OpenDroneMap — Humanitarian uses of outputs

OpenDroneMap Logo

In response to a recent query about OpenDroneMap, I’m writing a quick summary here, and then a brief write-up on how it could relate to humanitarian response / crisis mapping applications, as discussed in my Deep Dive session at International Conference of Crisis Mappers in New York, this past November.  Ahem. The summary:

OpenDroneMap: Open Source Toolkit for processing Civilian Drone Imagery

“OpenDroneMap is an Open Source Toolkit for processing Civilian Drone Imagery. As small unmanned aerial systems have dropped in price and become readily affordable, software for making meaningful geographic data from civilian drones has not. Until now.

“OpenDroneMap is fully Free and Open Source postprocessing tool for highly overlapping unreferenced imagery, turning unstructured data (simple photos) into structured geographic data such as colorized point clouds, digital surface models, textured digital surface models, and highly detailed orthophotography.

The project can be found at”

So, cool stuff. But what does that mean? What do we really get at the end of the day, so to speak, at least within the context of crisis response. To answer this question, I’ll divide this into two categories — goodies we get now and goodies we will get later as the project matures.

Products we get now from OpenDroneMap:

  1. Point Cloud
  2. Textured Mesh
  3. Up to 1-2cm (or so) orthophotos

What can we do with 2cm imagery in the crisis response context? My colleagues at ICCM addressed this question:

  • Structural Mapping
  • Logistics and Supply Planning
  • Count People — IDPs, Protests
  • Identify Equipment / Weaponry
  • Finding people (search and rescue)
  • Finding Animals (conservation)

Products we get later from OpenDroneMap (as the project matures and adds features):

As to future products from the toolchain we will derive the following:

  • 4cm Terrain / Surface Models
  • Off-Nadir Imagery

Again, drawing from the brainstorming at ICCM:

4cm Terrain / Surface Models yield us:

  • Off-road route planning
  • Hydrology / innundation estimation
  • Damage assessment — rubble volume estimation
  • Agricultural Planning

Off-Nadir Imagery:

  • Forensics
  • Damage Assessment (useful for building especially which often won’t show damage on roof)
  • Context for video footage


The UAViators site lists the following (complementary and otherwise related to the above) uses of UAVs to support humanitarian efforts:

Together, these teams work collaborate to facilitate various uses of UAVs to support humanitarian efforts. These include:   

  • Rapid assessment of disaster damage to building infrastructure
  • Rapid assessment of powerlines and other electricity infrastructure
  • Identify usable roads and transportation infrastructure
  • Identify useful areas for humantiarians to set up base camp
  • Aerial support for road clearance activities
  • Estimate population displacement
  • Identify temporary shelters
  • Identify best locations to set up new temporary shelters
  • Survey impact of disaster on agriculture, farmland
  • Search and Rescue
  • Identifying whether radio transmitters/comms on the ground still work

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