What can Drones see?

In the following article we will follow a few of the uses cases and exports that a drone can generate for an oil terminal.


In this day and age, the rapid evolution technology isn’t anything new, being part of our day to day life in every shape and form. Nonetheless, we as humans have a fear of things we don’t understand and that’s perfectly normal. As a result, there are many skeptics that question the value and practicability of drones in any industry, missing the many great benefits technology brings to us, making our lives easier. So today we are answering the question, what can drones actually see?
For our example today, we have a storage tank. Here are the view’s our drones give us:

Table of contents

3D Models:

Beside the fact that you always have a portable miniature of the object with you that you can inspect whenever you want, a 3D model gives a unique perspective of proportion and size at the tip of your fingers, which can be a real time saver – especially in industries where the point of interest is placed in a remote or hard to reach area, represents potential risks and safety issues – dramatically reducing the human exposure to them.

Our 3D model reconstruction is based on Densified Point Clouds, using one of the best photogrammetry software solutions available. Those are important aspects in any 3D reconstruction because they dictate the final model precision. Furthermore, there are many advantages and information a 3D can give us:

  • Volume measurements
  • Distance measurements
  • Size measurements
  • High-resolution textures

  • Visual inspections capabilities
  • CAD software compatibility

A 3D model is a powerful tool, offering a general overview of all the aspects of the object. We recommend getting one for your point of interest, if you don’t have it already, especially for long-lasting projects as you can easily monitor the changes.

Orthomosaic map:

An accurate georeferenced map made from multiple images stitched together. A georeferenced map means that every pixel on the map has precise coordinates and a defined point in space. This is also made with Densified Point Clouds, thus the high accuracy.

The resolution of the map is measured in cm/pixel and can vary based on the camera resolution used to take the images and the flight height at with the images were taken. Usually, anything below 3cm/pixel is enough for most use-cases. The map above has a resolution of 1.04 cm/pixel which means every pixel from the images is equivalent to 1.04 cm in reality.
The absolute positional accuracy can vary based on the site, environment factors, weather, and equipment used. Using ground control points we usually get sub-centimeter accuracy, with the best georeferenced maps we’ve done having an error of only 1 millimeter (about 0.039 inches).
With this precision, orthomosaic georeferenced maps are ideal for any type of measurements, especially for large-scale sites where classic measurements would take more time and for every new measurement a new trip to the site is needed:

  • Agriculture fields

  • Construction sites

  • Forest and vegetation areas

  • Civil engineering

  • Transportation infrastructure

The practicability of an orthomosaic isn’t limited to large industries, due to the very high resolution and detail they are commonly used in roof inspections, solar panels inspection etc.


Those 2 are all about the elevation.
DSM or Digital Surface Model – represents the elevation of the ground and the structures above it.
DTM or Digital Terrain Model – represents the elevation of the bare ground, without anything on it.

The difference between DSM and DTM

This information is very valuable and can be hard to obtain using traditional methods, lidar and photogrammetry being the fastest and most precise with the highest quality and resolution.

DSM of our tank

Elevation including all the structures and objects

DTM of our tank

Elevation of the bare earth, without structures and objects.

Based on the information given by the images and the data they contain, we can make accurate measurements not only on the horizontal plane but in the vertical space too, based on the elevation information. Here’s an example of what a plane cross-section of the tank looks like:

The exact path of the cross-section, marked with the blue line

Cross-section elevation

Those images offer a very clear view of the terrain elevation, structures & objects height and depth. The models presented are useful in all kinds of situations, a few examples would be:

  • Construction

  • Topography

  • Restauration

  • Flood and drainage modeling

  • Land-use studies

  • Geological applications

 They offer precise measurements, usually combined with contour lines.

The answer

In conclusion, a drone can see much more than the naked eye, things that you didn’t even think they were there or were not so clear at first sight can be easily identified with a drone.
But another important aspect, if not more important, is the advantage of having all of that data at the tips of your fingers, accessible from anywhere to see and share. No need to revisit the site every time you need to measure or see something else – being a huge time and resource-saving.


Don’t hesitate to contact us!

+40 724 339 757