3DR Announces the Official Launch of New Mapping Platforms

3DR is proud to officially announce today’s launch of its new Mapping Platforms, the fixed-wing Aero-M and the copter X8-M. Both models come in a package that also includes a Canon SX260 camera -- which is controlled by the autopilot to take the right pictures at the right time and automatically geotag each -- and professional Pix4D image processing software, which we partnered with Pix4D to develop in a special 3DR edition. The software is a complete and fully automatic mapping and modeling solution that can convert and join thousands of those geotagged images into highly accurate geo-referenced 2D mosaics. 

Additionally, a Pix4Dmapper Pro upgrade is also available for 3DR mapping platform customers, in which users are enabled to exploit full 3D capabilities as well as agriculture-specific tools. The Pro version can generate point clouds, digital surface and terrain models, create vector objects (polylines, surfaces, stockpiles) and create index maps (e.g. NDVI).

A note about our price point: In keeping with our commitment to democratization and community, 3DR wants to make the most advanced aerial technology available to as many people in as many places as we can. Thanks in no small part to the open global innovation engine of our community, we’re able to deliver these advanced mapping capabilities at a price five times less than that of our nearest technological competitor. We did this to revolutionize the aerial mapping price point, offering advanced and serious aerial data acquisition capabilities at a level of accessibility that will redefine not only the UAV industry, but will help as many people as we can to redefine their industries.

If you’d like to learn more, visit http://3drobotics.com/mapping-drones/ where we also offer a contact form for a free consultation.

About the vehicles and package:

The Aero-M is an all-in-one solution for creating high-resolution visual-spectrum aerial maps. The fixed-wing platform offers endurance and scope of coverage, with 40 minutes of flight time and up to 250 acres of coverage area. It’s a great platform for regularly acquiring highly detailed and actionable data for large-scale operations such as farming, construction and conservation, as well as search and rescue and emergency response. The lightweight and robust foam frame translates to less risk and cost per flight and multiplies the cost-effectiveness of our platform.

Price: $5400

Includes: Aircraft, transmitter, two batteries, spare parts, high-resolution camera, hard case

Software Included: Pix4D Mapper LT

Options: Ground station frequency (413 or 915), FPV (optional), upgrade to Pix4Dmapper Pro 3DR Edition (optional), extra batteries (optional)

Autopilot: Pixhawk autopilot system

Flight time: 40 min*

Area coverage: 250 acres*

Map ground resolution: 2 inches per pixel (5 cm per pixel)*

Orthomosaic accuracy: 3-16 ft (1-5 m)

The X8-M is the perfect tool for creating high-resolution visual-spectrum aerial maps. The platform offers low-flying and high accuracy mapping, with a fully redundant propulsion system for increased reliability. Easy to fly and simple to operate, the X8-M can take off and land even in the tightest areas, which makes the vehicle compatible with just about any type of terrain. And because the X8-M can fly at low altitudes and at slow speeds, it can capture images with a level of detail and precision that’s impossible to acquire with manned flights or satellite imagery.

Price: $5400

Includes: Aircraft, transmitter, two batteries, spare parts, camera, hard case

Software Included: Pix4D Mapper LT

Options: Ground station frequency (413 or 915), FPV (optional), upgrade to Pix4Dmapper Pro 3DR Edition (optional), extra batteries (optional)

Autopilot: Pixhawk autopilot system

Flight time: 14 min*

Area coverage: 25 acres*

Map ground resolution: .7 inches per pixel (2 cm per pixel)*

Orthomosaic accuracy: 3-16 ft (1-5 m)

Views: 7487

Comment by Joshua on October 19, 2014 at 1:45pm

Bortek, my free copy of Pix4D shows the ability to import Pixhawk telemetry data for geotagging; I haven't been able to use it yet (haven't flown recently, but I have received photos from someone who has and have used it in mapping), but presumably it does what he describes.

Comment by Jouni Helminen on October 19, 2014 at 1:57pm

Can someone walk me through the user journey?

I setup the area to be covered in Mission Planner, and then the X8 covers that area, triggers automatically at each point necessary to get the image coverage? How does the camera know how often to trigger?

How are the data log GPS coordinates fed to Pix4D and correlated with the right images?


Comment by Bortek on October 20, 2014 at 12:36pm

Thanks Josh, I will give it a try when I get a better weather and fly.

