With drones increasingly being used in industries such as surveying, construction, mining, engineering, agriculture, and public safety, having the right mapping software is key to getting the data you need in the most accurate and efficient way.
In this guide, we rank the best drone mapping software for different applications and industries, covering all the key features you need to know to make the right choice.
First, let’s take a look at what exactly drone mapping software is, how it works, and what benefits it can bring your company or organization.
The Basics of Drone Mapping Software
Before drones became widespread, the only way to capture aerial data of a building, construction site, or piece of land would be to use a manned aircraft, which is costly, time-consuming, and impractical. With a drone, you can do this in a timely and cost efficient way.
Choosing the right drone is one thing, but you also need to find the right mapping software. This will allow you to photogrammetrically map areas with great precision, getting all the data and measurements you need to carry out the job at hand.
Uses of Drone Mapping Software: Applications
This brings a huge range of benefits to professionals across a wide range of industries, such as the ones below.
Perhaps the industry with most to gain from utilizing drone mapping software is agriculture, enabling farmers to map and monitor fields more efficiently than ever before.
This makes it easier to spot problems like pests and disease earlier, and to better plan the use of fertilizers and pesticides, potentially leading to increased crop and livestock yields.
Construction and engineering
Drone mapping is useful at every stage of the construction process – from mapping the initial site, to monitoring stockpiles and construction phases, to creating 3D reconstructions of completed projects.
Not only does this make managers’ jobs easier, but it also provides a way of sharing accurate progress reports with clients.
One recent example is the Manhattan Construction Company’s use of the DJI Phantom 4 in the building of the Globe Life Field stadium, home of the Texas Rangers, in which the drone’s images were “in trade partner meetings to plan and coordinate activities in the coming days and weeks.”
Drones are now widely used in mining and quarrying for mapping sites, performing inspections, helping to estimate production rates, and monitoring stockpiles.
Not only does this increase efficiency and provide site managers with more accurate information to work with, but it also provides a safe way to do this in what can often be hazardous environments.
Drone mapping software can be used to monitor and manage forests in a similar way to it is in agriculture. By providing detailed maps of forests, officials can then monitor tree count and heath by spotting dead or diseased trees, and can also help prevent illegal logging. NDVI mapping can even be used to identify areas of dry vegetation to help prevent forest fires.
Surveying and mapping
The most obvious use of drone mapping software is that it enables surveyors to collect precise measurements of areas that can then be used in the creation of maps and legal documents such as plots. Previously, this required expensive and time consuming manned aircrafts.
Not only are real estate drones great for capturing aerial photos of property and land to share with clients, but with the right software, you can map plots and complete full 3D reconstructions of properties to provide much more valuable information.
Drone mapping software isn’t just used by private companies, but also public service organizations like the police and fire services.
One of the main examples is the management of extreme weather and natural disasters, where mapping can be used to quickly identify damage to areas and allow authorities to plan relief effectively and efficiently.
Mapping software can also be used to plot reconnaissance missions in the police and military.
The Best Drone Mapping Software
Now let’s take a look at the best drone mapping software on the market, starting with the most affordable.
Mapware – Trusted by the US Air Force
- Price: Pay-as-you go from $0.02 per MP
Mapware isn’t as well known as the likes of Pix4D or DroneDeploy, which we’ll cover below, but it’s a powerful drone mapping software that’s used by some major companies and organizations, such as Verizon and the US Air Force. In fact, it was awarded a $6m contract to map and survey US military bases to monitor endangered species, animal behavior and habitat conditions.
The software uses a stable cloud based platform with accelerated GPU processing, which vastly increases the amount of data you can process while reducing the risk of crashing. It claims to process raw data into finished maps 6.2x faster than other drone mapping solutions.
It also claims to be more accurate, as you can use advanced features like ground control points and scale constraints to achieve maximum geospatial precision.
Mapware is designed for a variety of industries, ranging from oil and gas, utilities and construction to telecoms, agriculture, property management and public safety. It’s also highly reliable, with extremely secure cloud-based systems to keep your data safe.
This drone software uses a unique pay-as-you-go model that charges $0.02 per MP of drone imagery. So, a high resolution model of a 15 acre area costs just $80, which makes it ideal for smaller businesses that would rather not shell out the thousands of dollars some other drone mapping software cost.
Best of all, you’ll always have access to all your source files and models from your Mapware account, and there’s no charge for the unlimited cloud storage it offers.
DJI Terra – Highly Intuitive Software from the World’s Leading Drone Manufacturer
- Price: from $336 per year
If you’re familiar with drones, chances are you’ve come across DJI. This brand is best known for its consumer camera drones, but it also has a commercial product line, which includes long range drones like the Matrice RTK 300 and mapping software like DJI Terra.
One of the great things about DJI Terra is that it’s specifically built for compatibility with some of the most popular commercial drones on the market, including all models from the Phantom 4 series, so the integration of software and drone is truly seamless.
