Whether you need to survey drainage needs on a farm or assess work at a construction site, few modern tools are more helpful than drones. With an eye-in-the-sky view, you can get a better idea of what needs to be done (and where) much more quickly than you ever would through an on-the-ground inspection.
Of course, when it comes to business and agricultural needs, many drone users need much more than an aerial image—and this is where drone mapping apps come in. With advanced data analysis and other useful tools, the right app can transform the images captured by your drone into actionable information.
But which DJI drone mapping apps offer the best value for your money? We’ve taken a look and narrowed down some of the best apps available today.
As one of the largest drone mapping apps on the market, DroneDeploy has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its user-friendly model that allows for integration with other drone apps such as Flyte, Skymatics, and WhiteClouds. DroneDeploy even allows you to sync with custom-built apps to perfectly meet your company’s drone mapping needs.
DroneDeploy even helps you during your drone’s flight, running pre-flight and in-flight safety checks to help you monitor your drone’s condition. From file sharing and 3D printing to flight management, DroneDeploy gives you total control over every aspect of the mapping process.
These app integrations are the icing on the cake of what DroneDeploy provides as its users. As a mapping tool, DroneDeploy can produce a wide variety of maps to satisfy your business needs, including orthomosaics, terrain models, 3D models, and NDVI analysis.
Each of these mapping options can be measured and annotated within the app, allowing you to highlight important areas, assign to-do’s or manage other tasks identified through the mapping process. For further ease of use, DroneDeploy also gives you a wide range of export options, allowing you to generate .jpg, .obj, .las, .tif and other file formats—whatever option you need.
While a free “explorer” subscription is available for DroneDeploy, this package only allows you to process five maps and models each month, while also limiting your resolution to 5cm/pixel. You also miss out on access to some of the most valuable mapping features, such as volume measurement and elevation layers.
For unlimited model processing and higher resolutions, you’ll need to either pay $99/month for the Pro Package or $299/month for the Business Package. The Business Package provides resolution of up to 1cm/pixel, while also allowing you to export Shapefiles and .dxf files. Best of all, you receive unlimited model processing, and each of your maps is given a higher priority—allowing you to receive your information in only a few hours. (*NOTE! Use code AERIALTECH20 when purchasing DroneDeploy subscription and save 20% on checkout!)
As with DroneDeploy, MapsMadeEasy allows you to gain new perspectives from your drone mapping with such useful features as 3D model stitching, NDVI processing and stockpile volume measurement. MapsMadeEasy also makes use of a flight planning app to help ensure that your drone flight goes smoothly.
One key advantage that MapsMadeEasy offers is its online platform. Just about everything can be done through an easy-to-use online interface, including geo-referencing, previewing 3D models, or sharing public links via email. You can even embed your maps into a website or blog thanks to MapsMadeEasy’s iFrame embed codes. When you want to share your map data with a large number of people, it doesn’t get much easier than this.
Unlike the other DJI drone mapping tools discussed in this list, MapsMadeEasy uses a “pay as you go” model rather than a monthly subscription fee. Each mapping project is based on a “points” scale. For example, to map 120 acres, you would pay 300 points from your account—or $7.99. As the size of your mapping area increases, so does the total price—to map 30,000 acres requires 50,000 points, or $669.99. However, the cost per acre drops significantly as your mapping area increases.
While MapsMadeEasy lessens the strain on your computer thanks to its cloud service, it doesn’t offer the highest resolution—most projects are limited to approximately 5cm/pixel. In addition, your point spendings go up as you increase your resolution.
Depending on your mapping needs, however, this pay as you go system could help you avoid unnecessary fees—especially since MapsMadeEasy’s point balance system offers new accounts 500 free points and allows you to map areas that would be 250 points or less for free. If you need commercial drone mapping on a less frequent basis, MapsMadeEasy can be a great economic choice.
Pix4D offers several software offerings to help you get exactly what you need out of your DJI drone mapping. Applications are available for specific uses, such as photorealistic 3D modeling (a popular choice among realtors) and agricultural mapping.
Full-service packages are also available, providing access to other key features such as CAD overlay, web sharing, NDVI mapping and DTM and DSM visualization. The Pro package even offers high-tech mapping features such as thermography—making it a popular choice for everything from mining to forensics.
Regardless of the package you choose, you can export files in several format types to fit your usage needs, including .obj, .dxf, .fbx, and even 3D pdf mesh files. This allows you to perform such unique tasks as creating a 3D video fly through of the mapped area or comparing construction sites with design drawings to catch building errors.
This variety of mapping packages allows you to pay for as much or as little as you need. While the Pix4Dmodel package only costs $49/month, the Pix4Dmapper Pro package starts at $350/month—a hefty price tag to be sure, but one that is worth the investment for those who need the extensive features included.
One potential drawback of Pix4D is that certain features are limited to desktop-only or cloud-only. For example, NDVI mapping and 2D vector output are only available on desktop—this lack of cloud support could overload your computer if you’re not careful.
While these certainly aren’t your only app options for DJI drone mapping, we’ve found that these apps deliver some of the best results you can get with today’s technology. Whether you need to analyze crop patterns or plan a real estate development, these tools will help you get the job done quickly and effectively.
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