If you're contemplating buying a professional drone for photogrammetry and don't know how to kick-start the process, you've come to the right article!
One application that has gained significant traction in recent years is photogrammetry.
This powerful technique allows us to create detailed 3D models from aerial photographs, opening up possibilities in various industries like architecture, archaeology, and land management.
In this article, I'll share my insights on the best drones for photogrammetry, focusing on their key features and performance.
|Flight Time (mins)
|Transmission Range (km)
|DJI Matrice 300 RTK + Zenmuse P1
|RTK Module, Smart Oblique Capture, Full-frame sensor
|DJI Phantom 4 RTK V2
|RTK module, Mechanical shutter
|Yuneec Typhoon H3 with ION L1 Pro
|Six-Rotor design, Leica Optimized, Ultra-Quiet Operation
|DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced
|Thermal imaging, RTK Module, Compact design
|Up to 42 MP (Depending on payload)
|VTOL, PPK GNSS receiver
In my extensive experience with drones, I've found that certain features are crucial for capturing high-quality images for photogrammetry. To help you make an informed decision, I've outlined the key features to consider when choosing the best drone for your photogrammetry projects:
A drone with a high-resolution camera is essential for capturing sharp, detailed images required for accurate 3D model generation. Look for cameras with a large sensor and the ability to capture images in RAW format for maximum quality and flexibility in post-processing.
A stable drone with precise flight control is crucial for maintaining consistent altitude, speed, and camera angles while capturing images. In addition, drones with advanced GPS systems and multiple positioning sensors ensure accurate positioning and reliable flight performance.
Drones with pre-programmed flight paths and waypoint navigation allow you to plan and execute complex missions efficiently. This feature ensures consistent image overlap and optimal flight paths. In addition, it reduces the risk of human error, leading to better photogrammetry results.
Ensure your drone is compatible with popular photogrammetry software and data processing tools. This will streamline your workflow and make generating accurate 3D models from your aerial images easier.
Longer flight times allow you to cover larger areas and capture more images in one flight. A drone with adequate payload capacity can accommodate higher-quality cameras and additional sensors, further enhancing your photogrammetry capabilities.
By prioritizing these features in your search for the perfect photogrammetry drone, you'll be well-equipped to capture high-quality images and generate stunning 3D models for your projects.
Remember, investing in the right drone can make all the difference in the accuracy and efficiency of your photogrammetry efforts.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK and Zenmuse P1 combo is a professional-grade solution for aerial photogrammetry applications. Let’s talk about the various features of this combination, focusing on their performance and relevance for photogrammetry professionals.
Equipped with a 45MP full-frame sensor and a 4.4μm pixel size, the Zenmuse P1 can capture high-resolution images with fine details. In addition, its ability to take a photo every 0.7 seconds during flight contributes to efficient data collection.
The P1 also includes a global mechanical shutter with a shutter speed of 1/2000 seconds, which helps reduce motion blur and ensure clearer images. It is compatible with 24/35/50mm lenses with DJI DL mounts, providing flexibility in lens selection based on project requirements.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK has a flight time of approximately 55 minutes, allowing extended aerial data collection sessions. This longer flight time can benefit photogrammetry projects that require comprehensive coverage of large areas.
With a transmission range of up to 15 kilometers, the DJI Matrice 300 RTK can maintain a stable connection with the remote controller even when flying over vast or challenging terrains.
This extended range contributes to consistent data transmission and seamless operation during photogrammetry missions.
The integrated Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) module in the Matrice 300 RTK enhances the drone's positioning accuracy, which is crucial for precise data collection in photogrammetry applications.
The RTK module offers centimeter-level accuracy, ensuring consistent positioning and altitude during flights, resulting in more accurate 3D models.
The Zenmuse P1 camera features Smart Oblique Capture, automatically capturing images at various angles while maintaining consistent image quality. Depending on the terrain and project requirements, this intelligent function helps increase post-processing efficiency by 20-50%.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK and Zenmuse P1 combo offers a range of features and capabilities that cater to the needs of photogrammetry professionals.
