Drone Photogrammetry: Essential Techniques and Best Practices

How drone mapping data is used in photogrammetry

Drone mapping data plays a crucial role in photogrammetry, which is the science of making measurements from photographs. Volumetric measurements are integral to this process, as they are used in the data processing to create detailed 3D models and maps.

By using drones, photogrammetrists can capture high-resolution images from various angles and altitudes. These images are then processed to create accurate 3D models and maps. The drone captures a series of overlapping images, which are stitched together using specialized software to generate orthomosaic maps, 3D point clouds, and elevation models. This data is used in various fields such as agriculture, construction, mining, and environmental monitoring. For example, in agriculture, drone mapping data can help in assessing crop health and optimizing irrigation. In the construction industry, it facilitates monitoring progress and site planning.

Real-world applications for drone photogrammetry

Drone photogrammetry has a wide range of real-world applications. In urban planning, it helps in creating accurate 3D models of cities and topographic mapping, which can be used for improvement projects or disaster response planning. In the construction industry, it aids in site surveying, project monitoring, and ensuring that construction aligns with architectural designs. Environmental scientists use drone photogrammetry for wildlife monitoring and habitat assessment. In archaeology, it helps in documenting and preserving historical sites. Mining companies use it for stockpile measurements and pit analysis. Overall, the versatility of drone photogrammetry makes it a valuable tool across multiple industries.

A beginner’s glossary of photogrammetry terms and concepts

OrthomosaicA high-resolution aerial image created by stitching together multiple photos, typically used for mapping.
3D Point CloudA set of data points representing the external surface of an object or scene, useful for 3D modeling.
DSM (Digital Surface Model)Represents the Earth’s surface including all objects on it, such as buildings and trees.
DTM (Digital Terrain Model)Represents the bare ground surface without any objects.
GCP (Ground Control Point)Pre-marked points with known geographic coordinates used for georeferencing the imagery.
OverlapThe extent to which consecutive photos overlap, which is crucial for accurate stitching of images.
OrthorectificationThe process of correcting the geometric distortions in aerial images.
Image StitchingCombining multiple photographs to produce a segmented panorama or larger photo.
Volumetric CalculationsThe process of calculating volumes from 3D data obtained through photogrammetry, essential for accurate measurements in construction and mining.

Drone photogrammetry

Drone photogrammetry

Metadata from every image

Metadata in photogrammetry refers to the detailed information captured along with each image, including date and time, GPS coordinates, altitude, camera settings, and more. This data is essential for accurately georeferencing images and ensuring that they align correctly during processing. By embedding metadata directly into image files, photogrammetry software can more easily integrate and utilize the images for creating accurate 3D models and maps. Metadata helps in tracking any adjustments needed for improving the accuracy of measurements and models, thereby making the entire photogrammetric process more reliable and efficient.

What is the difference between 3D mapping and 3D modeling?

3D mapping and 3D modeling, while related, serve different purposes. 3D mapping focuses on creating detailed representations of large areas, such as landscapes, cityscapes, and construction sites. It’s primarily used for tasks like topographic surveys, site planning, and geographic data analysis. On the other hand, 3D modeling involves creating detailed three-dimensional representations of individual objects or smaller sections, often used for visualization, simulation, and design purposes. While 3D mapping provides a broad overview, 3D modeling delves into the specifics and intricacies of particular items or sections within a mapped area. The term ‘spatial resolution’ plays a crucial role in both processes, affecting the level of detail that can be captured in 3D mapping and modeling.

Unpacking the common photogrammetry outputs

Photogrammetry produces several types of outputs, including surface models, each serving specific purposes. An Orthomosaic Map is one of the most common, providing a top-down view of the surveyed area, corrected for any distortions. This is useful for planning and analysis. 3D Point Clouds offer another critical output, representing the external surfaces of objects in three dimensions, which is helpful for modeling and measurement. Digital Surface Models (DSM) and Digital Terrain Models (DTM) depict surface elevations and ground terrain, respectively. Contours Maps can also be generated to show elevation levels and terrain shapes. Together, these outputs provide comprehensive data for various applications from urban planning to environmental monitoring.

