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Photogrammetry Apps Comparison (by a noob)

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Hi, please feel free to add to this with your own experiences and any other applications you have used.

So once I'd got my orange wonder and I'd flown a survey of the local park, I wondered what to do next with the images. I foolishly had thought that H520 would come bundled with some sort of Photogrammety software akin to Pix4D. Alas it does not.
So I started looking in to what there was available.
The first thing I realised is that all of the photogrammetry software is ridiculously priced.
There seem to be four pricing models out there:
  1. Open Source, free or small dev support cost.
  2. Pay for a desktop version (workstation PC spec required)
  3. Pay monthly for a subscription either per annum or on a month by month basis.
  4. Pay using credits or tokens or some-such, per job very little up-front info on how much this could actually cost
I hate the last option so I've not even looked in to that one much.
After a bit of hunting I found 4 apps I wanted to try and here's what I found out:
For the test I used the same image sets, 150 of a school and about 700 images of a field, in each application.

Pix4DPrecisionMapperDroneMapperOpenDroneMap
Basic Cost
£3,400 one time or £175 monthly​
Free​
Free​
Free​
(Free version) Limits
N/A​
5 Uploads per month​
150 images per project​
N/A​
Pro Version Cost
N/A​
£2640 a year​
£750​
N/A​
Cloud or Desktop (important if you don't have a good PC)
Either (I think cloud requires the monthly subscription)​
Cloud​
Desktop​
Either (cloud costs extra £25 per month or using token system)​
Pros
Great UI, probably the easiest to use out of the 4. Generates very professional looking results, does produce a report that probably has too much techno-babble to make it's self seem more important than it is. Good 3D rendering built in. Very much designed around the end result being a deliverable to a client/customer. Works seamlessly with Pix4D flight planning App which is also quite good and works on ST16s. On my PC (8 core processor, 32gb Ram, 8GB workstation GPU) it runs well, I can do other stuff whilst it's running and it doesn't take too long to process the image set.
What I really liked was how intuitive it was. There is a lot of support online and in app to get you going.​
Seems to work well, provides basic in browser functionality such as measurements and 3D render.
Easy to use, very basic UI. Not a lot of support to give you guidance on what you're doing but none really needed as it's just; add images, press go, wait.
Has multiple algorithms that can be added (some need pro version) for things such as roof survey, NDVI etc.​
Easy to use but rather boring looking UI. It does the job.
Progress is show on screen and there is a timer letting you know how long it's been running. Can be broken down into 3 seperate chunks (Preview, DEM & Ortho/Mesh) or all run at once (overnight mode).
Not a lot of support in app or in forums etc but I did reach out to the devs who got back to me instantly and helped me to resolve an issue (the geotiff was outputting stretched when I looked at it in comparison to the other apps output, but was resolved once I had placed in GIS app).Free version is not limited in any other way other than the 150 image set limit.
Good output results.​
It's free (it can be free).
Really lovely and customisable, easy to use UI.
Granular control over every aspect of how you import you images, how they are processed and how the are output.
Fast, this thing is the fastest to process the results.
Fantastic output results.
Can be installed on a local or cloud server if you have one. This can scale in power as you need.
Very supportive and comprehensive forums, constantly being improved and updated.​
Cons
It's stupidly expensive. For a start up (like me) it's both not a risk I am willing or can afford to take. Probably something I might look at using later down the line once the business has become more established.​
Not much online support (forums/youtube etc).
No control over what is happening. It's all done for you by the algorithms.
Lowest quality of the ortho-maps
Need to export files to get the best results. To be able to take accurate measurements/get a good resolution on the image.
Slow. What took an hour on another application took 6 with this.
The download of the files from the server is painfully slow. My internet connection is around 75mbs and what should have taken no more than a couple of minutes to download, took 3 hours! Perhaps they throttle the speeds on the free version?
Worst geo-tiff in regards to GPS accuracy results out of the 4.​
No 3D unless you get the pro version and then I couldn't get it to work at all. I suspect it needs a cuda enabled GPU (Nvidia Quadro only, mine is AMD).
The slowest and most resource hungry of the desktop versions.
No 3D and terrible map view options in app, have to use the output files in other apps to be of any use.​
It has to run inside a virtual machine, it barely touches the CPU or the GPU but needs a dedicated chunk or RAM to run on. This means that if you are trying to run a process which is too big, an hour in you may get an error saying you've run out of memory. This can be negated by using the 'lightning node' feature, which is cloud processing. This seems to cost extra but I've not used it).
Complex set-up requires some command line knowledge or at least some good problem solving skills (can pay an extra £55 for an installer. Highly recommend this)​
Over all rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Too pricey but good UI. No effort needed, the Apple/DJI of photogrammetry.​
⭐⭐⭐
Seems like the exact same results as ODM (if ODM left on default settings), I wonder if they built it on the open-source code?​
⭐⭐
Meh, can't really comment too much as Pro version (devs gave me a two week trial) kept crashing so could not run large image set.​
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Great all round, worth taking the hassle out and buying the installer.​

