What’s the best drone for your photogrammetry needs?
Before we launch into the pros, cons and comparisons of the leading photogrammetry drones, let’s explore what these systems do. Photogrammetry drones work by capturing pictures that overlap so that post-processing software can stitch them together and produce life-like orthomosaic maps, digital elevation models, digital surface models, 3D models and more. The quality of the optics and the onboard GNSS system, as well as the design of the drone, will determine what kinds of projects you can repeatedly tackle with it.
Our field-tested best drones for aerial mapping
Table of Contents
How does photogrammetry work?
Since they can fly closer to the ground, drones enable higher resolution and accuracy than manned aircraft. Some can cover great distances in a single flight to produce the needed maps. Resolution, absolute data accuracy (reflecting real coordinates on the ground) and dependable results depend on the quality of the photogrammetry drone’s camera as well as its onboard GNSS system. Post-processing software and data correction methods will also factor into the quality of the results.
Photogrammetry drones are excellent solutions to complement or replace satellite data and LIDAR. In fact, they are creating more demand for mapping products that couldn’t have existed without them. Choosing the right drone starts with identifying your projects in the foreseeable future via critical questions and answers. Will these projects cover large areas? Will there always be open space to take off and land? Will high absolute accuracy, even survey-grade, be needed? What solution offers the smallest learning curve? Answering these will mean the difference between buying a drone that limits you and investing in a system that gets your jobs done. Indeed, the right drone can even expand your opportunities.
Quickstart guide to choosing the right photogrammetry drone (based on field tests)
|WingtraOne GEN II||Sensefly eBee||DJI Matrice 300||DJI Phantom Pro|
Coverage in one flight
1.2 cm/px (0.5 in/px) GSD
Max RGB resolution
Take-off / landing
Vertical/ controlled / flexible
Toss, belly land / requires large, soft areas
Vertical / controlled / flexible
Vertical/ controlled / flexible
RTK with PPK backup option
Hover image capture /vertical inspection
In-flight control and RTH
Pre-flight plan safety check/checklist
In-flight plan adjustment
This chart is based on some of our basic findings in the field and is by no means comprehensive. It does, however, give a quick idea of the strengths and limitations of leading systems on the market today. For more details, check out our individual comparisons. To understand the benefits of PPK vs. RTK read this article.
Choosing the best photogrammetry drone for specific applications
Surveying and GIS
As they gain exposure to it, client expectations are shifting around the quality of aerial data. The turnaround time expectations are growing tighter also, as more robust drones become mainstream. Since survey firms tackle a range of projects in a competitive environment, it’s critical to ask the right questions when targeting a photogrammetry drone. Can your system tackle projects of any size and offer insights at the quality your clients will request? Can it meet deadlines repeatedly? Can it offer functionality that will put you ahead of the competition when bidding on projects? You will likely have several different drone platforms at your disposal, but make sure efficiency (fastest coverage over any area), reliability and ease of use are all covered.
Why use drone photography?
Drones carrying high-resolution payloads offer an unmatched aerial view of targeted areas with life-like, granular detail available on a zoom in. When they carry high-quality GNSS receivers drones also offer data correction to give absolute accuracies in the centimeter range. Ground surveying is still required for many applications, but it is time consuming and limited in its perspective. Professionals across industries are finding that drone imagery and data offers a way for teams to inspect and align on details of a project based on up-to-date visual information that can be captured in a matter of hours instead of days. This FAQ page explores point-by-point the benefits and implications of drone mapping.