Old Company, new Drone program
Our company is about take the dive and get in to drone Surveying. I've managed to convince the managing partners to get a phantom 4 pro as our first drone.
They've given me free reign on the software decisions; this is where I have a problem. As background information, our company is made up of surveyors and traffic/land development civil engineers. We hope to beef up our bridge, dam and roadway inspection skills, as well as our typical topographic survey procedures.
I've heard great things about Pix4D but it's expensive and not entirely user friendly.
As a guy trying to prove a concept to the company and trying to keep costs down, CAN SOMEONE... ANYONE HELP figure out which photogrammetry software to choose, do I need something like virtual surveyor?
I'm hoping this post will help figure things out and lead to more questions about how to prove this concept!
Some people have used Aerotas for training to get into droning and have reported here that it was worthwhile. I haven't done it yet but expect to soon. Aerotas has been represented at the last two annual Oregon conventions and sound like they are on the up and up.
The biggest thing is to make sure your GCP's aren't too spaced out. I would recommend looking into the Phantom 4 pro RTK. You will see better results in the processing.
The P4P is a good choice. Use it as a tool in the right circumstances. In my experience, I would stay away from the online services. I feel like it's better to have more control, but that means learning and having a decent desktop. The top 3 programs are Pix4D, which I use, Agisoft Metashpe, and Bentley ContextCapture.
All three have their strengths. Workflow is easy in Metashape, but I have not found a way to draft polylines in the program to export to cad. If your engineers and drafters are using Revit, then perhaps that does not matter, in which case probably Metashape is for you. I am not as familiar with ContextC, but know it is pretty expensive but seems like it produces excellent point clouds and seems to work really well for inspection modeling in particular, though your P4P is not the best platform for that. Pix4D is in the middle. I do the month to month license. That way if I don't have a use for it, I don't pay. Plus I get two seats. The $350 is pretty easy to absorb into a topo project considering the time saved. Just price the job as if using traditional ground crews and fly it instead.
I stay away from the online processors also because of the smaller density point clouds you get back and if you don't already know how to draft in a point cloud, you will have to figure that out as well as add a program to do that. Pix4D allows you to draw points and polylines that can then be exported as dxf files for direct import into cad programs. Some prefer not to do the polylines, but just points and draw the lines as normal in cad.
Frankly they are all difficult to learn at first, and you will have to bite the bullet and attend training or get it somewhere. The simple jobs can be done by the subscription houses, but handling any issues that will come up and difficult scenarios is another matter. And things do come up.
I would avoid the P4RTK for now unless you are only going to be doing NADIR flights. Start of using your own in house RTK GNSS system, and it you feel the RTK can help, then try is out. I find myself flying more and more Free Flight in order to capture improvements on a site better using oblique angle images, so RTK does not help me there.
Learn different acquisition techniques for different types of projects. Figure out what controller software you want to use, or use a bunch. They are pretty cheap. Get 8-10 good large gcp targets and know how to apply them to a site and apply them correctly in processing.