My recent slideshow, 12 Drones to Own, got a lot of interest and highlighted just how diverse and powerful this market is.
Ranging from sophisticated toys such as the $370 Parrot AR Drone 2.0 to the incredibly sophisticated $54,212 Microdrones md4-200 and md4-1000 these flying devices are making a lot of activities that once would have required regular aircraft and helicopters not only affordable but orders of magnitude safer.
For example, consider accurately mapping a mountain. To do this with conventional aerial mapping would be very expensive but with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise called drones, it becomes relatively easy (I say "relatively" because doing anything involving things like mountains is always a big deal).
To demonstrate just how practical and powerful geo-mapping by drones is senseFly, makers of the eBee drone (priced at about $12,000), in collaboration with Drone Adventures (planning and logistics), Pix4D (data post-processing) and Mapbox (online visualization) did just that; they mapped the Matterhorn.
Over 11 flights they took 2,188 pictures, flew 164 miles, and mapped 6,919 acres of mountain with an average accuracy of better than 8 inches. Here's their flight plan:
... and the video of the project is below:
And if you want to see what a really good composite of the Matterhorn looks like, here you go: