Volunteered Drone Imagery, Johnson et al. (2017)

I think the article draws an interesting comparison between volunteered drone imagery (VDI) and other forms of volunteered geographic information (VGI). The “rise of the amateur” in most other VGI applications was really enabled by the spread of personal computers. It’s difficult for me to envision a world, at least in the near future, where personal UAVs become similarly prolific. The authors note that even for those that would purchase UAVs for enjoyment, there is still a technical barrier that would prevent less knowledgeable users from contributing. I imagine that it will be awhile before VDI contributors begin to resemble “amateurs” in the way many VGI contributors do more broadly. There’s probably an interesting discussion to be had about how different motivations behind contributing VDI and other types of VGI might affect concerns about data quality. I would be inclined to posit that VDI contributors have more professional expertise than that of the greater VGI community, perhaps making VDI less vulnerable to issues of  credibility and vandalism. However, it’s conceivable that fewer users with the appropriate technical expertise would give rise to less power of the crowd to catch and rectify errors.

I think another important distinction between VDI and other VGI projects like OSM is that many remote sensing contributions are likely less interpretive. For instance, an OSM contributor might delineate a boundary between wetland and forest from aerial imagery through tags. It would appear–based on my limited experience with remote sensing–the collection and contribution of most VDI would precedes these interpretive steps, so naturally there would be different ways that one would go about addressing accuracy and precision. Of course, if the definition of VDI were to include remote sensing derivative like classifications and DEMs (per the “UAV Mapping Workflow) address challenges associated with interpretation are unavoidable.

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