The GLOBHE World Record for Largest Album of Drone-Collected Images: the Crowd-Droning Concept

Copyright image of Antarctica used with express permission of GLOBHE.

The GLOBHE world record for largest album of drone-collected images was achieved by “crowd-droning.”  Here’s how the concept can be used to help save the planet.

*Copyright images used with express permission from GLOBHE.

By Jim Magill

GLOBHE, a Stockholm Sweden-based company that collects data from drone operators across the globe, announced it has broken the world record for the most extensive digital album of images and data collected by drone.

In order to break the former record of compiling 20,000 photo images, GLOBHE, a combination of “global” and “health,” engaged in “crowd-droning,” enlisting its community of more than 5,000 drone operators in more than 96 countries.

By utilizing drones, which are able to shoot about 600 photos in 30 minutes, the company, in cooperation with its partners around the world, was able to accomplish the feat within a few months of taking on the Guinness challenge.

The GLOBHE World Record: Highlighting Climate Change

Content creator Emilia Nygren said GLOBHE took on the task of creating the record-breaking digital photo album to demonstrate the potential of its platform. “The digital album came about because we saw the potential in the number of pilots that we have all over the world connected to our network,” she said. “And we asked how can we activate as many of those pilots as possible and have as their mission to highlight their own local struggles with climate change.”

Participants in the Guinness world-record project — non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research labs and private companies involved in sustainability issues – were required to submit their proposed mapping projects, including how the project would further the goal of protecting the planet’s resources.

“It always has to have a purpose for a sustainable future,” Nygren said. For example, some projects used images shot by drones, rather than more expensive satellite imagery, to chart rising sea levels in out-of-the-way low-lying areas vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change.

From mid-December, when GLOBHE announced the Guinness initiative until late February, its collective of drone operators gathered more than 23,000 images, several thousand more than needed to top the previous record. The company then worked with Guinness and a third-party observer to evaluate the pictures, to ensure that they met the criteria for establishing the official world’s record.

Having collected all the images from this Guinness world-record attempt, GLOBHE will analyze the data collected and use it to create maps, which will benefit researchers and groups dealing with the myriad of issues surrounding climate change.

GLOBHE world record

Copyright image of Indonesia, used with express permission of GLOBHE.

Crowd-droning uses collective power

Crowd-droning leverages the power of the collective to achieve what an individual company or NGO could not accomplish on its own.

“Crowd-droning is like Uber for drones,” Nygren said. The company’s network of affiliated drone pilots is composed of professional UAS operators, rather than hobbyists. “We keep our standards very high, since we’ve focusing on the data you can get out of drones, not just the image itself,” she said.

GLOBHE collaborated with its drone pilot partners in choosing which individual projects are suitable for inclusion in the Guinness record attempt, with project ideas originating in some cases with the drone operators themselves and based on suggestions from the GLOBHE staff in other cases.

“It’s been a mixed bag,” Nygren said. “Some pilots or operators have come to us and said, ‘This is something that’s never covered by the media’ or ‘This is something that’s out of our local, little village and I want to map this particular thing.’ Other people have come to us and said ‘I want to be a part of this, but I don’t know exactly what I can map.’”

The project has resulted in the creation of some stunning images, showing the human toll of global warming. For example, a drone operator in Benin photographed the devastating impacts that rising sea levels have had on a small coastal village.

“The shoreline keeps shrinking and it keeps flooding every year. People have had to rebuild their house five or six times, because they can’t withstand the tides,” Nygren said. “You see these massive structures and it looks almost like ruins, but it’s all from the water damage. It’s quite drastic when you can see it from above.”

Another project portrays the effects of climate change in a region of Poland, which saw no January snowfalls.

“That’s quite rare and it’s affecting the seeds, and the fauna and flora,” Nygren said. “The snow is an essential part in the ecosystem of Poland. The leaves have to decompose underneath the snow, for everything to develop as it should during the spring and summer later on.”

Project requires high-resolution images

Participants in the Guinness digital album project were required to submit high-resolution photos, suitable for use in building ortho-mosaic maps. These maps in turn will be used by GLOBHE’s clients, including the United Nations and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in their research.

GLOBHE world record

Copyright image of Adelaide, Australia used with express permission of GLOBHE.

“You can’t just send up any sort of cheap drone. You don’t have to have a DJI Enterprise drone, because those are really expensive, but you do have to have one that can collect the high-resolution data we need,” Nygren said.

GLOBHE launched the digital album as a not-for-profit project aimed at mapping areas of the world that are frequently overlooked by researchers and the media, she said.

“We did it together with our pilots to measure issues that might not be on the mind of a lot of these NGOs or organizations that work with us,” Nygren said. “The world is very big and you can’t cover everything, but now we have data that we can show and hopefully that will spark questions and we will get a big response from it.”

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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.