Efficiently scan complex structures with 3D Capture. Skydio assesses the scan volume and generates autonomous and adaptive flight patterns to ensure every angle of the structure is captured. Capture data can be used for inspection or to generate high-fidelity 3D models.

3D Capture is best for scanning structures such as bridges, transmission towers, architecture, machinery, telecommunications towers, and vehicles. 

Change operating modes

Before starting a scan, the drone must first reboot to enter the 3D Scan Mode. Skydio will remember your operating mode through power cycles, so you will only have to do this when switching between 3D Scan and other Flight Skills.

  • You must enter 3D Scan while on the ground and connected to the drone
Step 1 - Select Switch Mode CS_3DS_X2_media_UI_switch-mode1.png

Step 2 - Select 3D Scan and reboot

Skydio will automatically reboot. This should take about one minute.

After rebooting, Skydio will reconnect to your controller and mobile device.


Step 3 - Begin flight

After Skydio has finished entering 3D Scan, you are ready to fly!

  • Ensure your Logs Card has been formatted before starting a scan
  • If you have not yet done so, a notification will display in the app

[note] You must exit 3D Scan to regain access to Flight Skills. To exit, first land the drone. Navigate back to the FLY screen and select Use Skills. You also have the option to change Vehicle Modes in the Device Settings menu. [/note] 

Before you fly:

  • GPS will be required for scans higher than 65 ft (20 m). Read our article on acquiring GPS Lock: How does Skydio 2/2+ use GPS?
  • You may redo any steps in the workflow. Doing so will reset the steps you have already completed and discard any media that has been captured. 
  • If you are flying with Skydio X2 Color/Thermal, capturing thermal images is enabled by default. You have the ability to disable thermal image capture in the camera settings. 

[info] If you wish to capture the same structure with different GSD across various sections, or if you have a very large structure to scan, try breaking your scan into multiple smaller scans. For best results, launch as close as possible to the section of the structure you are scanning. [/info]

To use 3D Capture:

Move through the scan workflow using the Skydio 2/2+ Controller or Skydio Enterprise Controller. The workflow pane will collapse when you are prompted to manually fly and the app will display available Controller shortcuts.


Step 1 - Select scan mode

Select 3D Capture as the Scan Mode.

Tap Begin on the screen or use the right shoulder button on the Controller.


Step 2 - Name scan site (optional)

Optionally rename your scan.

  • The default scan name is composed of the scan mode you select followed by a UTC timestamp

Renaming the scan will replace the scan mode.

  • Ex: 3D_Capture__2021-05-20T19-50-55.135854+00-00

[info] Scan names must use American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters. Spaces, Unicode characters such as à, é, â, ü, ö, ä and the following symbols will be converted to underscores (_) in the scan directory name: < > : ; \ | / ? * & $ { } ` ‘ “ [/info] 

Step 3 - Launch

Select and hold the LAUNCH button to begin your flight. The drone will automatically climb to 6.5 ft (2 m) and hover.


Step 4 - Set Rally Point

You will have the option to return to the Rally Point when the scan completes.

  • Skydio will also return to the Rally Point when the battery level is low or if it loses connection. 

Select one of the following options to set the Rally Point:

  • Use Launch Point - Skydio will return to the launch location instead of a manually set Rally Point
  • Set Manually - allows you to pilot the drone to a new location

Tips for setting a Rally Point:

  • The Rally Point should be in your line of sight with a clear path to the Launch Point
  • Set your Rally Point close to the scan region so that the drone can safely and easily return to that point autonomously
  • Even if you change position during the scan, the drone will always have a point to return to safely without obstruction
  • Choose a location that is safe for landing

Step 5 - Set scan Floor

The Floor defines the bottom of the 3D volume you wish to scan. It will also define the bottom of your scan in the Visual Geofence and the Edge Model Viewer. 

The Floor is represented by an orange AR plane. The Launch Height is represented by a light gray AR plane. 

There are two ways to set the Floor:

  • Use Default Height - starts the Floor at 1.6 ft (0.5 m) above the launch height. To ensure the ground is captured, Modify Scan Volume > Below Floor is toggled on by default.
  • Set Manually - starts the Floor at the current height of the drone. Fly to place the Floor at your desired location.

