GIS & Drone Technology Driving the Next Wave of Data Collection

In the last decade, the use of drone technology has come an exceptionally long way. Various industries will be disrupted by the use of aerial robots: remote sensing, weather monitoring, oil and gas exploration, transmission line monitoring, surveying, filmmaking, precision farming, terrain extraction, digital image analysis and 3D topographical imagery analysis. Now anyone can buy and fly a drone, and it seems like each day there is a new use of drones and better features to go with it. One of the newest uses for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is GIS mapping.

Kenya has equally seen lots of use of drones in its airspace. Recently we approved regulations for drones, becoming the second country in Africa after Rwanda to embrace commercial use of Aerial Unmanned Vehicles (AUVs). In September JamboPay, a company that provides digital parking fee payment services for the Nairobi County Government plans to import drones that will help enforce the revenue collection. JamboPay Chief Executive Officer Danson Muchemi stated that they have developed an aerial imagery compliance data-gathering module that will deploy a drone to collect parking compliance data. In Rwanda and Malawi, drones are being deployed for HIV tests in rural areas and also commercial deliveries.

How is drone technology changing GIS mapping? Drones are increasingly becoming a preferred tool for GIS projects. Drone technology has various advantages that make it quite preferred. From a delivery time standpoint, a drone allows you to take to the skies virtually whenever you like – collecting the geo-referenced images you require without the hassle of booking and waiting for manned aircraft or satellite imagery. Just plan, fly, download your images and process your raster data the same day. This helps to save time.

Drones are environmentally friendly ‘Green Technology’. The use of drones for GIS mapping causes no depletion to the ozone layer or use fossil fuels. Lots of GIS mapping involves drilling, material sampling, and lots of interference. When a company uses drones to map an area, however, the drone mapping aspect of the research is completely non-invasive. “Green” technology is often eligible for financial reimbursement. One can buy a high-quality quadcopter for just a couple of hundred dollars, and the money spent on the drone will get tax deductions if the drone is a business expense.

The reason that drones have been so revolutionary in GIS mapping services is that they can get much closer to the ground than satellites or manned aerial vehicles can. This results in much higher levels of detail and accuracy. In addition to that, they are less expensive to use than traditional terrestrial land surveying methods. The drone technology thus gives a competitive edge as they survey data in less time, using fewer natural resources than manned aircraft.

With UAVs(unmanned aerial vehicles) we can easily complete projects in areas that are difficult or dangerous to access such as challenging terrain, crumbling structures, high locations, and areas affected by natural disasters. Drones improve security in data collection.

All the above features make drones perfect for the needs of GIS data collection, so it’s no surprise to see so many new companies rushing to take advantage of this transformative technology. Whatever field you work in – forestry, asset management, environmental protection, agriculture, humanitarian, remote sensing, oil and gas or another – drones can provide very real benefits, providing accurate data, quickly and cost-effectively.Not only will this disruption affect the existing GIS data collection process, it will also roll through collateral industries.

At Viscar, we explore the various technologies around GIS for imaging and mapping services. Reach out to us through for our GIS training and exploration of the various technologies available.


1. Stewart Lawson. (March 2017). 5 Reasons You Need a Drone for GIS Mapping. Available at Accessed: 18th October 2017.

2. Joseph Magnotta. (January 2015). Use of Drones in GIS. Available at: Accessed 23rd October 2017.

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