For my money (or not), it's OpenDroneMap and I use this in conjunction with other opensource apps such as QGIS & MeshLab. Not because I'm some commy-hippy-opensource-loving-tree-hugger, I love throwing my money at salesmen as much as the next slave to capitalism, it's just that ODM seems to be the most feature rich and I suspect, that like me, what drew you to the Yuneec H520 as opposed to DJI (along with the lower price tag) was the freedom we get. We get DataPlanner, we don't get NFZ's, we are allowed to fly ATTI, etc and it's this sort of freedom of control over what I'm doing that I respect, enjoy (it is a steep learning curve but I love learning new things) and for my business, I feel I need this control over my processes and outputs. Pix 4D may give out the box fancy reports but I can make those myself later and I can make them look how I want them to look, or more importantly, how my client needs them to look.
Finally, I didn't use any GCP's in these test and I popped the final geo-tiffs in to QGIS and measured my car in each image. They were all within 5-10 cm's accuracy but ODM got it spot on. It may have been a fluke this one time but it impressed me.

Hope this helps any other noobs out there just getting going with it all.
If anyone has any others to add or wants to do something similar with 3D rendering software, I'd really appreciate it.
 
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This is tremendously helpful! Bottom line, one needs to either invest in processing equipment locally or pay a fee, but this is absolutely fantastic to cut through the noise and clutter that leads to paralysis/analysis. Thanks so much for demo-ing and writing this up!
 
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This is tremendously helpful! Bottom line, one needs to either invest in processing equipment locally or pay a fee, but this is absolutely fantastic to cut through the noise and clutter that leads to paralysis/analysis. Thanks so much for demo-ing and writing this up!
Thanks, glad it's helpful. I just wished I'd saved the output images to be able to share. Unfortunately I deleted them to make room on my rapidly shrinking drive (these image sets and outputs take up so much room!) before I thought to share my bumbling learning!
 
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Thanks, glad it's helpful. I just wished I'd saved the output images to be able to share. Unfortunately I deleted them to make room on my rapidly shrinking drive (these image sets and outputs take up so much room!) before I thought to share my bumbling learning!
for a couple hundred bucks, I purchased a 2TB NAS external hard drive that also backs up to a cloud account that came with the NAS server. You can program it to automatically back customized files and programs to keep your local machine clear.
 
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I posted in this thread a few weeks back, but its worth me fleshing it out and reporting I think. And for background I work in an SMB company as a civil engineer, so I'm lucky to not be taking the risk on software purchasing.

I'm currently using Pix4D Mapper. Our business went with it because we needed a solution that was accurate, and wasnt going to overly time consuming to use. Overall its very good, with a lot of important features. The GCP interface is very good once you go through stage 1, once you mark 2-3 pictures then it tries to zero in on the rest. The accuracy report is good, and an important feature is the rolling shutter correction for the E90 camera.The interface is excellent, and the option to cloud process and host to share deliverables is great.

On the negative I'm not enthused about how the mesh renders fine objects like hand rails and power lines - these occur on a lot of my sites. Pix4D's base algorithms are very good, I just think now they need to catch up to some of the other companies by doubling down on quality and ease of use features. AI/automatic detection of GCPs would be great, and better point cloud filtering, editing, and classification export would be helpful.

I have used and still dabble with OpenDroneMap / WebODM. It has come a long way in the time I've been using it, and it hasgreat potential, but is a little rough around the edges as its much younger than the competition. WebODM is a web-based gui. Its a great idea, means if your nerdy enough you could set up your own web-facing server - which I've managed to do using Ngrok. The GCP interface is a little clunky though. The georeferencing using GCPs is a little limited - it only uses an affine translation/rotation, using what it determines are the 3 best GCP points. The developers are aware that this will need to be improved at some stage. No check points are possible yet, and there is no internal camera callibration and image distortion removal. The company IT guys would have went nuts at the thought of trying to run it too! Thats life in a small company though. They have recently added the ability to import previous projects, so maybe a good way in for companies would be to use it for hosting deliverables from software that doesn't have its own hosting service. Incidentally WebODM uses the same viewer as Pix4D cloud - Potree.

