Source mapping community, largely centered around the work of OpenStreetMap, doesn’t have access to the camera cars and satellite imagery that Google has been able to take advantage of in developing its own proprietary maps. So often, mapping comes down to a good old fashioned drive (or bike or walk) with a GPS to geographically mark an area.

That is, unless you have a drone.

The people at custom map service MapBox posted an eye-opening look into how they mapped 100 acres in 40 minutes utilizing one very methodical drone.

The company worked with mapping drone company Sensefly’s eBee model, programming a pattern that turns the drone into what the blog post describes as, “less like an RC plane and more like a Roomba.” With less than an hour of air time later, the eBee landed to transform more than 220 images taken at roughly 400 feet in the air into a map.

Check out the process in the video below:

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The images were then processed through MapBox’s free TileMill software and then traced into OpenStreetMap — all in all, a much more cost and time-efficient process that shows how far open source mapping processes have come from working on foot.