In the summer of 2016, DroneBase announced 360 Panoramas for our customers. These panoramas have been an excellent way to showcase a property or worksite in relation to its surroundings including nearby attractions, transportation, and local amenities. Check out a successful Pano here:

 https://collab.dronebase.com/m/cb4703d8a9dad1ad80d43f1c7f1c3271?fullscreen=1

Since the summer, thousands of panorama images have been uploaded each month into the DroneBase platform via our newest pilot offering called Pano Missions. These Pano Missions are designed to be quick and easy for pilots, averaging about 10-15 minutes of max flight time. We created a “How to Complete a DroneBase Pano Mission” video and continually update our Pilot FAQ; however, we want to tackle some of the main issues that may result in an unsuccessful vs successful panorama submission.

Launch Point

The pilot should take off from the public area, NOT on the property. You do not need to fly directly over the property either. We ask that the pilot shoot the property in frame in the front for the beauty shots, and then rise and reverse to perform the 360 panorama at a minimum of 100 ft. This allows for the viewer to get enough perspective of the surrounding area. Adjust height and distance based on size and height of property or the surrounding areas.

Please do not perform your 360 over the property. We are actively trying to manage concerns of privacy and safety, thus the reasoning for not taking off on the property or flying over it directly.

Time of Day and Weather

We find that most successful missions happen during peak sun hours, typically around 11am-2pm when the sun is overhead with good weather. This results in a few key elements:

  • Reduced shadow effect, especially on the front of the building
  • Reduced sun glare or sun directly in frame
  • Showcases surrounding areas much better
  • Stability of the drone when performing the 360 image capture

When pilots shoot end-of-day or on heavy overcast days, the likelihood of payout is reduced, especially for the real estate sector. Also, on windy days, the drone tends to shift when performing its 360, thus it changes the perspective and depth among the images resulting in a panorama that cannot be stitched together properly.

Unusable sun flare example:

Aerial image with sun flare
Example of a drone photo with sun flare

Overcast day example:

Aerial image of overcast day
Example of a drone photo on an overcast day

Image Overlap or Missing Images

One of the most common issues that we see from pilots’ submissions is a lack of overlap on their images, meaning that there are gaps in the panorama. We suggest shooting your panorama at 0-30-60-80-90 degrees (requires 4 rotations and one downward shot).

DroneBase Pano visual guide
Visual guide for 0-30-60-80-90 degree

We have also found that taking too many images can result in errors as well. When the overlap is so heavy, our stitcher can have difficulty determining how to line up the images correctly because the image tiles almost look identical.

A common error is when the pilot misses an image causing a large blank space in the panorama. The most common missing image is the straight down birds eye degree shot (90 degrees downward).

Manual vs Auto-Exposure / White Balance Settings

Another main issue that we see comes from auto-exposure / white balance settings. When taking the panorama images, the auto settings may change the exposure/white balance on each image. This results in varying exposure levels / colors between images, making it very difficult to stitch.

We suggest that the pilot sets their exposure and white balance manually so they are consistent across all images in the panorama and that they find the optimal level of exposure to account for how much light is available. Please make sure that images are not over-exposed / white-washed or too dark.

Variation in exposure levels example:

Aerial Images with varied exposure
Variation of exposure in drone photos

Overexposed Example:

Overexposed aerial images
Examples of overexposed drone photos

Framing Shots and Gimbal Issues

Per our instructions, we ask that the pilot has calibrated their drone and gimbal/camera so that horizons are flat. When pilots submit images that are slanted, this typically means that there are gimbal issues, rotations were done too quickly, or there was heavy wind. The horizons must be flat. Additionally, for 0 degree shots, the horizon should be mid-frame, not near the top of the frame or lower part of the frame.

Additionally, we cannot process images that have fish eye distortion.

Lastly, we DO NOT need “sky only” images (when there is nothing in the image except the sky). It is too difficult for our processor to determine where the sky image fits into the 360. Remember, the highest rows of shots should be 0 degrees with the horizon in mid-frame.

Example of images with some fish-eye and horizons taken in top part of the frame:

Aerial Images with framing issues
Examples of drone photos with framing issues

Uploading to the DroneBase Dashboard

One of the most common issues that we see during the upload process is the separation of the beauty shots taken around roof level height vs the panorama images taken at a different altitude and location. Do not mix those up. If beauty shots are uploaded with the panorama images, our stitcher will fail.

Thanks for reading and flying with us!

-Nick O.-
Head of Operations @ DroneBase

6 thoughts on “Pano Mission Troubleshooting

  1. When you mention “reverse” for the 360 shots, do you mean shoot (as it were) with your back to the focal point? I have been having trouble getting uploads accepted. I have been shooting the “beauty shots,” doing the down shot, then doing the 360 from that same position. Of course, I am not a photographer, so I am on a learning curve. I have flown jets across the pond that were less problematic than this process seems to be. But I am determined to master it.

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  2. I am have a very difficult time getting my pictures accepted. I am still confused about the straight down shot. Its mentioned in some examples to go up and take a picture straight down WITH THE PROPERTY IN VIEW but the use tube video shows the back away as much farther back. So for distance sake, how many feet do you want to be away from the property for the straight down and pano? Also some references show 0,45,90 degree while others show 0,30,60,80? Also you reference that to many pictures may cause the pano not be generated at the same time say that you may need to take more pictures.

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    1. Phil – Sorry for the difficulties you’re having. To ensure a successful pano, please shoot 0,30,60,80. The extra shots really help ensure there’s enough overlap to make sure the pano stitches properly. The straight down shot should be from where you’re taking the pano. We’re working to further clarify the instructions because we know they’re not immediately clear to everyone. Thanks for bearing with us!

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  3. I’m having trouble with exposure. Up here in Washington State the Sun is pretty low on the horizon this time of year even at noon. If I set an exposure which is correct for the objects on the ground, the sky is way overexposed. If I expose the sky correctly, the ground is way too dark. Also, the exposure changes a lot as I go around the 360° panorama. Any suggestions?

    Jim

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    1. Hey Jim, here’s some feedback from our Production Coordinator: “Fly when the sun in highest in the sky if possible, and MANUALLY set the exposure for the brightest shot in the pano.If his is “way too bright” he just needs to bring his exposure down a bit. But it’s much better to set the exposure for the whole pano to the brightest image in the set, because the sensor retains much more detail of blacks that it does whites when blown out (which can often bleed into other areas of the image as well, ruining it further).” Let us know if this helps.

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