I have also used MapsMadeEasy with fairly good results, but little to no control over the processing quality as per most web platforms. Tried DroneDeploy and results were ok, but was put off by their pricing structure and having to pay for each set of GCPs processed. Precision Flight had good results as well but offered limited precision (ironically) when entering GCP coordinates. Also tried PrecisionMapper, but ironically the GCP precision was very low. Outputs looked grand though.

For other desktop software, I tried Agisoft Photoscan Pro. IT was much slower than Pix4D, and the interface made it more difficult to use. Outputs seemed excellent for the limited sample that I did.

Lastly I've heard good things about Capturing Reality. Great quality results with lower processing time than Pix4D, and good offers to trial it for 3 months ($99 if I recall correctly). But no online element, same as PhotoScan.
 
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I posted in this thread a few weeks back, but its worth me fleshing it out and reporting I think. And for background I work in an SMB company as a civil engineer, so I'm lucky to not be taking the risk on software purchasing.

I'm currently using Pix4D Mapper. Our business went with it because we needed a solution that was accurate, and wasnt going to overly time consuming to use. Overall its very good, with a lot of important features. The GCP interface is very good once you go through stage 1, once you mark 2-3 pictures then it tries to zero in on the rest. The accuracy report is good, and an important feature is the rolling shutter correction for the E90 camera.The interface is excellent, and the option to cloud process and host to share deliverables is great.

On the negative I'm not enthused about how the mesh renders fine objects like hand rails and power lines - these occur on a lot of my sites. Pix4D's base algorithms are very good, I just think now they need to catch up to some of the other companies by doubling down on quality and ease of use features. AI/automatic detection of GCPs would be great, and better point cloud filtering, editing, and classification export would be helpful.

I have used and still dabble with OpenDroneMap / WebODM. It has come a long way in the time I've been using it, and it hasgreat potential, but is a little rough around the edges as its much younger than the competition. WebODM is a web-based gui. Its a great idea, means if your nerdy enough you could set up your own web-facing server - which I've managed to do using Ngrok. The GCP interface is a little clunky though. The georeferencing using GCPs is a little limited - it only uses an affine translation/rotation, using what it determines are the 3 best GCP points. The developers are aware that this will need to be improved at some stage. No check points are possible yet, and there is no internal camera callibration and image distortion removal. The company IT guys would have went nuts at the thought of trying to run it too! Thats life in a small company though. They have recently added the ability to import previous projects, so maybe a good way in for companies would be to use it for hosting deliverables from software that doesn't have its own hosting service. Incidentally WebODM uses the same viewer as Pix4D cloud - Potree.

I have also used MapsMadeEasy with fairly good results, but little to no control over the processing quality as per most web platforms. Tried DroneDeploy and results were ok, but was put off by their pricing structure and having to pay for each set of GCPs processed. Precision Flight had good results as well but offered limited precision (ironically) when entering GCP coordinates. Also tried PrecisionMapper, but ironically the GCP precision was very low. Outputs looked grand though.

For other desktop software, I tried Agisoft Photoscan Pro. IT was much slower than Pix4D, and the interface made it more difficult to use. Outputs seemed excellent for the limited sample that I did.

Lastly I've heard good things about Capturing Reality. Great quality results with lower processing time than Pix4D, and good offers to trial it for 3 months ($99 if I recall correctly). But no online element, same as PhotoScan.
Thanks for adding! Pix4D feels like the way to go if one has the £'s (or a company to shell out for it!) I looked at PhotoScan too but decided it was a step or two beyond drone photogrammetry. I was reading about Capturing Reality and it does look good. I also really like the look of ArcGIS Drone2Map but again the pricing was way too high.

I didn't look at Drone Deploy at all as I thought it was for DJI only? Have you run in on an H520? What's it like/price?

It's a familiar model, Adobe used to be priced way out of Prosumer levels but now, Creative Cloud is (arguably) reasonable.
Some company, sometime soon will make a fully featured application for UAV based photogrammetry at a reasonable price and I suspect it'll be Pix4D.

Incidentally, I found that shoving even the worst looking 3D meshes from ODM or Pix into Mesh Lab and they turn out a lot better but I'm still only just getting started on 3D.
 
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Thanks for adding! Pix4D feels like the way to go if one has the £'s (or a company to shell out for it!) I looked at PhotoScan too but decided it was a step or two beyond drone photogrammetry. I was reading about Capturing Reality and it does look good. I also really like the look of ArcGIS Drone2Map but again the pricing was way too high.

I didn't look at Drone Deploy at all as I thought it was for DJI only? Have you run in on an H520? What's it like/price?

