Pix4D Mapper

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I am a huge fan of Pix4D. We use it extensively for HQ aerial photos and generating surfaces and contours, It produces an orthomosaic that we can import with the world file into Civil3D and TraversePC with perfect alignment to our field observed data. The photo quality is excellent. It does some point classification but struggles with small bushes, mail boxes, stop signs, etc. The editing tools allow enough cleanup to make it usable. I am still searching for better cleanup tools for the point cloud. It produces very nice contour lines if the data is clean. We have done topos by hand to compare and the alignment between surveys was great. The ground control tools are pretty easy to use.
Like all software, the learning curve is time consuming but projects are going pretty well when we have worked out a workflow plan. It takes quite a bit of processing time on my HP Z600 with dual Xeon processors. A typical 400 photo project will take 30 minutes to register and get the GCP aligned. Then it will take 6-8 hours to generate the point cloud, orthomosaic, 3dmesh, and contours. Then you will need cleanup time and the contours have to be regenerated (2 hours). Actual operator time is about an hour.
The Pix4d Capture app for DJI products is getting better but has a ways to go. It only does rectangular projects on one battery. I use Map Pilot from mapsmadeeasy for irregular and large projects requiring more batteries. Both are ridiculously easy to use. The entire flight is automatic.
 
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I forgot to discuss cost. It is expensive ($8700) They do have a monthly program that is nice if you do not need it every month. $350/month. It has a 30 day free trial.
 
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Great to hear you have been getting good results. I have used the trial of Pix4D Mapper and the tutorials online really help in getting a better quality result quicker than just flying on your own without the tutorials. I would like to experiment with the GCP part but do not have any method of collecting them at present. Just glad to hear someone else is getting good results.
 
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Hello, Kitefiter, If you would be so kind I would love to ask you a few questions.
1. Since you state you use civil 3d have you had any experience with the software from autodesk named "Recap360"? If so care to share on if you liked it or not, and how the finished results compared to the Pix4dmapper software you have?
2. Have you ever tried the cheaper software from Pix4d called "Pix4dModel"?
 
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I am a huge fan of Pix4D....
What are the dji drones and/or cameras that you are using to survey that are then processed through Pix4d? I'm wondering if professional results need something more than the phantom 3 pro and/or the phantom 4.
 
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to r62ewa I work for a surveying company. We use RTK GPS to obtain sub centimeter GCP. The results with Pix4d have been phenomenal. We are getting consistent accuracy of less than 0.1' in horizontal and vertical.

to rageagainststjg - Pix4D produces a good point cloud but it needs to be processed with ReCap360 to turn the cloud into the stratified cloud that Civil3D needs for input. ReCap360 reads the cloud pretty quickly and allows the operator to observe the surface in 3D. I have not been able to make the filters do much to the cloud. I don't have any other experience with the output from ReCap except as the stratified cloud. I have not tried Pix4D model.

to ecolumbia999 - we have a Phantom 3 Advanced and a Phantom 3 Professional. The output quality of the photos has been great! We are generating point clouds with a pixel density of 90 points per square meter. The orthomosaics are good enough to get curb, gutter, sidewalks, manholes, valves, etc. I have sent some projects out to a aerial photo company and the results have been phenomenal. They are happy with the data and so is my engineering client. It turns out my aerial photo company uses Pix4d. So far we are pretty happy with the 12mp camera if we fly at <150'. A better camera would allow us to fly higher and use less photos but still have the same number of pixels and points in the cloud. Right now, a 65 photo project produces 12.5 million points. We have done several projects with 400+ photos that will take all night to process. For us, the economics of a Phantom 3 make sense. If we crash it, it is not totally disastrous. We can afford to have two, one as a backup. When we drive 4 hours to do a job, it is smart to have a backup.

After 6 months of aerial photography for surveying, the big surprise is that I now have 15 times the cost of the drone invested in software and computers. And I probably need more. We are looking at TOPODOT for automating feature extraction. And everyone needs a faster computer!
 
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I am looking at the best option for RTK with my business and I'm considering the obvious choices, RTK survey grade equipment, RTK enabled UAV, or the new AeroPoints system. My worry with an RTK UAV is if my UAV crashes I lose my RTK capability. The AeroPoints system is given a 2 year lifespan and is a relatively new product. RTK survey grade equipment would mean I require a base as well as rover system. @kitefiter as you have experience with survey equipment, what would you suggest a good quality setup for RTK GCP collection that won't brake the bank, too bad?
 

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