Photogrammetry has become an extremely popular option for surveying and mapping, and it’s clear to see why. It’s a more accurate, efficient, and reliable alternative to manual inspections and is more cost-effective than LiDAR.
As a result, there is an ever-increasing demand for drones capable of capturing and delivering high-quality photogrammetric outputs. To help you pick a drone that’s up to the task, we’ve covered the four best drones for photogrammetry.
The 4 best drones for photogrammetry
First on our list is the impressive DJI Phantom 4 RTK. Built specifically with surveyors in mind, the P4 sets a new standard for drone precision. Many of its features are ideal for photogrammetry.
One of which is its precise imaging system. The Phantom 4 lets you capture excellent image data with a 1-inch, 20-megapixel CMOS sensor. The mechanical shutter makes mapping missions or regular data capture seamless as the Phantom 4 RTK can move while taking pictures without the risk of rolling shutter blur. Making it perfect for gathering the images needed for photogrammetry maps and models.
The Phantom 4 RTK can achieve a ground sample distance of 2.74 cm at 100 metres flight altitude thanks to the high resolution. It also directly integrates an RTK module that provides real-time, centimetre-level positioning data for improved accuracy on image metadata.
The P4 is ideal for mapping small to medium size sites. OcuSync transmission covers an extended transmission range of 7km with a flight time of approximately 30 minutes.
Next on our list of the best drones for photogrammetry, we have the DJI Matrice 300 RTK combined with the Zenmune P1 payload.
The Zenmuse P1 was designed for photogrammetry flight missions and set an impressive benchmark for aerial surveying. The P1 includes a 45MP full-frame, low-noise, high-sensitivity sensor that can take a photo every 0.7 s during flight. For stability, the sensor sits on a three-axis gimbal.
Equipped with a global mechanical shutter and TimeSync 2.0, which synchronises time across modules at the microsecond level, the Zenmuse P1 lets users capture centimetre-accurate data combined with the real-time position and orientation compensation technology. As a result, the payload allows you to capture amazing data needed for detailed 2D and 3D models. For increased time savings, the P1’s smart oblique feature captures only essential imagery (drastically reducing post-processing times).
The DJI M300 RTK drone itself is also exceptionally well suited to photogrammetry. If you’re undertaking large missions, there’s no drone better suited to the task. The M300 has a transmission range of up to 15km with an impressive max flight time of 55 minutes. It is also extremely robust in all weather conditions, with an IP45 weather rating and an operating temperature between -20°C to 50°C.
Another excellent drone for photogrammetry is the Trinity F90+ by Quantum Systems, an eVTOL fixed-winged drone made for mapping professionals. Its design gives it an advantage over classic multicopters. The ability to switch to gliding mode enables the TrinityF90+ to directly benefit from an enhanced long-range capability, with an astounding 100km flight range and a 90+ minute flight time.
To make it even more effective for larger missions, the F90+ has a 7km command & control range. Moreover, it’s compatible with a wide range of high-precision sensors, e.g. dual RGB & NDVI payload and 42 MP high-res RGB.
Back with DJI, our next recommendation as one of the best drones for photogrammetry is the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise. The M2EA is compact, lightweight & portable, allowing it to take off in less than a minute. Despite its smaller size, it still packs a technological punch.
With high-resolution thermal and visual cameras, the M2EA supports up to 32× digital zoom to ensure no details are missed.
Thanks to the integrated RTK module, it achieves centimetre-level accuracy and precision. You can create up to 240 waypoints and conduct automated, detailed mapping missions in complex environments.
It has a solid transmission range of 10km and a flight time of 31 minutes. Combine that with its working temperature of -10° C to 40°C, and you have a robust, reliable and affordable drone great for photogrammetry.
Looking to the future, it is expected the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Advanced will be released at some point this year. Undoubtedly, it will be an impressive drone well suited to photogrammetry and an upgrade to its predecessor.
what is photogrammetry?
Photogrammetry is the process of taking photos to measure and create 3D models of surveyed areas. A drone-mounted camera will capture multiple overlapping images of the object being modelled. This is so each point can be captured from three positions; its horizontal (x,y) and vertical (z) coordinates.
These images are then stitched together in post-processing software, creating navigable 3D models.
what are the benefits of photogrammetry?
There are multiple reasons why photogrammetry is so popular for mapping & surveying:
Accurate Reports – photogrammetry generates a full-colour, 3D orthomosaic which can be navigated retrospectively. Not only does it provide a photographic record of an asset, but it also measures metrics about the asset that can be relied on.
Efficient – photogrammetry avoids many problems associated with traditional, manual mapping methods. The data collected is more reliable, it requires less manpower, and poses less risk to the safety of workers with drones being able to access remote, dangerous locations easily.
Cost Effective – drone photogrammetry provides amazing cost savings for mapping & surveying in numerous ways. The use of a drone replaces the costs associated with hiring a full team to conduct a surveying/mapping operation. Accurate data is collected the first time round and can be analysed retrospectively, preventing the excess cost of re-surveying or re-evaluating information.
More information is also captured in a shorter period, allowing more work and missions to be taken on.
in conclusion ...
Using drones for photogrammetry offers an efficient & effective way of undertaking surveying and mapping operations. The quality of the camera and compatible payloads, accuracy, transmission range and flight time are all critical factors when deciding which drone is best for photogrammetry.
Our experts rank all four of the drone we’ve included on our list extremely well in each area, making them excellent choices for photogrammetry.