Innovation That Matters

Smartphone-carrying drone maps natural disasters


Using existing smartphone sensors, the customizable UAV Toolkit app gathers spatial data for mapping landscapes during crises.

We know that drones can be incredibly useful in search and rescue operations, from crowdsourcing teams to finding lost hikers, and now researchers have created a mapping app that can be flown over disaster zones for rapid analysis of potentially dangerous landscapes.

The UAV Toolkit app, developed by researchers from the University of Exeter and FoAM Kernow, uses a smartphone’s surveillance capabilities to remotely gather images, location and other data. The app will then use the data for mapping and spatial analysis.


Using a phone’s built-in sensors, including compass, camera, GPS and accelerometer, the app was designed especially for use by disaster recovery teams. It operates autonomously when airborne, such as from a kite or drone, and can be live-programmed to gather location-specific datasets. Users don’t need coding knowledge, instead relying on a visual touchscreen system to set the parameters for data capture — from location to time, direction and positioning of the camera.

Could remote mapping also help environmentalists and farmers?



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