Maps Made Easy - Step by Step
This Quick Start guide will walk through the steps for taking aerial images and turning them into useful maps and 3D models.
The following topics will be covered:
- Source Data Preparation
- Job Submission
- Image Upload
- System Notifications
- Making Measurements
- Output Types
- Map Sharing
For information on collecting the images, please visit our Map Pilot Quick Start guide for help in automatically collecting the source data.
Source Data Preparation
Maps Made Easy creates its maps and models based on carefully taken aerial imagery. Mapping data is generally taken by flying a serpentine pattern while taking periodic images as seen in the following screenshot from our Map Pilot app.
For our processing to give quality results, the submitted images must have a lot of overlap between successive images and adjacent passes.
Images taken with DJI drones, for example, are stored on the camera's SD card. In order to upload them to our service you will need to copy them off of the SD card to you computer.
It is important NOT to use a photo importer like Lightroom or Photos or Photo Manager. Open the SD card in the file manager and drag the image files off the SD card to a local folder for safe keeping. Photo manager software frequently modifies the image's internal tags that are used for knowing where an image was taken.
If you don't have any images of your own yet and just want to try things out you can download this sample data set to follow along.
Assuming that you have already created and verified your account, now that you have some images (our sample data or your own) we can start the Job Submission process.
While it may seem like a lot of steps, it isn't a lot of work. There is no technical knowledge or background needed. Most of the steps are just to allow us to make sure things will work out well for you.
Once logged in you will be in your Dashboard which has links to all of your completed and pending maps as well as some information about your account's point balance.
To start making your first map, select New under the Maps menu at the top of the browser window:
Once on the Create a New Map page, you can select from a few different ways to submit your data. Since your imagery (and ours) is likely recorded by a drone that geotags the images, we will select the Georeferenced w/Camera GPS workflow. This means that all of the positional information for the map will be read directly from the image files themselves. No manual inputs will be required.
The next screen will bring up a tabbed window that will guide you through the process and make sure that everything that is needed is entered. For each tab, there are a few boxes. Each of these boxes needs to be Green before you will be able to advance to the next tab by hitting the Next button.
The first tab is the Map Info tab. All that is needed here is a name and a description for the new map.
The next tab is the Select Images tab. Here you are asked to verify some information about the images you will be uploading and to select which images to upload. Check the three checkboxes and press the Select Images to Upload button. This will bring up a file selector dialog with which you will select all the images that we dragged off the SD card in the previous step. If you are uploading more than 200 images you will be asked to select the images again and won't be provided the opportunity to review the images in the browser in a future step.
The next tab is the Test EXIF Tags tab. EXIF tags are the bits of information that are embedded in the image files that tell our service where the image was taken. Press the Choose File button and select one of the images you will be uploading. Selecting one of the images this way gives the browser access to open that file and read its tags to make sure they are valid.
If everything is valid and the numbers make sense, check the Verify EXIF Information checkbox and hit the Next button.
The next tab is the Verify Images tab. If you have selected less than 200 images to upload there will be thumbnails of the images shown here and you have one last chance to sift through them to make sure that is what you intended to upload. If an image looks like it was part of a different data set or doesn't meet our Data Collection guidelines you can hit the cancel button to keep it from being uploaded.
If you are uploading more than 200 images you will need to do this image checking step within your normal file browser. Generating lots of thumbnails can cause issues with some browsers.
Once all the images look good, check the Image Check checkbox and hit the Next button.
The next tag is the Point Use tab. This tab shows a calculation of how many points will be used in the processing of the selected imagery. Select Normal in the Select Urgency box. This will guarantee that it will be started in the next 24 hours, but more than 98% of the time it will start almost immediately. Faster options are available but are generally reserved for businesses that need it as soon as possible guaranteed.
There are a few different options in the Processing Options box. Some affect the point total, some don't. Leave those alone for now and hit the Next button to move on.
All jobs of 250 points or less are free.
The next tab is the Georeference tab and it gives you a chance to see on an existing map where the images were taken. If the location in the map looks like where the images came from check the Verify EXIF Location checkbox and hit Next to continue. If the location of the map is wrong, there is an issue with your tags and the processing will likely fail.
The final tab is the Upload and Process tab. It gives you a chance to review the entered information and approve the kickoff of the job.
Check the Final Review checkbox and hit the Upload Now button to start the upload process.
The Uploading screen will show all of the images being uploaded to our server for processing. The processing of the job will not start and points will not be removed from your account until all images have been successfully uploaded.
Once the uploads are complete, there will be a brief popup while some preprocessing is done on the images.
Then you will be presented with the Map Detail page for the newly created map. It will be updated as the processing progresses.
Once processing starts, the progress bar will be updated and an email notification will be sent. Note: that this job was started within minutes and did not take 24 hours to start.
When the processing is complete, the progress bar goes away and the map shows up.
Once a job starts processing you get an email notification.
You get another one once the processing is complete.
A Map Detail page is created for each map. It contains the following:
- A private version of the web map
- 3D model preview links
- Sharing controls
- Information on how the source data was collected
- A list of links to the output files
- Processing Timestamps
- An Overlap Report for diagnosing issues
This is an overlap report which can be used to diagnose image collection issues. You can read more about them here: Overlap Reports
Linear, area and volume measurements can be made directly in the browser using the embedded tools.
These annotations, tools and the ability to allow public markup is all controllable with checkboxes in the Sharing section.
NOTE: These tools are not available on touch devices.
The main output for Maps Made Easy is the web map. Web maps enable a low bandwidth and low system resources view of what could potentially be a very large amount of data. It is not uncommon for a map that covers hundreds of acres at a high level of detail to come out to be a multi Gigabyte file. Very few computers can view that file but almost everything can view the web map. We maps can have multiple layers. By default we include an elevation layer to shows a colorized shaded relief map that shows changes in elevation quite dramatically. It is easily embeddable in your own site by using the Public Hosting control and the iFrame Embed Code.
These are live examples of a web map and 3D as made for the creation of this tutorial. Click around on them to interact.
A low resolution version of the created 3D model is also easily embeddable using the same controls for the 3D model.
Full resolution versions of the orthophoto map GeoTiff and various formats of the 3D model information are available for download.
In order to keep the costs of processing and hosting down, the files in this list are deleted after 30 days. If you wish to automatically sync them with a Dropbox account you can do so by following these instructions.
Controls for sharing or keeping various features private are part of the Map Detail page. For more information on the details of the sharing controls, please refer here: Sharing Controls