Once selected, adjust the Floor as desired: 

  • Pilot the drone and the Floor will automatically move with the drone as you fly
  • Drag the orange Floor AR to the desired height



Use the Controller shortcuts to navigate the setup process:

  • Done – sets the Floor in your desired location and proceeds to the next step
  • Center Floor – Moves the location of the Floor to the current altitude of the drone
  • Level Gimbal – Moves the camera gimbal pitch to 0°

Step 6 - Set scan Ceiling

The Ceiling defines the top of the 3D volume you wish to scan. It will also define the top of your scan in the Visual Geofence and the Edge Model Viewer.

The Ceiling is represented by a green AR plane. 

Adjust the Ceiling as desired:

  • Pilot the drone and the Ceiling will automatically move with the drone as you fly
  • Drag the green Ceiling AR to the desired height



Use the Controller shortcuts to navigate the setup process:

  • Done – Proceeds to the next step
  • Center Ceiling – Moves the location of the Ceiling to the current altitude of the drone
  • Level Gimbal – Moves the camera gimbal pitch to 0°

Step 7 - Set Boundaries

Set AR pillars to encompass the structure to be scanned.

These pillars define the lateral bounds for the Visual Geofence. It will also define the lateral area of your model in the Edge Model Viewer

A minimum of three pillars must be set to create a 3D volume.


There are two options when setting pillars: 

1) Fly to the desired location. Use the right shoulder button to select Set Pillar.

Continue placing pillars to encompass the entire structure. By default, pillars are attached to the drone. The edges of the polygon defined by the pillars must not cross each other.

  • Set Pillar – Adds a new bounding pillar
  • Remove – Removes the previous bounding pillar
  • Done – Completes this step and finalizes pillar placement


[tip] Try adjusting the angle of the gimbal for a better view of where you are placing pillars. [/tip]

2) Drag Pillars by holding the base of the yellow AR Pillar on-screen. This selects the active pillar and enables dragging.

You may continue to set pillars by dragging or reconnecting the pillar to the drone by selecting “Attach.”

  • Set Pillar – Adds a new bounding pillar
  • Done – Completes this step and finalizes pillar placement
  • Attach – Reconnects the pillar to the drone
  • Remove – Deletes the previous bounding pillar


[info] Only the current active pillar may be dragged. [/info]

Step 8 - Modify Scan Volume

Modify Scan Volume expands the scan volume beyond the Floor, Ceiling or Walls. 

Use the adjustable distance slider to set the distance at which Skydio will capture photos outside of the scan volume. 

Example: If you set the distance slider to 8 feet, extending one of the boundaries allows you to capture photos 8 feet outside of the scan volume.

  • Below Floor is enabled by default to ensure the ground is captured.
  • If a Strict Geofence is enabled, the drone will capture photos of surfaces located outside of the scan boundaries without physically flying there.



[caution] The Modify Scan Volume distance should not be larger than your Distance to Surface (DtS). If this happens and a strict geofence is enabled, no photos will be captured of objects that are located in the capture area beyond the DtS. [/caution]

Step 9 - Set Visual Geofence

Enables a strict geofence around the scan volume.

To set the Visual Geofence, independently toggle strict or default geofence settings: Ceiling, Floor, and Walls.

By default, Skydio will remain within the scan distance of the boundaries.

Read How to use Visual Geofencing in 3D Scan for more information. 

Enabling a strict geofence means each geofence blocks flight outside of the scan volume along that bound.

The drone will continue to enter and exit the scan volume through the same location.



You will also see a setting called Safe Distance, which allows you to set the distance from which Skydio will stay away from the structure while scanning. Read How to use Visual Geofencing in 3D Scan for more information. 

[note] Skydio will skip image capture locations that are located outside any of the toggled geofence boundaries. This may result in gaps in coverage. [/note] 

Step 10 - Set AR Observer 

The AR Observer allows you to set the point of view from which you can observe an augmented-reality view of the scan progress.

When you set your AR Observer point, the drone will take a static image from that position.

There are two ways to set the AR Observer:

  • Review Suggestion means Skydio will fly to the ceiling of the pillar closest to the takeoff position. The drone will then face the structure (the centroid of the AR polygon-prism).
  • Set Manually allows you to manually pilot the drone to your preferred vantage point, using the Skydio Controller. If you choose to manually set the location of the AR Observer, ensure you are choosing a spot that provides you with the best situational awareness for monitoring the scan’s progress. Recommendations:
    • Tightly frame the structure and fill the frame vertically or horizontally
    • Select this option if you are scaning around obstacles or in complex environments



ToggleChange_View.pngto switch between the static AR Observer image and the drone’s camera feed at any time during the scan. The AR drone will follow the white lines, which denote the planned flight path and image capture locations. The purple AR lines show the Wall Bounds.

