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Processing software

jwilbs

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What is everybody using for their drone mapping software? We had been using the Autodesk Suite (Recap Photo>Recap>Civil 3D), however there has become some issues getting data back in the wrong units with no resolution from AutoDesk. Below are a few threads from the AutoDesk forum
Recap Photo - .rcp file in meters, not feet
ReCap displaying incorrect units

I am fimiliar with DroneDeploy, as I still use that to setup my flight plans, but that is it.

WIth that said, what are other pilots using? Pros/Cons?

 

R Martin

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What is everybody using for their drone mapping software? We had been using the Autodesk Suite (Recap Photo>Recap>Civil 3D), however there has become some issues getting data back in the wrong units with no resolution from AutoDesk. Below are a few threads from the AutoDesk forum
Recap Photo - .rcp file in meters, not feet
ReCap displaying incorrect units

I am fimiliar with DroneDeploy, as I still use that to setup my flight plans, but that is it.

WIth that said, what are other pilots using? Pros/Cons?


Pix4D is my poison of choice. I have tried DroneDeploy and Correlator3D.
The pros:
I control my own processing
It handles orthomosaics, DTMs, DSMs, contour lines and NDVI with ease.
I do not have any security concerns; all of the work is internal on a secure server not accessible by the public.

The cons:
Larger datasets require considerable computing power.
The cost can be prohibitive for smaller businesses/entities.
You need some knowledge of the process and an understanding of the software to get what you want.
 

clolsonus

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So much depends on your use-case. What question do you want to have answered at the end of the process?

I'm involved in some research projects that are looking for things that shouldn't be there (invasive plants.) We need as much detail as we can get and we need to easily share results between team members. For us it is really helpful to see original imagery in the context of the ortho-map so we can toggle between alternative pictures/angles of the same plant. (We usually don't care about a dense point cloud, or the 3d surface model. The orthophoto is the thing the commercial tools generate which is closest to what we need.)

However, (for us) the traditional orthophoto generation techniques of pix4d and drone deploy dropped too much of the original detail. Drone deploy has a way to show you the original pictures covering an area, but not in any context and not in the correct orientation or location and so often I'm left wondering if it actually showed me the right pictures because I couldn't find the item of interest in them. Drone deploy didn't allow another team member to make annotations on my maps without buying that team member a full license. Pix4d-cloud seems to bungle up confusing areas like wooded sections or corn fields viewed from low altitudes (we are going for detail and usually flying at low altitudes.) We have a pix4d license, and I use the cloud version to make overview maps to share with our team. Drone deploy seems to do better with stitching more of the fringe areas correctly and making less (or zero) obvious mistakes like pix4d seems to often do ... but we couldn't justify carrying licenses for both products simultaneously.

I came up with a weird solution to our team needs ... I wrote my own stitching/mapping tool chain because it was something I had started messing with a few years earlier as part of another project. The pros is that we maximize the detail in our data set and have complete access to the original imagery and the code. We can make the code do exactly what we want. The cons are: don't add up the hours I've spent working on stitching code. It's research grade code, so not designed to be one-click and done like many of the commercial tools. It's written in python and needs extra packages manually installed, etc. etc. If we decide we need a new feature, I have to add it myself.

I don't know ... there's no perfect magic bullet and whatever you choose is going to either cost $$$ or cost time. For myself, it has been empowering to be able to develop the tools I need, but that does take time and takes time to accumulate the knowledge and experience. ( I don't have much time to offer free support for open-source software, but if anyone wants to poke around with the mapping/stitching system code I developed, it's all available here under the MIT open-source license: UASLab/ImageAnalysis )

Oh, and there is also open drone map for another free/open-source solution that does have an active community of support surrounding it. For commercial tools, I don't hear agisoft mentioned much around here, but I've seen others use it and it seems very capable. Lots of people mention maps made easy. I've never looked into that package, but the results I've seen look solid. I don't think there is any single right answer ... it really does boil down to balancing your personal use cases and special needs versus other considerations (i.e. sharing, data privacy) and budget and time.

Curt.
 

yarrr

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Curt's point about end use is incredibly important.

Unfortunately, that gets challenging when you have multiple clients and service areas.

In may case, in support of AEC projects we need a solid understanding of the 'bare ground', to be used in Civil3d. I've had terrible results from Recap, curious to hear more about Jwilbs experience.

So, for these projects Pix4d is definitely my choice as it allows for support of PPK, and easy integration of GCPs for checkpoints (QA/QC). Getting deliverables into Civil3d takes a couple steps, either though QGIS for orthos and DEM; or through Recap for point clouds.

Not completely sold on point clouds yet, but this seems to be more efficient than raster DEMs in some cases.

Agisoft Metashape is a great option for AEC projects, but I've found Pix4d to be significantly faster (in current releases). I haven't been able to test any cloud based services for PPK and GCP use- any recommendations would be appreciated.

On the flip side, many of our other projects do focus on vegetation management, so I'm very curious about Curt's software.

