Pix 4D is a cloud-based mapping software program designed for photogrammetry, a mapping style that creates images of the Earth by using large amounts of photos. These photos are then composed as textured, full-color images. SkyeBrowse offers a 2-week free trial, and even after the test is over, you can still use SkyeBrowse for free to create high-quality maps, but you'll have to pay to access the measurement tools. By far the most popular software platform for drone mapping that you can download and use for free is WebODM.
This open source software has been around for a few years and has been greatly improved by its active user community. If you're tech-savvy enough, you can even modify the program's code to suit your needs. As with most open source programs, WebODM can be a little intimidating for beginners. Even its installation process is complex, since you'll have to download and install it through GitHub and run it through the Docker platform.
There are some tutorials available online on how to do this. WebODM is a data processing program that allows you to process spatial data and generate a variety of maps. It is useful for making orthomosaics, digital elevation maps, plant health maps and 3D models from point clouds. The process runs completely locally, so you'll need a fairly powerful computer.
WebODM does NOT have any flight planning capabilities; it deals only with data and does not interact with a drone at all. If you're thinking of creating automated flight missions, you'll have to look for a standalone software solution. With the DJI GS Pro, you can easily define the extent of your target reconnaissance area and the application will automatically generate flight routes for the drone to follow. Flight mission details can also be saved and retrieved so that you can easily repeat missions. The DJI GS Pro also has cloud capabilities for storing and managing flight data; cloud backup is invaluable for commercial work and also provides a platform for collaboration. One of the main limitations of GS Pro is that it is a platform designed solely for flight planning and flight data management; it has no data processing capabilities.
If you need to generate maps from your data, you'll have to look for another program. In this context, combining DJI GS Pro with WebODM is actually a fairly common strategy. DroneDeploy is one of the most recognizable names in the field of drone mapping software solutions. With an elegant interface and a wide range of functions, DroneDeploy is considered to be one of the standard applications used for mapping work with commercial drones. It's not free to use either, although you can take advantage of the 14-day free trial for new users.
Two weeks isn't long before you can get the most out of DroneDeploy, but it should be enough to explore some of its basic features. This comprehensive drone mapping platform can do everything from flight planning to data processing and 3D modeling. It also works with dozens of third-party applications that can help you perform your mapping tasks with drones, which basically creates an ecosystem that should serve everything you might need. Pix4Dcapture is a free mobile drone flight planning application; it's just one part of a huge Pix4D ecosystem and it's the only Pix4D application that can be used for free. Pix4Dcapture is an application that allows you to plan and control the flight of a drone with a mobile device, in the style of DJI GS Pro. It's very easy to use and even provides a way to check the quality of captured images even while you're on site.
All images captured through Pix4Dcapture can be uploaded to Pix4Dcloud to be retrieved later and processed with the software of your choice. The main advantage of Pix4Dcapture is that it can be used with drones other than DJI. This application has a fairly extensive list of compatible drones, including some from Yuneec and Parrot; however, you may have compatibility issues if you're using a fairly new drone model. You can also take the opportunity to try the different Pix4D applications for free; Pix4D offers free trials of some of the most popular products, of which the most notable for drone mapping are the Pix4Dmapper for data processing and the Pix4DCatch for terrestrial LiDAR surveys. QGIS isn't exactly a program designed for drone mapping, but it's one of the most popular GIS platforms; it is often used as a free alternative to ArcGIS and has managed to create a large community of users. QGIS is an open source GIS platform that can be used to manipulate geospatial information to create a wide range of maps.
It's versatile, quite easy to use and has an active community of users who will be happy to lend a hand. A natural drawback of using QGIS for drone mapping is that it cannot process the data collected by the drone; after all, it's not software for photogrammetry. This means that you will first have to process the images with a separate program before the spatial data can be exported and analyzed with QGIS. QGIS is an excellent GIS platform for individuals and companies that have a limited budget; despite being free to use, it is considered one of the best and most used GIS platforms today. It won't provide a solution for drone mapping on its own, but it perfectly complements almost any other drone mapping software. DroneDeploy is an easy-to-use mapping software that both novice and advanced users can use effectively; this 3D modeling and mapping software is available both for individual users and mobile applications as well as business customers with any number of users.
The DroneDeploy business platform will allow you to do just about anything from managing hundreds of users and flights to creating your own custom applications.