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I have a an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, also called a drone) and would like to use it to create a digital elevation model and orthomosaic over a smaller area (10 km2). My platform will be able to produce overlapping imagery with an altitude of around 120 meters (400 feet).

Several commercial products seem to provide complete solutions; eg. Pix4D and Dronemapper.

I am however primarly looking for solutions where I can have more control of the process and possibly also set up my own batching processing. Python and other open source tools are interesting.

What are my alternatives?

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What type of UAV are you working with? What type of sensor? – Aaron Jul 4 '13 at 12:30
3d Robotics Quadcopter with a Canon SX260 camera. – ragnvald Jun 9 '14 at 9:26
How do I go about making a model myself using Matlab without using the above mentioned softwares – user3732944 Jun 10 '15 at 12:38
Welcome to GIS.SE. Please do not post questions as answers. Ask another question instead. – John Barça Jun 10 '15 at 12:49
This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. You can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question once you have enough reputation. – MAJ742 Jun 10 '15 at 13:17
up vote 5 down vote accepted

To solve the problem one needs to transform 2D images of 3D structures from different angles/perspectives into a solid model. This is known as Structure from Motion analysis.

VisualSFM is a software package which in combination with CSVS might be a way to go. On the project website for Visual SFM the author Changchang Wu explains:

VisualSFM is a GUI application for 3D reconstruction using structure from motion (SFM). The reconstruction system integrates several of my previous projects: SIFT on GPU(SiftGPU), Multicore Bundle Adjustment, and Towards Linear-time Incremental Structure from Motion. In particular, both the GUI SfM system and SiftGPU started as course projects when I was at UNC. VisualSFM runs very fast by exploiting multicore parallelism in feature detection, feature matching, and bundle adjustment.

A youtube movie from gives a practical example of potential endpoint products. I have not tried this myself, but will hopefully be able to refine this answer later.

I have also tried using pix4D. It is an overall good tool providing exceptional ease of use for inexperienced to more experienced users. A youtube video introduces the software in a good way.

Dronemapper is an online service where you can upload imagery and have it processed.

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Any thoughts on the VisualSFM software? – ianbroad Aug 7 '15 at 5:23

I highly recommend Agisoft PhotoScan Pro. It costs about $3500, but they have an academic version for about $500. If you contact them they can set you up with a 30 day trial. It has a lot of options and export formats and is quite easy to pick up and get good results. They also have options for python scripting.

Another opensource option is the python photogrammetry toolbox. It takes a little work to set up but gives good results for 3D output, nothing for georegistration though.

Hope this helps!!! (even though I am a couple months late to the party)

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For commercial solution take a look at

And for opensource I would certainly try

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ERDAS Imagine have a UAV add in module. Combined it's more expensive than Agisoft Photoscan, but if you're already an ERDAS user it integrates really well.

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