What It Is, How To Do It, and The Top Photogrammetry Drones on the Market

Photogrammetry is the art and science of making accurate measurements from photographs, primarily used to create maps, 3D models, and elevation data. To perform photogrammetry, high-resolution aerial images are captured using drones, which are then processed through specialized software to generate the required outputs. When it comes to drones, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK is a popular choice due to its high-precision GPS capabilities and excellent camera quality. The senseFly eBee X is another top-tier option known for its versatility and extended flight time. For those needing heavy payloads, the CW-30E stands out as a robust choice, capable of carrying advanced sensors and cameras for extensive mapping projects.

Digital surface models

Digital Surface Models (DSM) represent the Earth’s surface and include all objects on it, such as buildings, vegetation, and other structures, providing crucial elevation data for various applications. They are essential for urban planning, forestry, and environmental impact assessments. DSMs offer a precise depiction of surface elevations, enabling planners and scientists to analyze spatial relationships and topographical features. In construction, DSMs are used for site planning and identifying potential issues related to elevation changes. Generating DSMs via drone photogrammetry involves capturing multiple overlapping images, which are then processed to extract elevation data. This results in an accurate, 3D representation of the surface.


These are main two methods for correcting GPS data to achieve high-precision positioning. They involve real-time corrections during the data collection phase, offering immediate accuracy which is crucial for applications requiring real-time data analysis, like construction surveying. PPK, on the other hand, applies corrections after the data is collected, making it more robust and reliable for situations where real-time data isn’t a necessity, such as large-scale mapping projects. Both methods enhance the accuracy of drone photogrammetry, but the choice between them depends on the specific project requirements. The precision offered by RTK and PPK is essential for geospatial analysis, ensuring the high level of accuracy required for detailed and accurate geographical data interpretation.

Drone photogrammetry tips: getting the most from each flight

To maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your drone photogrammetry flights, follow these tips. First, ensure proper planning by setting flight paths that provide ample overlap (60-80%), which is crucial for accurate image stitching. Optimize camera settings for the best image quality, considering factors like lighting and altitude. Conduct pre-flight checks to ensure the drone is in optimal condition and that GPS signals are strong. Utilize Ground Control Points (GCPs) for georeferencing to improve the accuracy of your final output. Finally, process your data using reliable software to enhance and verify the accuracy, ensuring you get the most valuable insights from each flight.

Achieving clarity: image capture and building a drone flight plan

Achieving clarity in image capture and building an effective drone flight plan are pivotal to successful photogrammetry projects. Start by outlining your survey area and setting clear objectives. Use software tools to design a flight path that ensures optimal coverage and overlap, typically 60-80%. The goal of flight planning is to capture georeferenced data for accurate mapping. Adjust your drone’s altitude based on the desired resolution and area size. During the flight, maintain consistent speed and altitude to avoid image distortions. It’s also crucial to assess lighting conditions and plan flights during optimal times, such as early morning or late afternoon, to avoid harsh shadows. Proper planning and execution guarantee high-quality images, essential for accurate photogrammetric outputs.

Factors to consider when choosing a photogrammetry drone

Choosing the right drone for photogrammetry involves several factors. Camera quality is paramount; opt for drones with high-resolution cameras capable of capturing detailed images. GPS accuracy is another critical aspect, influencing the precision of your outputs; drones with RTK or PPK technology offer enhanced accuracy. Flight time and battery life determine how much ground you can cover in a single flight; longer flight times mean more efficiency. Additionally, ensure the drone has reliable software compatibility for processing and analyzing data. Lastly, consider the drone’s payload capacity if you plan to attach additional sensors or cameras for specific applications. Sensor calibration is crucial for ensuring the accuracy of both the camera and GPS, enhancing the quality and reliability of photogrammetry data.