It's a familiar model, Adobe used to be priced way out of Prosumer levels but now, Creative Cloud is (arguably) reasonable.
Some company, sometime soon will make a fully featured application for UAV based photogrammetry at a reasonable price and I suspect it'll be Pix4D.
It can't come soon enough. This is an expensive service to ramp up, if you're looking to go beyond real estate and wedding gigs, which I wouldn't do anyways. There's no coin in them, but I think this thread is excellent in pointing out that it's not enough to buy the equipment, pay to get licensed, purchase insurance and pay for advertising/marketing. If you can't post-process (assuming the client wants you to do it; I know there are those who just want the raw imagery and they'll deal with the headache of processing, but I don't think they're the norm), you won't get enough clients to make it worthwhile.

Great discussion!
 
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It can't come soon enough. This is an expensive service to ramp up, if you're looking to go beyond real estate and wedding gigs, which I wouldn't do anyways. There's no coin in them, but I think this thread is excellent in pointing out that it's not enough to buy the equipment, pay to get licensed, purchase insurance and pay for advertising/marketing. If you can't post-process (assuming the client wants you to do it; I know there are those who just want the raw imagery and they'll deal with the headache of processing, but I don't think they're the norm), you won't get enough clients to make it worthwhile.

Great discussion!
Couldn't agree more. Adding a mavic or something to your kit is a good plan if you're already a real estate or wedding photographer but it's not really what the H520 was designed for.
 
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I have a comprehensive Mavic Pro package I'm selling. It's a great little machine, but let's face it, you really can't make money using it.
 
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I didn't look at Drone Deploy at all as I thought it was for DJI only? Have you run in on an H520? What's it like/price?

I've only used it when I started out with a cheapo P3P. Results were good but pricing was really poor. Also georeferencing accurately would be an important thing in my line of work, and a fee per set of GCPs was and is really out of line with industry norms.

Some company, sometime soon will make a fully featured application for UAV based photogrammetry at a reasonable price and I suspect it'll be Pix4D.

There's a problem with your reasoning, unfortunately. And its that the lowest common denominator will win. Unfortunately all these large companies see this as a fantastic area to charge construction companies big money (in terms of people like you and me) as they see this as saving a much larger amount of time, manpower and risk for these companies. Once they're hooked, they'll keep paying!

Our only real hope is that in time the open source companies will catch up enough to make it worth switching. In that vein I would happily suggest that if you like WebODM then invest in a paid installer or in cloud processing credits, as profits are funneled back to the project.
 
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Is there any input on doing crop health processing as far as which program? Thanks for all the input around the 3D.
 
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Is there any input on doing crop health processing as far as which program? Thanks for all the input around the 3D.
Not sure, as I haven't needed to do agriculture stuff myself but I did see Pix4D had NDVI and so did PrecisionMapper, as a separate (but free) algorithm. Maybe have a play about with PrecisionMapper as it's free and see how you get on. I'd be really interested to hear about it!
 
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Is there a way to contact Yuneec Germany and ask them directly if there was a particular program that is recommended by the company for working with the H520? Not only for the map making but the agriculture mapping? With the E10T coming out they had to have a program in mind to process the photos. It would make no sense to make this camera with having a recommended program to work with. In overall I am looking at using maybe Open Drone Map using the installer and letting it rip. By the way, I have a Dell T3600 64 bit with 8 cores, 64 gig of ram, 512 SSD, 8 gig 4k video card, Terra storage and Terra external. I am thinking this should do the trick for processing photos? Many THANK YOUS for all the inputs.
 
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Is there a way to contact Yuneec Germany and ask them directly if there was a particular program that is recommended by the company for working with the H520? Not only for the map making but the agriculture mapping? With the E10T coming out they had to have a program in mind to process the photos. It would make no sense to make this camera with having a recommended program to work with. In overall I am looking at using maybe Open Drone Map using the installer and letting it rip. By the way, I have a Dell T3600 64 bit with 8 cores, 64 gig of ram, 512 SSD, 8 gig 4k video card, Terra storage and Terra external. I am thinking this should do the trick for processing photos? Many THANK YOUS for all the inputs.

Thats a pretty good spec, the processor seems still pretty strong for a 2012 design. Some of the pro programs utilise CUDA, and you havent said if the GPU is Nvidia or AMD (CUDA is Nvidia only).

I havent done any ag mapping. I know that Pix4D Fields is a slightly cut down and more affordable version of Pix4DMapper just for this purpose. i guess you need to find out how the images come out of E10T. If they are in .tiff format then OpenDroneMap wont work is they currently only accept jpgs.

Perhaps look at Senterra, they do a similar service. Think they have actually managed to fork WebODM to use it as their own front end. No idea on pricing though.
 