Its high-resolution camera, extended flight time, and precise positioning make it a viable option for those seeking a reliable and efficient solution for extended, high-end aerial photogrammetry projects.
However, it is essential to consider the specific requirements of each project and compare this combo with other available options in the market to make an informed decision.
The DJI Phantom 4 RTK V2 is another professional-grade drone solution designed for aerial photogrammetry applications.
The Phantom 4 RTK V2 has a 20MP 1-inch CMOS sensor, enabling it to capture high-resolution images in almost any condition.
The camera also features a mechanical shutter, which helps reduce motion blur and ensures clear images during flight. Additionally, it is compatible with various lens options, providing flexibility in choosing the ideal lens based on the specific requirements of a project.
With a flight time of approximately 30 minutes, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK V2 allows for sufficient aerial data collection during a single flight. While its flight time may not be as extended as some other drone models, it is still adequate for many photogrammetry projects that demand efficient coverage of smaller areas.
The DJI Phantom 4 RTK V2 has a transmission range of up to 7 kilometers using the OcuSync transmission system.
This range allows for a stable connection between the drone and the remote controller, even when operating in more challenging environments or covering larger areas, ensuring consistent data transmission and seamless operation in your photogrammetry projects.
The Phantom 4 RTK V2 is also equipped with an integrated Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) module, which enhances the drone's positioning accuracy.
The RTK module provides centimeter-level accuracy, ensuring consistent positioning and altitude during flights. This level of precision is crucial for accurate data collection in photogrammetry applications, leading to more reliable 3D models, and that’s why we like this drone so much, considering its price.
The Phantom 4 RTK V2 features the TimeSync system, which aligns the flight controller, camera, and RTK module. This synchronization ensures that each photo taken during the flight is embedded with accurate metadata, such as position, altitude, and orientation.
This data is essential for accurate photogrammetry processing and for creating precise 3D models.
The Yuneec Typhoon H3, featuring the ION L1 Pro camera developed in partnership with Leica, is a powerful drone designed to cater to the needs of photographers and videographers.
This review will discuss the key features of this drone and assess its performance and suitability for aerial photography and photogrammetry applications.
The Typhoon H3 comes with the Leica ION L1 Pro 20MP camera, offering high-resolution images and 4K video recording capabilities at 60 frames per second.
Leica optimized and calibrated the camera for accurate color reproduction, auto white balance, noise reduction, and sharpening. With a 1-inch CMOS sensor and a stabilized 3-axis gimbal, the ION L1 Pro ensures sharp and stable images even in challenging conditions.
The Yuneec Typhoon H3 boasts a flight time of up to 25 minutes, allowing for adequate aerial data collection during a single flight. While other drones may offer longer flight times, the H3's flight time is still suitable for many aerial photography and photogrammetry projects.
Featuring a six-rotor (hexacopter) design, the Typhoon H3 offers increased safety, stability, and reliability during flights. This design ensures the drone remains stable even in windy conditions and can continue flying safely in case of a motor failure.
The Typhoon H3 comes with the ST16S Ground Station, which features a 7-inch HD touch LCD with HDMI output. This ground station provides a user-friendly interface for controlling the drone and monitoring the camera feed, making it an ideal tool for photographers and videographers.
The Typhoon H3 is equipped with the Flightmode 3.0 Flight Control Software System, which includes ortho and geo-mapping capabilities.
This system also offers intelligent auto flight modes, such as Follow Me, Orbit, Journey, and Curve Cable Cam, enabling users to capture stunning aerial images effortlessly.
One of the key features of the Yuneec Typhoon H3 is its ultra-quiet operation, ensuring minimal disturbance during flights. This makes the drone ideal for capturing images in noise-sensitive environments, such as wildlife photography or residential areas.
The Cruise Control feature of the Typhoon H3 maintains a constant drone speed, allowing users to focus on capturing the perfect shot. This feature is particularly useful for aerial photographers and videographers who want smooth and consistent footage.
