M2M: mapKITE to market

After the two-year period of the Horizon2020 project, GeoNumerics is involved in the materialization of mapKITE as a market reality. And this is the aim of the project M2M: mapKITE-to-market.

The goal of M2M is to conduct a market analysis to introduce mapKITE into the market. MapKITE is a new mobile tandem, terrestrial and aerial, geodata acquisition and orientation/calibration system and method that combines an aerial unmanned (drone) and a land mobile mapping system. In a mapKITE mission, the mapping drone follows the mapping land vehicle by means of a stream of waypoints generated in the vehicle and transmitted to the drone. The land vehicle carries metric targets to materialize accurate kinematic ground control points. In the  mission, inertial, GNSS, odometric and imaging data are recorded. In post-processing, these data are combined in a new way for accurate geo-referencing purposes.

The following statements about the expected impact of mapKITE through M2M are based on the queries to the mapKITE network of potential end-users and customers, and also on our own expertise in geomatics.

We have received positive feed-back from the majority of mapping service companies, terrestrial mobile mapping manufacturers and geo-information end-users. These groups have understood the key principles of mapKITE (autonomous virtually-tethered UAS operation, simultaneous mapping perspective, kinematic ground control points) and envision that the following benefits:

- Higher comprehensiveness of the delivered mapKITE product: Comparing mapKITE to stand-alone Mobile Mapping Systems (MMS) surveys reveals clearly additional gap-filling point-of-view (MMS ground-level missions are conditioned by vertical obstacles in sides of corridors that do not enable creating the map beyond them). Reversely, when considering aerial-only surveys (manned aircraft or drone-based), the advantages manifest from ground to air.

- True kinematic operation: drone-based missions are not truly kinematic. Due to restrictions in the unmanned aircraft to ground control station (UA-to-GCS) distance, corridor mapping is performed up to a certain distance, and then the command team has to move further and repeat the mission over and over. MapKITE eliminates this constraint, as the GCS is on the terrestrial vehicle, which is followed closely by the UA, therefore complying constantly with the required UA-to-GCS distance.

- Time-to-geoinformation cycle reduction: Simultaneity of operations outperforms the individual operations of both methods separately or in a non-simultaneous manner.

- Cost reduction. Typical UAS and MMS missions require surveyor teams to go on the field and measure ground control points (GCPs) (plus post-processing). This step is as necessary as costly and sometimes hard to execute (missions with restricted human access). MapKITE is able to mitigate the need of these pre-surveyed points (demonstrated up to a factor 8-10). As the length of the mission increases, mapKITE becomes more and more cost efficient.

- Easy corridor mapping operation. No manual UAS flight is required, as the virtual tether leads the UAS to follow autonomously the MMS (only a safety manual pilot is required in case of emergency). Additionally, when using Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) UAS, almost any spot is valid for executing missions.

In future perspective, technology improvement will open more boxes. Over time, sensors like laser scanners, thermal cameras, hyper-spectral and multi-spectral cameras, or topographic radars will be driven by an improvement curve (same performance, lower weight and size). This will enable targeting new applications related to environmental monitoring of river water quality, for instance, be it as a routine procedure or as an emergency one; scan powerlines in search of hot-spots related to broken or malfunctioning resistors; or urban 3D high-resolution mapping at unprecedented low costs. Additionally to sensors’ improvement, the performance of unmanned technology will as well increase (better batteries leading to longer operation times), boosting the efficiency of operations and opening new applications. Needless to say, social acceptance of unmanned technology will grow pushed by disruptive applications such as package delivery and telecommunication relay, which will help on introducing mapKITE technology everywhere.

New drivers of digital geo-spatial information. Geospatial technology and information have become a fundamental pillar of modern society in the last decade. Digital society transformation stands heavily on ready-to-access content over Internet to enable services for end-users, and geo-spatial information is indeed one important piece within this paradigm. Needless to say, Google Earth, Maps and StreetView products are good representatives of how geo-spatial information has been an active element in this society transformation, enabling the so-called Location Based Services (LBS) including locating nearest business or services, turn-by-turn map navigation, real-time traffic information, etc. The consolidation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a methodology for planning and/or execution of new and old buildings –in UK, BIM becomes mandatory for all public sector projects as of 2016– paves the way for all the technologies that capture and display geo-data in a digital support. MMS has been already inserted in BIM workflows.

Finally, autonomous cars, which are based on robust and accurate positioning technologies, and updated, scalable, globally accessible maps of roads, will boost the demand for road mapping and inventory (comfortable application niches for MMS) Therefore, as mapKITE shall be regarded as a cost-saver in tandem missions due to mitigation of ground survey, we expect an increase of demand for mapKITE as well. MapKITE is a direct contributor to accurate and updated maps of linear environments, in particular roads. Moreover, it is itself a modern geo-data capture system in a modern world, as it based in disruptive drone plus MMS technology. The fact that mapKITE is a same-accuracy-lower-cost paradigm of geo-spatial information production means that it may enable more frequent acquisitions, and therefore, more updated and accurate maps.


M2M is an H2020 project funded by the European Commission, through the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) on the specific call  'SMEInst-04-2016-2017' under the grant agreement number 762692.

Read more about M2M at the CORDIS webpage.



This project has received funding from the European Community's Horizon 2020 Programme under Grant Agreement 762692.