How does drone photogrammetry work?

Drone photogrammetry works by capturing a series of high-resolution aerial photographs, which are then processed to create detailed maps and 3D models. The process begins with planning a flight path, incorporating geospatial data collection to ensure sufficient overlap between images (typically 60-80%). During the flight, the drone’s camera captures images from multiple angles. These images are then imported into photogrammetry software, which stitches them together, correcting for distortions and generating outputs like orthomosaic maps, 3D point clouds, and digital elevation models (DEMs). Ground Control Points (GCPs) are often used to enhance the accuracy of georeferencing, resulting in precise, actionable data.

Quality of the drone’s camera

The quality of the drone’s camera is crucial for achieving accurate and detailed photogrammetric outputs. A high-resolution camera ensures that even minor details are captured clearly, which is essential for creating precise 3D models and maps. Key features to look for include high megapixel counts, large sensor sizes, and the ability to capture images in RAW format for greater detail and editing flexibility. Additionally, a camera with a good dynamic range can handle various lighting conditions, reducing the chances of overexposed or underexposed images. Investing in a high-quality drone camera is fundamental for the success of any photogrammetry project.

View tips for collecting high-quality images

Collecting high-quality images is essential for accurate photogrammetry. Start by planning your flight path with sufficient overlap (60-80%) to ensure complete coverage and ease of image stitching. Adjust your camera settings based on lighting conditions; use a lower ISO to reduce noise and a smaller aperture to increase depth of field. Fly at a consistent altitude and speed to maintain uniform image quality. Finally, ensure that the weather conditions are favorable; avoid windy days and harsh lighting situations like midday sun, which can create shadows and overexposures. Proper planning and execution lead to high-quality images that enhance the accuracy of your photogrammetric outputs.

Back in the office: processing the data

Once the data is collected, the next crucial step is photogrammetric processing back in the office. Begin by uploading the images to software, ensuring that metadata such as GPS coordinates are intact. Use Ground Control Points (GCPs) to georeference the images accurately. The software will then stitch the images together to create orthomosaic maps, 3D point clouds, and other outputs. Run quality checks to ensure there are no artifacts or distortions. Adjust settings as needed to enhance the clarity and accuracy of the final product. Efficient data processing is essential for transforming raw images into actionable insights.

Photogrammetry software compatibility

Choosing photogrammetry software compatible with your drone and its camera is essential for seamless workflows. Leading software options include Pix4D, DroneDeploy, and Agisoft Metashape, each offering unique features tailored to different applications. Ensure that the software can handle the resolution and format of your images and is capable of importing metadata like GPS coordinates. Additionally, consider software that offers features such as automated image stitching, orthomosaic creation, and 3D model generation. Compatibility extends beyond just technical specs; look for software with user-friendly interfaces and robust customer support to streamline your photogrammetry projects.

Flight time

Flight time is a critical factor in photogrammetry, directly impacting how much area a drone can cover in a single mission. Drones with longer flight times can capture more images, increasing the efficiency of large-scale surveys. Factors influencing flight time include battery capacity, payload weight, and weather conditions. Lighter drones with high-capacity batteries and efficient motors tend to offer extended flight durations. Additionally, planning flights during calm weather can help conserve battery life. Maximizing flight time allows for more comprehensive data collection and reduces the need for multiple sorties, thereby enhancing project efficiency.

How is resolution defined in photogrammetry?

In photogrammetry, resolution, also known as image resolution, is defined by the Ground Sampling Distance (GSD), which is synonymous with the level of detail in photogrammetric outputs. The GSD is the distance between two consecutive pixel centers on the ground. A smaller GSD value indicates higher resolution, meaning finer details can be captured. GSD is influenced by the altitude at which the drone flies and the camera’s sensor quality. For example, flying lower and using a high-resolution camera can achieve a better GSD, resulting in more detailed maps and models. High resolution is crucial for applications that require precise measurements, such as construction planning, forestry management and enviro monitoring.