Question for Curt- how do you deal with flights during windy weather? In this case, the vegetation is moving between different photos- ideally we'd want a clear picture of the actual canopy to visually ID species.

It seems like when I demo'd Correlator3d, they stressed that they used traditional photogrametry techniques rather than structure from motion. Thus, the orthos were beautiful, and great for vegetation projects; but the vertical reconstruction was awful- even with GCPs- whereas in SfM the reconstruction was good, but the orthos were relataivly blury when trying to look at trees or wetlands. Maybe Curt's software is the best of both worlds?
 

clolsonus

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On the flip side, many of our other projects do focus on vegetation management, so I'm very curious about Curt's software.

Question for Curt- how do you deal with flights during windy weather? In this case, the vegetation is moving between different photos- ideally we'd want a clear picture of the actual canopy to visually ID species.

It seems like when I demo'd Correlator3d, they stressed that they used traditional photogrametry techniques rather than structure from motion. Thus, the orthos were beautiful, and great for vegetation projects; but the vertical reconstruction was awful- even with GCPs- whereas in SfM the reconstruction was good, but the orthos were relataivly blury when trying to look at trees or wetlands. Maybe Curt's software is the best of both worlds?

I'm happy to answer any specific questions. I'm in the middle of trying to do some cleanup + ease of use changes. My software is written in python (and leverages various modules from the python ecosystem such as opencv.) I build python-opencv from source so I can get access to the SIFT feature detection module. My software is free/open-source licensed with the MIT open-source license.

I don't really do vertical reconstruction of a scene. I do have to fit the 3d location of all the feature points to get the stitch/fit right (the sparse mesh.) But then I am just laying all the images out on an orthographic projection surface and doing stretching/warping so they all edge match [almost] perfectly across the bare ground. There in lies a dilemma. If I preserve all the original photos and use them directly to draw my map, then if there are vertical features like trees or structures, those (by definition) can't match at the edges of the images. So it is a trade off ... lose continuity in your vertical features and keep all the original image detail (and all the different views) or do something like pix4d and project the dense mesh at some resampling rate to generate an orthophoto (but often with some lost resolution, and no possibility of seeing all the original slightly side views.) Again, it so very much depends on your use case. We are looking for invasive vines in wooded areas so we really want the original image detail and the ability to flip between all the overlapping images. We can live without a visually perfect seamless orthomap.

For windy weather ... yes, diminishing returns as the winds get stronger. Also the risk to your equipment goes up.

Others probably know this better than I do, but things like tree canopies and corn fields are tremendously difficult to stitch even without wind. It's not even about repetition of vegetation or movement of the leaves/branches in the wind. The big problem is that for tree canopies and crops, a small change in perspective (location) can completely change the features that are detected as well as their descriptors. If you need a feature to show up in 3 images to include it in the stitch then that changing perspective can really mess things up. If you can see some bare ground in between the trees or plants, then sometimes you can get those points to stitch and fit your scene together anyway. This is why flying at a higher altitude can really help stitch these sorts of difficult areas because the perspective and found features/descriptors don't change as drastically. However, you sacrifice detail for altitude so that's not always possible for some projects.

One thing I've experimented with is flying a grid manually with the video camera turned on and recording. Then I can frame grab the video at any interval or spacing and I can dial up the overlap as high as I want until the stitch starts to work. But there I sacrifice image quality (using video, not still shots) for a better chance at getting a good stitch.

I've also experimented with a different approach to finding matches between adjacent images that is quite a bit different from what you'll find online in the feature detection/matching demos. My initial results look really promising, but the trade off is the computation costs are much higher. I haven't had a chance to push this into my main stitching pipeline to see if it actually would work on real data sets, but I'm optimistic.
 

kabonski

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Trimble UASMaster here. Steep learning curve but it plays well with Trimble Business Center, our main surveying software. Getting great results and you can really get deep into editing the data and orthos to really get a great product. It seems to take longer to process jobs than Pix4D or Agisoft and is a bit pricy.
 

chasco

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What is everybody using for their drone mapping software? We had been using the Autodesk Suite (Recap Photo>Recap>Civil 3D), however there has become some issues getting data back in the wrong units with no resolution from AutoDesk. Below are a few threads from the AutoDesk forum
Recap Photo - .rcp file in meters, not feet
ReCap displaying incorrect units

I am fimiliar with DroneDeploy, as I still use that to setup my flight plans, but that is it.

WIth that said, what are other pilots using? Pros/Cons?

We use DroneDeploy for cloud processing and project management and use SimActive Correlator 3D when we want to do local processing. The best point cloud editor and DTM generator is Carlson Precision 3D Topo. Recap is not even an option in comparison. The only reason we ever use it anymore is to convert to Navisworks. I will look at Recap Photo tomorrow to see if I can reproduce what you are seeing. I remember looking at this years ago and I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the coordinate systems and scale factors and is more likely that it is Recap itself causing the problem. What coordinate reference systems do you use locally?
 

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