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The 3D Corn Maze

Updated: Feb 29

Growing up in Indiana, I was no stranger to cornfields stretched across the rural landscapes and bumping against our suburban back yards. As kids, we often ran through the fields playing games, getting lost, and getting spooked by visions of Malachi appearing suddenly to drag us into the depths of the towering corn. I still get a chill when thinking of that classic horror film.

While designs cut into fields date back to the ancient Greeks, the modern day corn maze has become a fall tradition all across the country and draws huge crowds to enjoy the festive farm environment. Some of these designs are extremely complex spreading over acres and acres of mature cornfields.

We make the pilgrimage every year to our local mazes just outside of Portland, OR and I was always curious about the process of making the maze and how you can take such a large design and execute it at the ground level with such precision? Large art installations like these have been done throughout history where the artist never got to see their design as it was intended.

White Horse and Giants Dover Cliffs

Since starting my drone business in 2019, I knew the corn mazes would be fun to capture from the sky. I spoke to several of the farm owners over the years and most of them already had a photographer to capture their maze, however I was more interested in creating a drone map and 3D model of the maze for people to experience the design like never before.

This fall, I was able to collaborate with The MAiZE at The Pumpkin Patch to do just that! I flew the drone over the field in a pre-programmed flight pattern to optimize a 3D recreation of the maze. The data was processed in a sophisticated photogrammetry software to create a high resolution 2D and 3D digital recreation of the entire maze in one view. Not only is this map visually impressive, but it is also accurate to within centimeters. The data was then hosted on a map service (arcgis online) so patrons could find their precise location by using their smartphone and navigate through the maze in 3D. When maze-goers enter the field, they are presented with a QR code to scan, which pulls up the app on their phone giving immediate access to the 3D map. We were so excited to see in the first weekend alone, thousands of users explored the map!

With web maps like these, we can layer in all types of information such as locations, links to vendors, rental

information, interpretive narratives, and so much more to enrich the experience. click on picture to take you to the actual app!

Here at Aerial Ethos, our primary focus is on the technical use cases for drones, particularly in the agricultural, architectural, engineering, and construction industries, but this was such a fun way to explore the power and versatility of these platforms. Combined with curated mapping services, we can create a myriad of options providing informative and intuitive experiences for audiences. This presents fantastic opportunities for outdoor venues, festivals, concerts, and so much more. Please browse our website to learn more about the services we provide and how we can be your hub of spatial intelligence.

A special thanks to The MAiZE and The Pumpkin Patch for venturing into this digital world with us!


Mike Liggett

Owner, Aerial Ethos


Q: What was the process of designing and creating the corn maze? Were there any particular challenges faced during the execution of the design?

A: The process of designing and creating a corn maze typically involves using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create a blueprint of the maze. This blueprint is then superimposed onto an aerial image of the cornfield, and the design is executed by cutting the corn using GPS-guided machinery. Challenges during execution can include weather conditions, timing, and the precision required to accurately cut the corn according to the design.

Q: How does the drone-based 3D mapping technology, combined with sophisticated photogrammetry software, work to create an accurate digital recreation of the maze? Are there any limitations to this technology?

A: The drone-based 3D mapping technology works by flying a drone equipped with a high-resolution camera over the corn maze in a pre-programmed flight pattern. The camera takes thousands of overlapping images, which are then stitched together using photogrammetry software to create a 3D model. The software analyzes the images to determine the exact position and orientation of each pixel, allowing for the creation of an accurate digital recreation of the maze. Limitations of this technology can include the need for clear weather conditions and obstacles such as trees or power lines that may interfere with the drone's flight path.

Q: Beyond the visual aspect, what other types of information or interactive features can be added to the 3D map to enhance the user's experience, especially in outdoor venues like corn mazes?

A: In addition to the visual aspect, the 3D map can include a variety of interactive features to enhance the user's experience. For example, users can access information about the maze, such as its history, design, and any special events or activities taking place. The map can also include links to vendors selling food or souvenirs, as well as rental information for any equipment or services needed. Interpretive narratives can be added to provide educational content about the maze, its design, and the agricultural process of growing corn. Overall, the goal is to create an immersive and informative experience for visitors to the maze.

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