How accurate is drone photogrammetry?

The accuracy of drone photogrammetry depends on various factors such as camera quality, GPS accuracy, flight altitude, and image overlap. High-resolution cameras combined with RTK or PPK GPS systems can significantly enhance accuracy. Ground Control Points (GCPs) are also crucial for improving georeferencing precision. Typically, drone photogrammetry can achieve accuracies within a few centimeters, making it suitable for detailed surveys and mapping projects. However, environmental factors like wind and lighting conditions can affect accuracy. By following best practices in planning and execution, you can achieve highly accurate results in your photogrammetry projects.

Embracing drone photogrammetry for smarter projects

Embracing drone photogrammetry can revolutionize your project management by providing high-precision, detailed data quickly and efficiently. This technology enables you to create accurate maps, 3D models, and elevation data, which are invaluable for planning, monitoring, and decision-making. In construction, for instance, drone photogrammetry can help in site surveys, progress tracking, and ensuring compliance with design plans. In agriculture, it aids in assessing crop health and optimizing resource use. The ability to rapidly capture and analyze data reduces survey times and costs, making your projects smarter and more efficient. By integrating drone photogrammetry, you gain a significant edge in accuracy and productivity. Additionally, the enhancement of surveying accuracy through drone photogrammetry ensures that project surveys are conducted with unparalleled precision, further elevating the quality and reliability of the data collected.

CW-30E: Best heavy payload drone for most mapping projects

The CW-30E stands out as one of the best heavy payload drones for mapping projects, thanks to its robust design and advanced capabilities. It can carry a variety of high-resolution cameras and sensors, making it versatile for different photogrammetry applications. With its extended flight time and high payload capacity, the CW-30E is ideal for large-scale mapping projects that require detailed data. Additionally, it features advanced GPS systems for accurate georeferencing and stability, even in challenging conditions. Investing in the CW-30E ensures that you can capture high-quality, precise data, making it a valuable asset for any serious mapping endeavor.

Accuracy and accurate analytics

Measurement precision in drone photogrammetry is crucial for producing reliable and actionable analytics. Accurate data collection begins with high-quality cameras, precise GPS systems, and well-planned flight paths. Ground Control Points (GCPs) further enhance the georeferencing accuracy, ensuring that the captured data aligns correctly with real-world coordinates. Accurate analytics depend on this foundational data, as precise measurements and models are critical for applications like construction, urban planning, and enviro monitoring. By prioritizing accuracy at every stage, from data capture to processing, you can generate trustworthy insights that drive informed decision-making and project success.

Tips for improving accuracy in drone photogrammetry

Improving accuracy in drone photogrammetry starts with meticulous planning. Ensure your flight path has sufficient overlap (60-80%) for better image stitching. Use high-resolution cameras and consider drones equipped with RTK or PPK systems for precise georeferencing. Incorporate Ground Control Points (GCPs) to enhance spatial accuracy. Conduct flights during optimal weather conditions to avoid data distortion caused by wind or poor lighting. Regularly calibrate your equipment and perform pre-flight checks. Post-processing techniques, such as refining the 3D models and using quality control algorithms, can also improve accuracy. By following these tips, you ensure more reliable and precise photogrammetry results.

High accuracy

Achieving high accuracy in drone photogrammetry, underscored by the essential role of measurement accuracy, is crucial for producing reliable outputs that can be confidently used for various applications. Measurement accuracy is fundamental to the reliability of photogrammetry outputs, ensuring that the data collected is precise and trustworthy. High accuracy is achieved through a combination of advanced technology and meticulous planning. Utilizing drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and RTK or PPK GPS systems ensures precise data capture. Implementing Ground Control Points (GCPs) enhances the georeferencing of images. Proper flight planning, including optimal altitude and sufficient image overlap, is crucial. Post-processing techniques, such as using high-quality photogrammetry software, further refine the results. High accuracy is vital for applications that require precise measurements, such as construction, surveying, and environmental monitoring.