Joini, thats the tricky part. I think you need to first setup how often you take the pictures(or how often the shutter press command from APM is executed)  . Then you will need to sync you images (starting from the first one) with the data from the APM logs so that Pix4D know that the first image was taken at X,Y,Z coordinates, then the next image at next CAM message in the APM logs at X1,Y1,Z1 etc. How this is technically done in Pix4D I stil have to find out myself.

Comment by ausdroid on October 20, 2014 at 6:52pm

@ Brandon,

If you take the upgrade to full Pix4D, is the software then a fully functional version of the Pix4D software? i..e.;

1) Does it give you 12 months of upgrades and the option of $EUR650 for the following year?

2) Can you use it to process photos from other platforms and sources?

3) When you say "automated" process flow, is this planning as well? i.e., is this a special version of Mission Planner?

Comment by Nigel Brown on October 21, 2014 at 3:41am

Hello everyone

@ausdroid - the answer is no.

I have been discussing this 3DR Pix4D Lt and Pro versions with the Pix4D sales team in Lausanne. 

From that discussion, the key difference is; both 3DR Pix4D versions will only function using the 3DR mapping platform. You can not swap out cameras or use any other equipment.

The standard Pix4D software will process images from your Nex7, GoPro or your grandma's old cell phone. The 3DR Pix4D software has been modified so that you can only use it with the 3DR platform.

There is next to no price difference - look at it this way. You could buy the 3DR + Pro Pix4D-3DR for around $10,500 - or you could buy Aero RTF $1350, Pro Pix4D-non 3DR $8500 and still have $1000 left for spares, case and your choice of camera. The first solution locks you in to 3DR Mapping solutions, while the second allows you to use whatever camera and equipment you want to.  

Yes, I agree that at $5700, this looks like a good price point to 3DRobotics, but we all know the cost of the components - At the end of the day the Aero's a $150 Skywalker. I sincerely recognise the value in the 3DRobotics team working hard to make it into a viable mapping solution ( I have been buying their equipment exclusively for years. The problem is that we will all need to be able to configure our platforms for different uses. Ag needs multi spectrum, survey needs high res, mines need ... well anything they can get their hands on.

I am not sure that 3DR has the value proposition right on this one..... but I'm getting one anyway!


Comment by ausdroid on October 21, 2014 at 4:25pm


Yep, this was the destination I was getting to.

That said, the "automated process" may add value. 

Having used both the Eebee system and Mission planner+pixhawk+Pix4d, it is a lot harder to do it with Mission Planner. It takes a great deal of experience to plan (with height/overlaps) and to tune the flight controls so that the Pixhawk hits the photo points at a decent heading with the camera pointing down. I usually add a non-photo waypoint at the end of each run to ensure correct entry to the next run.

If this has been automated so that the result is more reliable, then that is definitely worth something.

3D Robotics
Comment by Brandon Basso on October 22, 2014 at 11:42pm

Some great points in the comments; here are a few clarifications...

-Yes, @ausdroid, 3DR's custom version of Pix4D and Pix4D pro are locked to the current (and future) cameras we support--currently, the Canon SX260.

-3DR's versions of Pix4D Mapper parses 3DR flight logs so that regardless of the quality of of the SX260 GPS, you can get higher quality results using the onboard log.  The parser is fairly robust to bad timestamps, bad pictures, extra pictures, and other common sync issues. 

-The mapping packages come with a Canon SX260 loaded with a custom firmware (3DR EAI) that dynamically calculates exposure, aperture, and ISO, takes care of triggering, and lots of little housekeeping details to make sure the shutter speed is fast and pictures are even and crisp.

-Yes, current workflows use mission planner, which is always improving.  Stay tuned for more automated workflows in DroidPlanner too!  (see the existing survey feature in beta for reference)

-Hardware-wise, the Aero-M differs from a Skywalker in the choice of servos, rods, horns, custom camera mount and nose protection, UV filter, and of course time in integrating and tuning the Pixhawk for that system.

Hope that answers some questions!

Comment by Marshall Cant on January 9, 2015 at 1:35pm

Hoping this is the correct thread.

I have a 3DR X8+. I purchased the Mapping package.

Is it necessary to swap out the existing Pixhawk, the radios, the compass/GPS etc for the new ones that came in the mapping package?

Thanks for the help.

Comment by David Locascio on January 9, 2015 at 2:42pm

Call 3DR support for immediate assistance. 

You probably just need to download the 3DR-M parameters onto the Pixhawk controller.

Comment by eduardo murguia on January 13, 2015 at 9:07pm

Does anybody know if it is possible to adapt a gimbal to the X8-M and a camera other than the one that it comes RTF, and does it have the same other functions as a conventional X8+?


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