The Yuneec Typhoon H3 with the ION L1 Pro camera offers a well-rounded solution for aerial photography and photogrammetry professionals.
Its high-resolution camera, hexacopter design, and advanced flight control system make it a reliable and versatile choice. However, it is essential to consider the specific requirements of each project and compare the Typhoon H3 with other available drone models to make an informed decision.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is a popular choice among professionals in the field of photogrammetry due to its advanced features and capabilities. Let’s evaluate its features and performance from the perspective of photogrammetry professionals.
With an approximate maximum flight time of 31 minutes, the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced allows users to cover large areas and complete complex mapping and surveying tasks in a single flight.
This extended flight time is beneficial for professionals in industries such as construction, agriculture, and mining, increasing efficiency and productivity.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced has a 48-megapixel camera featuring a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor and a 4x digital zoom.
This advanced camera can capture high-resolution images and videos with excellent detail, making it ideal for photogrammetry applications like mapping, surveying, and inspections.
Additionally, the drone features a FLIR thermal imaging camera with a resolution of 640 x 512 pixels and a 16x digital zoom, enabling users to detect heat signatures and identify temperature differences. This feature is handy for inspections and search and rescue operations, where identifying hotspots and thermal anomalies is critical.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced boasts an impressive transmission range of up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in ideal conditions with no interference and a clear line of sight.
The drone employs the OcuSync 2.0 transmission system, ensuring stable and reliable communication between the drone and the remote controller, even in areas with high electromagnetic interference.
This extended transmission range allows professionals to cover larger areas and capture high-resolution images and videos from a distance. It is well-suited for infrastructure inspections, emergency response, and wildlife monitoring applications.
Powered by a 15.4V 3850mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced provides a maximum flight time of up to 31 minutes, depending on factors like weather conditions, payload weight, and flight speed.
When using the DJI Battery Charger, the battery takes approximately 120 minutes to charge. It can be set both through the drone and a separate charging hub.
Users can monitor the battery life through the DJI GO 4 app, which displays the remaining battery level and estimated flight time, allowing for better flight planning.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced drone features a 3-axis gimbal stabilization system and a variety of advanced sensors, including GPS and GLONASS, to ensure stable and accurate flights. It also has obstacle avoidance sensors on all sides to help prevent collisions and ensure safe flying.
The drone is equipped with a high-precision RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) module that provides centimeter-level positioning accuracy, making it an ideal choice for photogrammetry and surveying applications where accuracy is paramount.
Furthermore, the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0 helps the drone automatically navigate obstacles and maintain a stable flight, even in complex environments.
The WingtraOne is an innovative fixed-wing drone developed by the Swiss company Wingtra.
As a professional-grade, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone, it's been specifically designed for surveying and photogrammetry. This review will explore the key aspects of the WingtraOne from the perspective of photogrammetry professionals.
One of the standout features of the WingtraOne is its VTOL capability. This allows it to take off and land vertically, much like a helicopter or a multirotor drone, which enables it to operate in tight or difficult terrains.
Once airborne, the WingtraOne transitions to horizontal flight, taking advantage of fixed-wing aircraft's energy efficiency and speed. This design provides the best of both worlds—maneuverability and performance, making it a versatile tool for photogrammetry professionals.
The WingtraOne can be equipped with different types of high-resolution cameras, providing versatility for various photogrammetry applications.
Its payload options include the Sony RX1R II, a 42MP full-frame camera that delivers exceptionally detailed images for high-precision mapping. Equipping the WingtraOne with a multispectral or a thermal camera also allows users to cater the drone to specific tasks such as vegetation mapping or thermal inspections.
The WingtraOne offers a maximum flight time of up to 59 minutes in optimal conditions, allowing it to cover vast areas in a single flight.
Its ability to cover large distances quickly and efficiently, combined with the high-resolution imagery it captures, enables WingtraOne to create detailed and accurate maps and models.
With its advanced camera options and precise flight controls, the WingtraOne captures high-quality data for photogrammetry.