Best drone photogrammetry software solution

Choosing the best drone photogrammetry software is essential for successful data processing and analysis. Leading options include Pix4D, DroneDeploy, and Agisoft Metashape, each offering unique features tailored to different needs. Pix4D excels in its comprehensive suite of tools for mapping, modeling, and analysis. DroneDeploy is known for its user-friendly interface and robust cloud-based processing capabilities. Agisoft Metashape offers advanced photo stitching and 3D modeling features. When selecting software, consider factors like ease of use, processing speed, and compatibility with your drone and camera. Investing in reliable photogrammetry software ensures accurate and efficient data output, enhancing the overall quality of your projects.

Photogrammetry is cheaper than LiDAR technology

One of the significant advantages of photogrammetry over LiDAR is its cost efficiency, highlighting photogrammetry’s cost-effectiveness compared to the more expensive LiDAR technology. Photogrammetry uses standard camera equipment, which is generally less expensive than the specialized sensors required for LiDAR. Additionally, photogrammetry software solutions tend to be more affordable and accessible. This makes photogrammetry an attractive option for smaller projects or organizations with limited budgets. Despite being cheaper, photogrammetry still offers highly accurate data suitable for various applications, such as surveying, construction, and agriculture. While LiDAR has its own unique advantages, photogrammetry provides a more budget-friendly option without compromising on data quality.

Photogrammetry vs. LiDAR: which is better?

Choosing between photogrammetry and LiDAR depends on the specific needs of your project. Photogrammetry is cost-effective, using standard cameras to create accurate 3D models and maps. It’s ideal for projects requiring high-resolution imagery and is budget-friendly. LiDAR, however, uses laser scanning to capture precise elevation and distance measurements, even in challenging conditions like dense vegetation or low light. It offers unparalleled accuracy and is excellent for detailed terrain modeling. If cost is a primary concern, photogrammetry is a solid choice. For projects demanding the highest precision and capability in diverse environments, LiDAR is superior.

Mapping data accuracy

Mapping precision, which encompasses the accuracy of mapping data, is critical for the success of any photogrammetry project. It ensures that the 3D models and maps created are reliable and can be used confidently for various applications like construction planning, environmental monitoring, and urban development. Several factors influence mapping precision, including camera resolution, GPS precision, and flight planning. High-quality cameras capture detailed images, while RTK or PPK systems enhance GPS accuracy. Proper flight planning ensures sufficient image overlap and optimal altitude. Ground Control Points (GCPs) further improve georeferencing accuracy. By prioritizing these factors, you can achieve highly accurate mapping data essential for informed decision-making.

LiDAR can be used in low-light or no-light environments

LiDAR technology has a unique advantage over photogrammetry: it can operate effectively in low-light or no-light conditions. This is because LiDAR uses laser pulses to measure distances, which are independent of ambient light. This capability makes LiDAR invaluable for applications that require data collection in challenging lighting conditions, such as nighttime surveys, dense forest canopy scanning, or underground mapping. The ability to capture accurate data without relying on external light sources expands the versatility and applicability of LiDAR, making it a powerful tool in environments where photogrammetry might struggle to deliver reliable results.

Ground Control Points (GCPs)

Ground Control Points (GCPs) are essential for enhancing the accuracy and precision of drone photogrammetry projects. These pre-surveyed points on the ground have known geographic coordinates and are typically measured using high-precision GPS equipment.

Data collection in drone photogrammetry

Data collection in drone photogrammetry involves several crucial steps to ensure accurate and high-quality outputs:

Pre-Flight Planning: Before the actual flight, meticulous planning is undertaken using flight planning software. This ensures that the drone follows an optimal flight path, capturing enough overlapping images to cover the survey area comprehensively. Pre-flight planning is essential to minimize gaps in the data, ensure complete coverage, and achieve the goal of data accuracy.

