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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).

I have looked into several alternatives. Here are some:

Both of the above are commercial options and seem to offer many features and high quality.

I am also 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

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

VisualSFM in combination with CSVS might be a way to go. On the [project website] for Visual SFM 1 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 www.flightriot.com 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.

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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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