Amazon’s drone delivery PR stunt brought the idea of commercial and public use drones to the masses. It’s still a very long time though until Amazon quadcopters are delivering groceries.
However, various government agencies and universities already have licenses for drones, and thanks to the EFF we have transparency into some of the use cases. The EFF has filed and won freedem on information act requests with the FAA, the federal agency responsible for granting certificates of aviation (COAs) for domestic drone flights (flights over 400ft). An ongoing map of COAs in the public domain is below.
I ended up looking through some of the COA files and was fascinated by the maps and annotation tools used to document flights. Below I walk through a handful of the maps that have been filed.
Department of the Army, Hawaii
I would love to know what software this is
City of Herington, Kansas
Powerpoint for annotation?
Miami-Dade, Florida Police Department
Satellite imagery is incredibly valuable as a base map for flight planning, and pre Skybox and Planet Labs, Digital Globe was the main provider. Both images use Digital Globe imagery for the base map. The image on the right also references the US Geological Survey and NOAA as additional data layers.
Google dominates, but it really isn’t a great enterprise mapping application
Georgia Tech Police Department
Google and Tele Atlas base map data
Houston, Texas Police Department
More Google and Tele Atlas and Europa Technologies base map data
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
Utilizing Google for the basemap but annotation done outside of Google
Polk County, Florida Sheriff’s Department
A lonely Microsoft map, and Filestar for Windows…wow
Seattle, Washington Police Department
Do we really have to use Microsoft Office Picture Manager to annotate a map?
A Google Earth Engine shot combining base map data from Europa and the US Geological Survey with Google’s annotation tools
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Google and Tele Atlas, Digital Globe, GeoEye, and INEGI data for the base map
A well annotated but entirely static map
What version of windows is this?
All shapes drawn over an image in powerpoint
Texas A&M University
Google with Digital Globe and Tele Atles FTW again
Pennsylvania National Guard
Anyone able to make sense of this?
Louisiana National Guard
California Fire Services
Hays County, Kansas Emergency Services
Ogden, Utah Police Department
University of Wisconsin
A lot of the COAs are from 2008-10, so it is not definitive that these are still the tools being used.