I have a drone mounted GNSS enabled camera. I can read the EXIF data from these images. From the EXIF data I can confirm the CCD size, the location, lens focal length, the f-stop, elevation (UGL), pitch, roll, and yawl of the images. Assuming a flat ground surface and a camera pointed at vertical is it possible to calculate the on-ground length and width of the image?

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    I don't understand the difference between "classical drone" and a "high tech one." A classical one might not have a good enough camera to be able to georeference the resulting photos to good enough accuracy. Amount of display will depend on camera and altitude plus there's operational limits imposed by governments...
    – mkennedy
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:24
  • @mkennedy classical drone: you can buy it on Internet, companies use them in business regulary vs high tech drone: military/scientific drone - you cannot buy it, or you can but you have to sell your company first. Concerning altitude, I'm interested about some reasonable altitude, not close to some limit...
    – Fido
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:31
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    Have a look at the article five steps to making a map with small drones and see if you want to instead select a desired GSD (resolution) and from that it leads to altitude which then leads to the area that can be covered from that altitude.
    – SaultDon
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:34
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    Welcome to GIS SE. As a new user please take the Tour. The Don't Ask page states "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." By genericizing the altitude, you're shifting this more to a hypothetical question.
    – Vince
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:38
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    There are companies making drones for photogrammetry and surveying-related uses. They're pricey (5-6 figures?) but available. Part of the cost is the software that adjusts for camera distortion, etc.
    – mkennedy
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


It depends on two main factors:

  • Fly height, which determines the GSD (ground sampling distance, which is the distance between pixel centers). This parameter, despite the performance of your aircraft, could have a maximum value, restricted by the legislation in your country (In Chile is 400 ft ~ 122 m).

  • Camera resolution and FOV (field of view), because the covered area is depending on the number of pixels in each image, as well as, the possible correction that you need to perform to remove the distortion present in image edges.

Also, the app that you use for capturing the images could restrict the maximum covered area, based on the distance from the origin point and the battery autonomy.

I have used both, Phantom 2 Vision Plus and Phantom 3 Advanced, and I can tell you, at 100 meters height, you can cover at maximum 2.6 and 2.2 hectares per image, respectively. The value indicated for PV2+ is lower after correction due to its fisheye lens.

In my work (forestry), we developed several tests, and we obtained when 80% of overlap is used, an average of 3 and 10 orthocorrected hectares per flight (approximately 10 min), for P2V+ and P3A, respectively. We used Pix4DCapture app to colect the images.

  • Also depends on flight time!
    – Nikos
    May 2, 2017 at 21:51

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