Are you looking for the best free drone mapping software, or some that are relatively cheap and don’t require a long term commitment? Fortunately, there are a few drone mapping or photogrammetry applications that meet the above requirements.
Using drone technology for photogrammetry purposes is very popular as more companies realise the huge benefits these flying robots provide.
These benefits include faster and more efficient mapping, frequent data gathering, reducing risk to staff, reducing costs, mapping hard to reach areas and improving ROI.
There are some incredibly powerful drone photogrammetry software that will allow you to create highly accurate maps and 3D models of any given location.
Drone mapping applications like PiX4D, Drone Deploy, Precision Hawk etc are used in a number of different industries like agriculture, construction and mining to create highly accurate maps, point clouds and 3D models. However, these mapping applications are not free and require payment either on an annual basis or some have a pay as you go service.
However, after some research, I did find a few that are completely free, they have some limitations and a learning curve and they may not be suitable for some people. However, if you don’t mind the initial technical setup, they can provide a free way to reconstruct mapping and 3D modelling data for small projects.
Best Free Drone Mapping Software
WebODM From Open Drone Map
This is a popular open-source drone mapping application that has been around for a few years and is maintained by a large community of software developers.
This is a feature-rich mapping software that allows you to create many different types of maps from JPEG and TIFF images.
It can process multispectral images and calculate different types of vegetation indexes like NDVI, GNDVI, VARI, NDRE, MSAVI and many others. These maps can be used to analyse crop and soil data as well as be useful for environmental monitoring purposes.
Other types of maps it creates are 2D orthophotos, point clouds, 3D models, contour maps and elevation models. The app has many other useful features such as area and volume measurements, easy collaboration with team members and creating reports.
While the application is free, if you have no knowledge of coding, you will need to purchase an installer, which makes it easier to non-coders to use the app.
There are two versions of the installer, a standard and a business version, although all the features are available on both, the only difference is the level of support. It’s a one-time fee for the installer and works on Mac, Windows and Linux OS.
Maps Made Easy
One of the best drone mapping tools, Maps Made Easy is a powerful mapping application that is feature rich and simple to use. The website may not look as polished as many of their competitors, but their mapping tool is up there with the very best. The application allows you to process image data from any type of drone but DJI’s drones are given more preference. Maps made easy can create most types of maps from drone images this includes 2D orthophotos, 3D point clouds, 3D models and NDVI maps. The app also allows people to easily calculate stockpile volumes and create rebranded reports that can be shared with clients.
You also get access to Map Pilot Pro which is their flight management app, however, this is only available for iOS devices.
They have a pay as you go service where there is no monthly commitment, a subscription based service that starts at $5 per month and a free version that allows you to process 50 images per month with some limitations on what kind of deliverables can be produced.
A powerful photogrammetry software, 3DFlow Zephyr is an easy to use drone mapping application that can stitch together drone images and produce a number of deliverables. Its suitable for use in all industries that require mapping data and comes with a range of editing, measuring and reporting tools.
There is a free version of the software that is useful for learning purposes, it does come with limitations, for instance, you can only process 50 images at a time, have limited use of their GPU and export files in textured mesh and JPEG formats.
DJI Flight Hub 2
This is a new cloud-based app from DJI, it is an all-in-one flight management software that allows users to plan drone mapping missions and annotate maps while the mission is being executed. This software isn’t just for mapping but does come with the ability to map huge areas of land and produce 2.5D and 3D models. It’s only compatible with the DJI Matrice 300RTK and the new Matrice 30. It is currently on free beta testing for the public until October 2022.
Meshroom From Alice Vision
This is completely free photogrammetry software mainly used to reconstruct 3D models from captured images. This software is not specifically for drone mapping, but it can be used to manipulate aerial images into 3D landscapes.
Drone Mapping Software With Free Trial
Many of the most powerful and popular drone mapping software provide a free trial with no strings attached.
If you are looking to provide a professional drone mapping service, you may want to try out some of these applications before making a paid commitment.
The two most popular drone photogrammetry apps are Drone Deploy and Pix4D, they offer a 14-day free trial on their products. Pix4D has a few different photogrammetry apps that have been developed for specific industries.
For example, the Pix4D Mapper is probably their most popular product and can be used for any mapping needs in any industry.
However, they also have Pix4D Fields for agriculture, Pix4Dmatic for corridor and large scale mapping missions, Pix4D React for mapping an area in the aftermath of a disaster and a host of other products for specific mapping applications.
Both Drone Deploy and Pix4D also provide exceptional levels of support and in the case of Drone Deploy, they also provide lots of free resources.
Other drone mapping applications that offer a free trial include Agisoft Metashape, Global Mapper from Blue Marble Geographics, Mapware.ai and Surfer from the Golden Software company.
If you come across any drone mapping applications that are free, cheap or come with some kind of free trial, please leave a comment so I can update this list.
As drone mapping becomes more widespread, there will be an increasing number of software applications that will enter the market, many will be targeted towards specific industries like agriculture, public safety, or construction.
If you are interested in this area of drone technology, check out some of the drone mapping courses that are available on Udemy.