This tool from Gatewing looks like the kind of mapping equipment I dream about. It’s a very simple idea. You can use a groundstation to control a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) equipped with various devices to photograph and measure an area with a systematic flight pattern. The device can produce a DTM (Digital Terrain Map) and Orthophotos with little fuss.
The primary market is in Vegetation Mapping, by combing visual and near-IR orthophotos, but this looks like it could be a simple solution for most mapping away from urban centres, if you can get flight clearance from the local Civil Aviation Authority.
The downside? The Gatewing website doesn’t mention a price, which means it’s way out of my pocket, but this page gives an estimated price of $50,000. Either I need to marry a rich widow, or else console myself with build my own.