Case Studies

Poland’s cost-effective urban mapping solution: the eBee X drone


Share | 03/15/2023

Project details 

Missions: Cadastral and urban mapping Outputs: Orthomosaic and DTM 
Area: 15.000 ha / 37.065 ac at 120 m / 400 ft AGL Flights: 60 flights 
Drone: eBee X Total images: ±1 000 000 
Sensor: S.O.D.A. 3D and Aeria X Accuracy: 2.5 cm / 1 in GSD 
PPK/RTK: RTK Processing software: Bentley ContextCapture, PIX4D 
Location: Opole, Poland Data provided by: Maciej Sznabel, City of Opole (Miasto Opole) 

The Municipality of Opole’s three geographic information systems (GIS) specialists produce multiple mapping products for internal and public use by various stakeholders. They keep the city’s cadastral maps updated, produce maps for residential development and property investors, and monitor environmental change such as illegal dumping. 

To produce the necessary orthomosaics and digital terrain models (DTMs) the municipality previously relied on aerial imagery captured by aircraft and commercial satellite imagery, as well as the country’s national 12 points/m2 lidar dataset. 

These data products were expensive to produce and quickly became outdated. To fly regular, high-resolution, large coverage missions over people the municipality turned to the eBee X fixed-wing drone with its optimised Aeria X and S.O.D.A. 3D cameras. 

Challenges: Effectively map fast changing urban environments over large areas 

The Municipality of Opole (Poland) required a cost-effective way to capture high resolution 2D and 3D map data over the city’s 150 km2 span. They needed to conduct frequent flights for up-to-date maps required for change monitoring applications. Importantly, since it is a city, these missions needed to be conducted safely over people and buildings. 

The Opole Municipality GIS team uses eBee X drones to create orthomosaic maps of the city.

The national 12 points/m2 lidar dataset did not offer a sufficient point density nor was it current enough for the municipality’s needs. Commercial satellite imagery offered higher frequency data, but was expensive and not of high enough resolution for cadastral applications. The aerial imagery captured by aircraft was of good resolution, but was expensive and quickly became outdated. 

Drones seemed like a viable alternative, but choosing the right solution was difficult. Besides the need for efficient large area coverage, the drone had to be regulatory compliant for flying missions over people and buildings. As the team’s resources were already thinly stretched, ease of use by one pilot was another purchase consideration. 

Solutions: Cost-effective drone data over large urban areas while retaining citizen safety 

Coverage was a critical factor explains Maciej Sznabel, the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) administrator and UAV pilot for Opole City. The eBee X fixed-wing drone offered the team a lightweight, regulatory compliant mapping drone with flight times up to 90 minutes, and with cameras optimised for large area coverage up to 500 ha / 1235 ac.  

The team bought the Aeria X and S.O.D.A. 3D cameras and started using it for all their mapping projects. 

3D city map produced from drone data and processed in Bentley.

To map buildings and vertical surfaces in the city’s urban areas they use the eBee series S.O.D.A. 3D camera, a photogrammetry sensor optimised for 3D mapping applications. The camera changes orientation during flight to capture three images (2 oblique, 1 nadir), and so produces a much wider field of view. 

Since 2D imagery is sufficient for the city’s surrounding and rural areas, the team uses the eBee series Aeria X camera which produces high-resolution, accurate data with its 24 MP sensor and optimised exposure time for operations in most light conditions.  

What sets the eBee X apart from heavier VTOLs and quadcopters are its regulatory advantages.  

The eBee X is the first drone to receive M2 Mitigation Design Verification, essential for getting SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment) authorization for flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operation over people (OOP) missions in Europe.  

The eBee X’s C2 class identification label allows drone operators to conduct missions in the “Open Category”, such as operating around populated areas without any formal permission or regulatory waiver. 

Results: Reduced operational costs and improved data quality 

The municipality now uses their eBee X seven to 15 times a year to create 2.5 cm / 1 in per pixel GSD maps of Opole. “We don’t need 1 cm accuracy,” Sznabel says, explaining that such a resolution would generate too many images which would take too long to process.  

The imagery is then processed in Pix4D to produce an orthomap and digital terrain model (DTM). These high resolution, frequently updated datasets can be used for urban planning and change detection/monitoring applications, including environmental protection. A mesh is also generated to create a topographic map of the city and its surroundings. Further processing in Bentley enables the data to be used for updating the city’s cadastre. 

Drone data helps the city of Opole maintain its land registry.

The high-resolution maps have also helped investors identify areas suitable for development, and the DTM has served as eye catching advertising for investors to use in their presentations to clients. 

Operationally, the eBee X fixed-wing drone reduced the municipality’s data costs, with the added benefit of requiring only one pilot to operate it. 

The eBee X offers the Opole Municipality’s GIS team a reliable solution which they have already used for over 400 hours of flying and many data products. “The eBee X was a great investment!” says Sznabel. “We plan to use it for several years to come.” 

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