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Thought it was maybe worth listing all the programs and web services I had looked at before deciding on Pix4D. Gives people a chance to do their own research, and perhaps make use of free trial periods too!

OpenDroneMap (commandline) and WebODM (Web UI)
Pix4D Fields
Pix4D Mapper (& Pix4D Cloud with subscription)
Agisoft Metashape (was Photoscan)
Capturing Reality
Altizure
MapsMadeEasy
PrecisionMapper
DroneDeploy
PropellorAero
Skycatch
Global Mapper with GM Lidar Module (Desktop GIS with photogrammetry module)
DroneMapper
3Dsurvey
Correllator3D UAV
SpotScale
3d Zephyr
Drone2Map - from ESRI, amkers of ArcGIS, based on Pix4D backend
Recap Photo - from makers of AutoCAD
Sentera Field Agent - Ag focused with subscription but at a reasonable cost
 
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Thats a pretty good spec, the processor seems still pretty strong for a 2012 design. Some of the pro programs utilise CUDA, and you havent said if the GPU is Nvidia or AMD (CUDA is Nvidia only).

I havent done any ag mapping. I know that Pix4D Fields is a slightly cut down and more affordable version of Pix4DMapper just for this purpose. i guess you need to find out how the images come out of E10T. If they are in .tiff format then OpenDroneMap wont work is they currently only accept jpgs.

Perhaps look at Senterra, they do a similar service. Think they have actually managed to fork WebODM to use it as their own front end. No idea on pricing though.
The Gpu is Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 8gig and I do not have the E10 yet, It will be about 6 months before I am at that point of investment.
 

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I havent done any ag mapping. I know that Pix4D Fields is a slightly cut down and more affordable version of Pix4DMapper just for this purpose. i guess you need to find out how the images come out of E10T. If they are in .tiff format then OpenDroneMap wont work is they currently only accept jpgs.

Although Pix4Dmapper is the big brother, they have changed the business model. In theory Pix4Dmapper should allow you to do everything that his little brothers do, but the reality is that that no longer happens. They have left it as a, for everything, but only stands out in that, general photogrammetry. If you want to do precision agriculture does not have many of the tools that has Pix4DFlields and the same thing happens with other versions specializing in a field. I know all too well because I have a big brother and I was assured when I bought it that if I would have everything, now it is not so ?
 
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Thanks for the info and effort. I've been going in circles trying to compare these services and the additional comments helped.
 
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@dsandson, great discussion and list of products. Great complielation.

I've been focused on Agrisoft, Capturing Reality, Pix4D and ReCap Photo for 3D component and Pix4D and Pix4D Field, MapsMadeEasy, UgCS, and several others for mapping with 3D potential. The UgCS is a strong interest and capabilities.

The total associated package price (product license & anual support/service fees) is a major consideration before actually performing & using products within a profitable small business... which is my position as I attempt to ramp up conservatively and avoid high license or service expenses initially... wanting to avoid purchasing licenses then later abandon and use other products.

I found the "renewing 3 month" intro price of Capturing Reality a strong plus to it's high quality product... company quickly adding & enhancing their product. If they continued this option, much lower cost for full product. But the low anual cost of AutoCAD's ReCap Photo is about the lowest cost but comes at a price as a cloud only service. It was also interesting you found Agrisoft slow; they've marketed & reviewed product as much faster than Pix4D with better results in detail & mesh points.

Appreciate your collection of information. Have you used these products listed, based on reading reviews or used their evaluation demo products? My reference is strictly reviews, YouTubes, etc for most products... minimal hands on.

Helpful thread for those of us considering these high priced packages. Great central reference of links!
 
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Have you used these products listed, based on reading reviews or used their evaluation demo products? My reference is strictly reviews, YouTubes, etc for most products... minimal hands on.

Yeah, learnt a lot about photogrammetry from WebODM, MapsMadeEasy & the free trial period of DroneDeploy.

I reviewed specs and used the likes of facebook to work out the software with the best feedback from users, and which had a good community around it. Trialled Pix4D Mapper & Photscan (now Metashape). Ifound metashape produced great results, but workflow could be easily confused, processing was slower by a fair margin. I dont have numbers to back it up now though. On a plus point metashape had far better point cloud editing features. If I was money poor and time rich I would have went with Metashape, as for marginally more than a years Pix4D sub we would have got a full perpetual licence of Metashape. However drone photogrammetry is only a small part of my job so easy workflow is a major requirement for me.

Helpful thread for those of us considering these high priced packages. Great central reference of links!

Glad I can pass on some of the knowledge I've built up over the last year and a half. I have a few more to add in to that post when I time at my office computer.
 

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