There are four different licensing options for this drone mapping software. The price we’ve listed is for the Agriculture version, which is online only and offers real time 2D mapping, 2D field reconstruction, and 2D multispectral reconstruction.
The next one is Pro, which is offline and online and offers several more advanced features, including 2D urban reconstruction, 3D reconstruction and mission planning, real time 3D mapping, and ROI reconstruction. There are then the Electricity and Cluster licenses, which offer the same advanced features, such as applications for inspecting power lines, but the Electricity version is online while Cluster is offline.
Whichever version you go for, DJI Terra stands out for its intuitiveness and excellent usability, as well as its efficiency. For example, it can bulk process up to 400 images or 1GB of RAM at a time, greatly reducing the time spent between data collection and visualization.
Raptor Maps – Best for Solar Mapping
- Price: upon quote
Raptor Maps is a notable drone mapping software due to its unique application. While most mapping programs are geared towards industries like construction and agriculture, Raptor Maps is built specifically for mapping and inspecting solar panel systems.
It’s a solution for the entire solar lifecycle, perfect for mapping planning and construction, then for monitoring installation and later carrying out inspections. This is true for both small, residential solar panels and larger industrial sites.
Raptor Maps is a little different from most other drone software – rather than being a downloadable program, it’s a software-as-a-service in which a professional will be sent out to conduct the survey with the drone. You’ll then receive your report within seven to ten days.
In terms of precision, the software tags module-level anomalies with 95% accuracy and string-level ones with 99%, so it’s very reliable and gives you the data needed to make informed decisions.
This drone surveying software has been used in 38 different countries and by hundreds of companies, including the likes of EDF Renewables, Ameresco, and New Energy Equity. In a world in which the threat of climate change looms ever larger and more and more companies and governments invest in alternatives to fossil fuel power, this innovative drone software will no doubt see more uptake in the near future.
DroneDeploy – Highly Reliable & Scalable Drone Software
- Price: from $99 per month
DroneDeploy is a highly popular and reliable drone mapping software that’s used by more than 5,000 companies across the world.
This is an all-in-one drone software designed for agriculture, mining, construction, renewable energy, inspection, disaster management and more, and offers some of the most advanced drone mapping tools of all programs.
With this software, you can conduct complete reality captures with all interior and exterior visual data, make in-field decisions with real time mapping, gather accurate measurements and annotations for in-depth analysis, and create full 360 degree walkthroughs of your models. The result? Higher performance, higher efficiency, and potentially big savings on cost and labor.
The best way to get an idea of what’s capable with DroneDeploy is by checking out the case studies it’s made available on its site. For example, California Resources Corporation saved $205,000 by improving its inspection of oil and gas sites with the use of DroneDeploy, while Whitewater Hydrogeology mapped and surveyed quarry sites 20x faster with the software, saving 228 hours of labor annually.
There are several different purchase options for DroneDeploy. The price we’ve quoted is for the Lite license, but there’s also the Individual licence at $299 per month that comes with more kb upload per map and advanced features. There are also Teams and Enterprise designed for use across businesses and large companies, which you need to request a quote for.
Pix4D – Overall Best Drone Mapping Software
- Price: from $216.67 per month, $3,990 for a perpetual license
Pix4D is the best known drone mapping software and our number one pick overall. This is a complete software suite made up of a number of different applications that are designed to provide the ultimate mapping and surveying solution for a range of different industries.
There’s Pix4Dmapper, which is designed specifically for mapping, as well as Pix4Dsurvey, Pix4Dmatic, and Pix4Dcloud, alongside six industry-specific applications for telecoms, agriculture, emergency response, constructions, and OEM and integrators. There are also three data capture applications – Pix4Dcapture, Pix4Dcatch, and Pix4Dscan.
Pix4Dmapper allows you to capture RGB, thermal and multispectral images with any camera and drone. The software’s photogrammetry algorithms then transform the data into maps, which can be aerial or ground, and 3D models,
Whether you want to create full color point clouds, orthomosaic maps, 3D textured meshes, thermal maps, index maps, or digital surface models, you can do it all with Pix4Dmapper. The software offers 1-2 pixel ground sample distance (GSD) in X and Y directions, and 1-3 pixel GSD in the Z direction, which equates to sub-centimeter precision, providing extremely accurate results.
Another great thing about Pix4D is its device and platform compatibility. In fact, it claims to be the only drone mapping software with a mobile, desktop, and cloud platform, so you and your team can access it with any device and easily share data instantly on the cloud.
Other Drone Software
While mapping software is by far the most common type of drone software, there are also programs designed for other applications. One example is drone roof inspection software. Pix4D and DroneDeploy both provide solutions for this job, while there is also software like EZ3D that is built specifically for roof inspections.
Another type is drone video editing software, although this is more used by hobbyists and professional videographers rather than large companies.
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