UAVs in the GIS industry: Applications, Trends and Future Outlook

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the Geospatial industry has increased dramatically in the last few years, and it will only continue to do so in the future. In fact, there are many different applications of UAVs that are currently being used by companies as well as government agencies, and new ones are being discovered every day. Some of these uses include photography, geographic information systems (GIS), land surveying, and environmental management, just to name a few. This article will help you learn more about them and determine whether they might be applicable to your work as a GIS Expert.

A brief overview of UAVs

The term unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) refers to an aircraft that can fly with or without a human operator on board. Examples of UAVs include drones, satellites, cruise missiles and target drones. The field of unmanned aerial vehicles has grown significantly over recent years thanks to rapid technological advancements. Given its growing popularity, it’s no surprise that many geospatial professionals are looking for information about how unmanned aerial vehicles are being used today and how they’ll impact industries such as GIS.

UAV used in spraying crops
UAV used in spraying crops

GIS use of UAV technology

UAV technology is already being applied in several different GIS applications, including surveying and mapping, law enforcement monitoring, and wildlife observation. The UAV field has some features that make it particularly attractive to GIS users: UAVs can fly at lower altitudes than helicopters, they’re more flexible and easier to maintain.

 Their small size makes them cheaper to build and easier to transport. And because UAVs are remotely controlled from a control station on the ground, there’s less risk of injury or death for pilots, compared with manned aircraft. All these features combine to make UAVs an appealing option for commercial and government organizations who might not have considered using unmanned aerial vehicles before.  

There are three main types of UAVs commonly used in GIS today:  Fixed-Wing, Rotary-Wing, and Hybrid. Fixed-wing UAVs are powered by internal combustion engines, like a plane; rotary-wing craft use rotors to lift off as helicopters do. Hybrid UAVs don’t fit into either category neatly: they share characteristics of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing craft.

Because each type requires specific skillsets for operation, most operators only run one kind of vehicle—but as automation becomes increasingly common in remote sensing equipment and software tools, hybrid systems may emerge as a viable option. No matter what kind of vehicle you choose, you should take safety precautions seriously.

Just as with any other piece of survey equipment, UAVs can be dangerous if not handled properly—in fact, if care isn’t taken collisions with other airborne objects such as birds or aeroplanes, disasters could occur.

What is the impact of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for GIS?

Though UAVs have only been widely available since around 2010, they’ve already had a profound impact on GIS data collection. In many areas of geospatial technology, these unmanned aerial vehicles are even more effective than manned aircraft.

For example, some UAVs can fly longer distances and higher altitudes than aircraft with pilots—allowing them to get detailed images of an area that a plane would miss. Additionally, small drones can reach far-flung or otherwise inaccessible places quickly and easily. Most important, unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t at risk for injury if they crash.

 The efficiency and safety of unmanned aerial vehicles have already revolutionized geospatial data collection. For example, UAV-assisted mapping and surveying are becoming a common alternative to traditional GIS methods such as ground surveys and satellite imaging.

 And drone video footage is also increasingly popular among real estate agents who want to showcase properties from different angles or highlight nearby attractions.

As these technologies continue to improve, we’ll likely see even more benefits for GIS professionals and other experts in urban planning, land management, construction, transportation, and other fields.

What’s the future of UAVs technology in GIS?

The use of UAVs for GIS has been growing exponentially over recent years.

As new and exciting research into their uses shows no sign of slowing down, questions need to be asked as to what benefits they will bring when used by businesses, governments and members of society. This is not a new topic, but rather an update on trends that are already evident in terms of how these devices are being used, giving insight into their potential applications and usages for years to come.

It’s important to note that just because we can do something with UAVs doesn’t mean we should do it at all times – there are very real considerations for their usage, particularly when it comes to ethical boundaries such as privacy. However, for certain tasks, especially those where safety or access might be an issue, using UAVs could prove vital if we want them to fulfil their true potential within GIS systems.

Whether you’re a commercial company looking at ways to further your operations or simply have an interest in seeing where technology might take us, knowing about current developments and possibilities can only help inform your business decisions going forward.


With predictions suggesting that more and more companies will start to invest in UAV technologies, now may be a good time to start thinking about how they could benefit your firm’s day-to-day operations.

From helping with routine tasks such as information gathering to saving lives during natural disasters, there are plenty of ways for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to change our world for the better. In fact, given their growing popularity among businesses of all sizes, it’s unlikely we can stop them from becoming an integral part of our day-to-day operations!

 Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources available to geospatial professionals who want to learn more about UAVs. There are also several organizations offering training opportunities for those hoping to explore career opportunities in UAVs. For example, DroneDeploy offers an online course that teaches students how to set up and fly drones as well as how to leverage them with existing software such as ArcGIS Pro and Tableau Desktop. In Kenya, you can get in touch with Geoid Technologies, who are KCAA certified to offer training and services on UAVs.

Once you have basic knowledge of these skills under your belt, you might consider signing up for hands-on drone piloting courses or even distance learning courses. Regardless of which route you choose, remember that when it comes to gaining a working knowledge in UAV technology, practice makes improvements—so get out there and start flying!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Christian Lance

A Geomatics Engineer who finds fun working with GIS and travelling the world to share my skills and knowledge in Geospatial stuff.

More Reading

Post navigation