The drone's PPK (post-processed kinematics) GNSS receiver significantly enhances the accuracy of the data captured, providing photogrammetry professionals with reliable and precise data for their projects.
Despite its advanced capabilities, the WingtraOne is designed with user-friendliness in mind. Its intuitive flight planning software allows users to set up and automate flights easily. At the same time, its VTOL capabilities minimize the risk of damage during take-off and landing.
Photogrammetry is a fascinating technique that uses photographs to measure distances and create accurate 3D models of real-world objects and environments.
By capturing overlapping images from different angles, sophisticated software can analyze the data and generate a detailed representation of the subject. In my years of working with drones, I've witnessed the incredible potential of photogrammetry across a wide range of applications.
In these industries, photogrammetry allows professionals to create accurate 3D models of buildings, structures, and construction sites. This data can be used for design, progress monitoring, and historic preservation.
Photogrammetry provides archaeologists and preservationists a non-invasive method for documenting and analyzing historical sites, artifacts, and landscapes. In addition, this technology helps create detailed records and digital models, preserving our cultural heritage for future generations.
By generating precise topographic maps and terrain models, photogrammetry aids in land management, urban planning, and environmental monitoring. This data can be used to assess land use, analyze natural resources, and track changes over time.
Photogrammetry helps farmers and foresters monitor crop health, track growth, and analyze plant species distribution. By creating accurate 3D models of fields and forests, this technology enables more efficient resource management and decision-making.
These are just a few examples of how photogrammetry is revolutionizing various industries. With suitable drone and photogrammetry techniques, you can unlock the full potential of this powerful technology, enhancing your projects and generating valuable insights.
While both methods offer their own set of advantages, it's essential to understand their differences and unique capabilities.
Photogrammetry is a technique that leverages overlapping images captured from various angles to generate accurate 3D models.
High-resolution cameras, often mounted on drones, are used to take photographs, which are then processed by specialized software to create the final model.
This method is widely adopted across several industries, such as architecture, archaeology, and land management, for its ability to produce visually appealing and detailed models at a relatively lower cost.
On the other hand, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technology that employs lasers to measure distances and create 3D models.
By emitting laser pulses and calculating the time taken for the light to bounce back, LiDAR devices can accurately determine the distance and shape of objects on the ground.
This method is particularly advantageous when dealing with dense vegetation or complex terrains. It can penetrate through foliage and provide more accurate elevation data.
In summary, Photogrammetry and LiDAR are two distinct technologies for 3D modeling, each with its strengths and applications. For example, while photogrammetry excels in capturing detailed and visually rich models, LiDAR provides accurate elevation data, especially in challenging environments.
Having worked with drones for photogrammetry projects over the years, I've learned several valuable techniques to help you capture the best possible data. Here are some tips to ensure high-quality images and accurate 3D models:
Selecting the right flight altitude is crucial for capturing sharp, detailed images. Higher altitudes provide a broader coverage area but can result in lower image resolution.
Conversely, flying too low may yield higher resolution images but requires more flight time to cover the same area. Determine the ideal altitude based on your project requirements and the resolution of your camera.
Ensuring sufficient image overlap is key to generating accurate 3D models. Aim for at least 60-70% forward overlap and 30-40% side overlap in your images. This will give the photogrammetry software enough data to create precise and consistent models.
Use a fixed focus and aperture to maintain consistent image quality across your entire dataset. Also, ensure your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent motion blur, which can negatively impact the accuracy of your 3D models.
Ideal photogrammetry flights should be conducted in calm weather with even, diffused lighting. Avoid flying in strong winds, which can cause instability and reduce image quality. Similarly, avoid harsh shadows and direct sunlight, which can create inconsistencies in your images.
After capturing your images, it's essential to process them correctly. Select suitable photogrammetry software that meets your project requirements. Ensure you have a powerful computer to handle the demanding processing tasks.
Take the time to fine-tune settings and optimize your 3D models for the best results.