Step 11 - Explore

The drone will briskly and autonomously fly around the scan volume to build an internal model of the structure being scanned. 

Select Edit Settings to adjust the speed at which your drone completes the Explore Phase.

  • Minimum speed: is 1.1 mph (about 0.5 m/s)
  • Maximum speed: 5.6 mph (2.5 m/s)




Skydio uses this internal model to intelligently predict overall scan time and number of capture points needed to complete the scan. The explore phase should be a small fraction of the total scan time, and a rough time estimate is given.

[tip] Tap Status_Off.png in the top right corner to toggle the AR Coverage Mesh. [/tip]

Step 12 - Review or edit settings

View a summary of your scan settings:

  • Scan time estimate
  • Number of batteries required
  • Total number of photos
  • You must have at least five photos to begin a scan

Review your current settings and select Edit Settings to make any adjustments before the scan begins.

Editing scan settings will impact the total flight time, number of photos and the required number of batteries. 

Settings persist across scans of the same scan mode. Select the Reset button in the top right corner to restore settings to defaults.



Use the Maximum Speed Slider to set the maximum speed at which Skydio will travel while exploring, scanning and when returning to the Launch Point or Rally Point.

  • Set the speed between 1.1 mph (0.5 m/s) - 11 mph (5 m/s)
  • Default speed is 11 mph (5 m/s)

Step 13 - Scan

On the live camera feed you will see AR markers showing the scan capture points.

Your scan may require using several batteries to complete. For more information, read How to scan using multiple batteries. 

Status_Off.png Optionally toggle on the AR Coverage Mesh during your scan to monitor the photo coverage progress of the scan. 

pause.png Pause at any point during your scan. Use the left shoulder button or tap this icon in the workflow pane to pause scanning. Skydio will display how many photos have been captured. While paused, you have the option to manually capture photos using the right shoulder button. 

play.png Press the play icon or use the left shoulder button to resume autonomous scanning. Use the right shoulder button during a scan to Skip the next capture point.


Obstacle Avoidance is set to Standard—and cannot be changed—when Skydio flies autonomously. If you are manually piloting the drone, you have the option to adjust your obstacle avoidance setting within the Device Settings menu. 

[caution] Skydio obstacle avoidance does not detect moving objects and is disabled during landing. Review the Skydio Safety and Operating Guide for more information. [/caution] 

Step 14 - Manually capture photos (optional) 

Once your scan completes, you will be given the option to manually capture more photos of the scene or details of specific areas of interest. 

  • The purple AR outline on-screen shows the Wall Bounds
  • Use the right shoulder button to take a photo
  • Manual photos will show up in the scan folder and in the Edge Model Viewer alongside the autonomously captured photos



[note] Manual photos may be captured at any time by pressing pause. You may also optionally enable interval mode to have the drone take photos at different time intervals (ex: capture a photo every 5 seconds). [/note] 

Step 15 - Scan complete

Once the scan completes, you will have the option to either start a new scan or Return to Launch or Return to Rally if a manual rally point was set.

  • Starting a new scan will prompt you with an option to save or discard the scan you just completed
  • If you Return to Launch or Return to Rally and the path is clear, Skydio will obey the geofence and fly in a straight path to the chosen point
  • If Skydio cannot find that path due to obstacles, you will be able to take control and manually pilot your drone

After landing, you will see a summary of the most recent scan and the option to save or discard the scan you completed.

  • Select Save and wait for the drone to process your scan. This is an important step to ensure your media is grouped by scan and can be viewed in the Edge Model Viewer.

Once processing is complete, select Finish to return to the FLY screen or Review Scan to enter the Edge Model Viewer.




[caution] Do not remove the battery or power off during post-flight tasks. Doing so will result in loss of data. Do not power off or disconnect from the drone until you return to the Begin Flight screen. [/caution] 


Explore More

Explore related articles for additional information

How to scan using multiple batteries

3D Scan Settings Overview

Visual Geofencing in 3D Scan

How to use the AR Coverage Mesh for 3D Captures

How to set the AR Observer in 3D Scan

Accessing 3D Scan Data


If you have questions or need additional support—feel free to reach out! Skydio Support


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