What is Drone Imagery ?

I am pretty certain that most (if not all) of you have seen that one scene in a movie where a drone crosses over enemy lines and has dropped bombs or has shot myriad of bullets at anarchist rebels. But I guarantee you that drones do not always have to be on a pursuit for bloodthirst. In fact most of the times drone imagery is used for mundane but salient aspects of institutions. Innovations like the ‘G-Wing UAV Imagery Platforms’  is a current state of the art technology that can even be controlled via your laptop screens.

A drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an airborne system that may be operated by a human operator or by a computer. Images captured by drones, or drone imagery, comes under the paradigm of remote sensing. Let’s take a look at how this state of the art technology affects us without our slightest clue.

Urban Planning

Drone imagery has marked its position as invariable when it comes to urban planning. Gavaert et. al (2018) provide a sound categorization on how UAV data can be beneficial to urban upgrading in three ways.

The first kind of data they describe are those that are indexical to the imagery. In other words, the variables investigated are the ones that are indicated by the images. Examples of these kinds of data include spatial information like building footprints or roadway systems and plans. The data are first processed and digitized in the office and later updates are made through field verifications. Traditionally digitization was (and sometimes is) done with the help of satellite imagery, however, when it comes to field verification, drone imagery catalyzes both the digitization and the field verification processes.

The second kind of data UAVs collect don’t necessarily point exactly to the aspects present in the image but rather to the features that these aspects imply. These data can be attributes of larger objects like housing material of buildings, or of smaller objects, like lamp posts or hydrants. They can also suggest information like the number of stories in a building, through the height differences between ground level and roof levels. The latter requires an advance level of processing.

Finally the third category of data collected by drones is termed as ‘invisible data’. Why? Because it points to geospatial data that cannot be identified by imagery.  Such kinds of data include socio-political or economical constructs like administrative boundaries or population counts.


The categories of data described above also help tax appraisers determine the valuation of properties.

Drone Imagery enables such functions through the process of ‘photogrammetry’, which is defined by Radzali & Tahar (2018), as the ‘art, science and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through processes of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of recorded radiant electromagnetic energy and other phenomena.’ But from this definition one can infer that satellite imagery performs the same function. What distinguishes drone imagery from satellite imagery when it comes to tax appraisal ?

Drones being able to hover closer to the ground than satellites can offer more dynamic and custom images of the subject. Assetdrone.com describes many ways in which drone imagery can be beneficial to property valuation.

  • Accessibility: Traditional methods of valuations included an accessor going to a property and examining and determining the value themselves. Drones have made it easier as sometimes accessing homes can become hard. This is especially true in the case of waterside properties where an accessor cannot even get a decent look from a boat.
  • Flexibility: Drones being smaller in size and being made up of light, composite materials can easily work their way around tight spaces to get a clean look of the property at different angles. By offering a 3-dimensional view of the property, it offers appraisers an opportunity to determine the valuation of property tax accurately but without having to move a limb.
  • Real time: With the ability to be controlled as and when needed, drones are able to capture images as they record it. 
  • Personnel: Along with difficulties in accessibility, problems also include a paucity in the number of assessors available. Drone imagery can hence interfere here, providing a well rounded image of the property. One drone here can therefore do the work of many. Hence in these cases, an accessor would only be sent if the property in question needs a second inspection.


The three categories of data described by Gavaert et. al (2018) can be used in ways that are not just limited to urban planning or taxation. As mentioned earlier, the ‘bloodthirsty’ drones can be used as military technology in the domain of national defence. Apart from this they are used in maritime, conservation, agriculture, relief provision, mining and the list goes on.

Drones being versatile and light have also managed to crawl their way into these industries as the data they provide are invaluable. To review, the three kinds of data Gavaert et. al (2018) describe as essential to urban planners are, ones that directly denote what they are capturing, ones that connote features, and ones that figuratively imply ‘invisible’ features that are normally socio-political and economical constructs. We then see how the importance of these data cross over to the valuation and taxation of properties.

With drones being permeable into any sector by providing a sound capturing and reporting of images, it is definitely a technology that has broken both geospatial and metaphorical barriers,from being an innovative military weapon to a child’s remote controlled play toy.

For more information on how drone imagery can benefit your industry, please contact us.