Greetings DIY Drone members,

I am new to this website, and therefore if I am posting this in the wrong place or anything like that, please let me know. My dilemma is that I want to purchase a drone for Aerial Photography, but more specifically 3D Surface models using Pix4d software, or a similar type of software. I am completely new to this game, but I work for a Private consulting engineering company, and my hopes are to be able to incorporate this drone into our topographic survey jobs. I understand all of the legal issues with drones, and am trying to do everything by the book, so until I get my Section 333 Exemption, I will use it for non-profit experimenting, so that when I am able to legally charge clients, I will have a rough Idea of what I am doing. I am interested in purchasing the Inspire 1 by DJI, but my biggest concern is that there may be a better drone for specifically aerial mapping or 3D mapping. I would appreciate any and all input regarding this topic, but mostly, I want to know what the best drone is for this type of work. I have access to professional survey equipment, so Setting GCP's (ground control points) and even tying them together by running a traverse would not be an issue. I am hoping that by using GCP's, and overlapping images by 65-80% that we will able to obtain survey grade surfaces for use in Auto CAD programs, specifically Civil 3D. I thank anyone in advance with information answering my questions.

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  • I recently bought a cool drone at for the purpose of aerial photography at fair price of $449.99. The C6 is a top of the range radio controlled drone for advanced aerial photography and filming. I am happy with my purchase. 

  • Seeking a partner to incorporate drones shop in Colombia
  • I am doing the same thing. I've been researching this for about six months There are a couple of companies that offer "out of the box" mapping drones.  3DRobotics and eBee.  I have decided on the X8-M platform by 3D Robotics.  But this is only 1/2 of what you need.  The other half is the mapping software.  3D Robotics has partnered with Pix4D to create an excellent mapping platform package.  With the Pix4D you can rent the software by the month or year or make a one time purchase and purchase the updates as needed.  If you can get your parameters down with your camera taking interval photo's you can purchase or rent just the Pix4D software.  There is another company in Canada that also has 3D mapping software but the name eludes me for the moment.

    I chose the X8-M because I will first start off my mapping smaller terrain then during the beginning of summer will order the Aero-M for longer/larger missions.  

    The FAA will provide some slack in the future (I'm anticipating in about a year) for the ability to earn $$ with your drone(s).  More to follow on this or check the FAA website for updates and guidance.  

    If things go well with my trails I will invest in a precision GPS for GCP's.  Check Youtube for 3DRobotics and for Pix4D webinars.  I think I have watched them all and some more than once.  Good Luck.

    • You and I sound like we are in the same situation. I too have been researching them for several months, and I also was planning on purchasing the $350 package for one month to test the software out, with my future drone. I have access to all of our high precision GPS at work, and am planning on doing a topo of our parking lot, and surrounding property like we usually do for our clients. Then I will use that software, and my drone to create a surface, and I will then compare the two surfaces to see if we will be able to use drones for survey work. I need to be able to show my boss that it is accurate enough to be used for our jobs. Also, the FAA has released preliminary rules as of March 10th, which will allow for drone operators to take a written test, and once they have applied and received their section 333 exemption, it will be perfectly legal for the operator to use the drone for commercial use. It is open for public discussion until the end of April, and then sometime after that, it will go into effect. I am hoping to be able to use my drone for commercial uses on our job sites before the end of the summer if all of the legal business goes through for me. We should keep in contact as to how we are progressing with our drones :)



      • Hi Nicholas ,

        I am a student of Arizona State University, USA . I have realized that you are also working on drones. Which one have you finalized ?

         I am working on a project that aims at aerial surveying of a canal to find out any kind of encroachment. We are planning to use mapping drones for this purpose. The canal runs into hundreds of kilometers.

        I am expecting high quality results in  terms of resolution, GSD, GPS accuracy, Post processing of GPS locations and Vertical/Horizontal Orthomosaic accuracy. Furthermore, I would also want to output to be imported into GIS, matlab and other CAD tools. Could you please suggest a mapping drone that would be apt for the job. My budget is going to be 7-7.5 K. 
        Can you please give your mail id for further communication.

  • Do you talk about DEM or DSM? With or without buildings mainly? What area do you want to cover?
    Did you concider using an airplane instead of a multicopter? What resolution / GSD do you need to achieve?
    I use airplanes mainly for orthophotos and DEMs. I loose a bit of resolution on the facades of buildings, but if I need that I do additional flights with a multicopter or take pictures from the ground.
    • Please forgive my knowledge base, I am just getting into drones. What does DEM or DSM mean, do they stand for digital elevation model or digital surface model? Areas that I would want to cover would typically be open areas/fields, but there are certain topo jobs that we do that have buildings as well as some trees on the site. I have not looked into airplanes all that much, because I want to have something that I can hover in one spot, and inspect things, as well as diverse aerial photography. My plan for buildings is to take pictures from the ground, or hover the multicopter on all 4 faces of the building to achieve accurate data. I would need to achieve about .03'-.06' vertical data for a minimum, with horizontal accuracy needing to be about twice as good as that. Basically, I am shooting for 0.5-1 cm horizontal, and 1-2 cm vertical in metric units. I understand that I will have to use several GCP's on the outer limits of the job site to bring the TIN surface up to actual hard coordinates for use within a CAD program.


      • Hi Nick,

        yes I meant digital elevation and surface models. I understand the wish to have a multicopter, thats how I started with mapping jobs, too. But quickly I turned back to airplanes (being an rc aircraft pilot and builder for over 25 years), because I was doing mapping jobs mostly of free areas or low building coverage and of more than 10 hectars. My clients want true orthophotos and a digital elevation model as GeoTIFFs most of the time. Only a small ammount of them really wants true 3D models / digital surface models.
        Using an airplane I can get a GSD of down to 5mm and a one flight coverage of more than 80 hectars with a 70% picture overlap and 60 minutes mission time.
        If needed, I can fly with two cameras at the same time, taking pictures of the visible spectrum and NIR/IR at the same time as well.
        Try this to do with a multicopter.
        If I really need the facades of the buildings for a 3D reconstruction, I use my hexacopter in addition.

        With regards
        • Hi Marc,

          may I ask which plane and which two cameras (NIR + VIS) you are using for your missions?


        • Hi Marc,

          I have not put much thought into the idea of getting an airplane. Besides a longer flight time, and faster speed possibly, what are some other benefits? We do have some jobs as large as 10 hectares, but those are typically large subdivisions which get build in 5-7 phases at a time anyways. My biggest concern here is accuracy, and whatever is better for that is what I want. I have been wanting to purchase the Inspire 1 by DJI, but if there is anything out there better in terms of quality, and accuracy, I want to go with that drone. I have looked at some drones from 3dr as well, but haven't really seen much that I like there. You are the one with experience, so feel free to tell me if my thinking is wrong or not. I am truly a beginner at this, but I want to learn everything that I can about this stuff.

          Thanks for your help sir,


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