WebODM and Drone Mapping for the Rest of Us

Mapping with drones is increasing in both popularity and accessibility, and software tools lie within two main categories, commercial and open-source. Where there are advantages and disadvanges to both, there are defninitely more options and resources available on the commericial side. The article below attempts to provide more information on one of the main open-srouce drone mapping tools, WebODM. It’s an excellent article and I recommend reading it in full on the AOPA FOundation website.

Maps and mosaics are among the most powerful products a drone camera can produce, but producers of polished, user-friendly software made for professionals aren’t giving freebies anymore. Open-source software offers hobbyists and soloists an affordable alternative.

The cloud must be brimming by now with pictures taken by drone pilots showing their own houses from various angles and altitudes. Take enough of these, and you’ll realize two things: First, you can only see so much from 400 feet, so if you happen to have more than an acre or two, you’re going to need a map. All of us have faced the difficulty of not being able to back up far enough with our camera phones to shoot group pictures. This is the aerial version of that dilemma, and where photogrammetry comes in.Photogrammetry is simply the creation of accurate maps by combining many images into one. Properly assembled and scaled, the resulting mosaic allows accurate measurements of distance between points. Additional angles and fancier algorithms can facilitate accurate elevation measurements as well. Any attempt to do this manually using common photo editing software will quickly bring about the second realization: Specialized software is essential.

DroneDeploy and Pix4D both offer slick, effective, and user-friendly products backed up by support in various forms, but the developers are capitalizing on the demand and pricing their products too steeply—into hundreds or thousands of dollars per year—to be affordable for training, or just fooling around with maps. Which, it turns out, is fun.

To continue reading the rest of this article visit the AOPA Foundation’s website here.

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