Image Acquisition: During the flight, the drone captures high-resolution aerial images, which are essential for creating detailed maps and models. The camera angle and altitude are adjusted to capture clear images from multiple perspectives. These images must be geotagged to provide accurate geographic coordinates, which are crucial for subsequent data processing.

Types of Data Collected: The drone collects various types of data, including visual data for photogrammetry, digital elevation models, and raw data for analysis. This data helps in understanding landscape features, creating accurate 3D models, and performing detailed surveys.

Post-Flight Processing: After the flight, the collected data is transferred to specialized drone mapping software. This software processes the images, creating a seamless mosaic dataset and generating various outputs like ortho maps and digital surface models.


What are the benefits of using aerial drone imagery for mapping?

Aerial drone imagery offers several benefits for mapping, including capturing high-resolution images and accurate geospatial data. This technology allows for detailed visual data of the area, which is essential for creating maps and conducting drone surveys. By using drone data, surveyors can achieve incredibly accurate measurements, enhancing the overall quality of the mapping process.

How does modern drone photogrammetry differ from traditional methods?

Modern drone photogrammetry leverages advanced drone mapping software and high-quality aerial images captured by drones. Unlike traditional methods, which relied heavily on manual data collection, modern photogrammetry offers automated and more efficient processes. UAV photogrammetry also provides more precise data, resulting in incredibly accurate measurements and detailed geospatial data.

What role does a digital elevation model play in drone surveying?

A digital elevation model (DEM) is crucial in drone surveying as it represents the earth’s surface elevations. DEMs are created using aerial data collected from drones, providing accurate geospatial data for various applications, such as construction projects and landscape features analysis. By using drone mapping software, surveyors can generate detailed DEMs to support their projects.

How are drone images used in remote sensing?

Drone images are a valuable asset in remote sensing, enabling the capture of clear images and raw data. These images help in detecting changes in landscape features, monitoring environmental conditions, and conducting aerial surveys. The high-resolution data collected by drones enhances the accuracy of remote sensing applications, ensuring detailed visual data.

What distinguishes modern UAV photogrammetry from other mapping techniques?

Modern UAV photogrammetry stands out due to its use of advanced drone data and drone mapping software. This technology allows for accurate data acquisition, high-resolution aerial images captured, and efficient processing. Compared to other techniques, UAV photogrammetry offers incredibly accurate measurements and a more streamlined mapping process, making it ideal for creating maps and analyzing landscape features.

How does flight planning software improve the drone surveying process?

Flight planning software enhances the aerial surveying process by ensuring that enough overlapping images are captured. This software allows for precise planning and execution of aerial surveys, resulting in high-quality data collected without human error. By using flight planning software, drone pilots can optimize their flight paths and capture data more efficiently.

What is the importance of geotagged images in aerial photogrammetry?

Geotagged images are essential in aerial photogrammetry as they provide the exact geographic coordinates of each captured image. These images help in accurately mapping the surveyed area and creating detailed visual data. Geotagged images are crucial for generating accurate digital elevation models and conducting precise land surveys.

How do drones contribute to construction projects?

Drones play a pivotal role in construction projects by providing real-time aerial drone imagery and capturing accurate data. This data is essential for site planning, monitoring progress, and ensuring compliance with project specifications. By using drone data and the mapping process, construction professionals can achieve incredibly accurate measurements and enhance project efficiency.

What are the key factors to consider in drone data acquisition?

In drone data acquisition, one must consider aerial images captured, flight planning software, and enough overlapping images. Accurate geospatial data and data collected without human error are crucial for high-quality outputs. Additionally, using the right drone mapping software and ensuring the proper capture of visual data can significantly impact the success of the project.

How does remote sensing benefit from aerial drone surveying?

Remote sensing benefits greatly from aerial surveying through the acquisition of high-resolution drone images and accurate data. This information is used to analyze landscape features, monitor environmental changes, and conduct detailed aerial mapping. Drones provide the flexibility and precision needed to capture clear images and support remote sensing applications effectively.