You may have noticed by now that drones are everywhere and they’re doing more than just taking dramatic aerial footage. Drone technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade. This advancement includes more than just hardware tools like DJI's Mavic series, as there are now a wide variety of drone mapping software options that help users make sense of the images they're capturing. These software tools have become commonly used across a wide range of different industries as company leaders have begun to realize the impact that drone mapping software can have on their bottom line.
But which software tool should you choose? Of all the options on the market, some adopters find themselves on the fence between DroneDeploy vs Pix4D for aerial mapping. While both options offer a deluxe suite of tools to take advantage of, which is the right choice for you and your team? In this post, we will dive into the differences between each platform and give you an idea of which one is the best fit for your reality capture program.
Local vs Cloud Processing Software
One major challenge a lot of drone reality capture programs face is being able to process the vast amount of information that is being collected day in and day out. The software tool you choose should be able to not just process that data but do so conveniently and effectively.
In the past, local desktop processing was the industry standard. Oftentimes internet services were not reliable or stable enough to handle the vast amounts of information being shared – but times have changed. Nowadays, cloud-based processing has taken the forefront of focus as connections have become more robust, allowing teams to seamlessly access data directly from the cloud.
When it comes to DroneDeploy vs Pix4D for processing, both serve as reasonable options. On the one hand, Pix4D delivers a hybrid approach of local and cloud-based processing. Meanwhile, DroneDeploy offers cloud-based processing options through iOS, Android and desktop devices.
While DroneDeploy's cloud-only processing does stand to offer greater convenience and speed, some teams might find more value in having the option of processing mainly locally and some aspects in the cloud.
Accuracy of Drone Mapping
The most valuable aspect of any drone mapping software is accuracy at scale. Having maps and models that are inconsistent with reality can only harm the ROI of any program – which is why software accuracy is paramount.
Both DroneDeploy and Pix4D deliver remarkably accurate measurements ranging between 1 cm and 5 cm of accuracy when using ground control points (GCPs) or real-time kinematic positioning (RTK). The true difference comes when measuring volume.
Construction and earthworks remain a primary use-case for many reality capture programs. As such, being able to accurately measure the dimensions and volume of material is crucial in ensuring the successful completion of a project without accruing additional costs from rework.
Here, both DroneDeploy and Pix4D win out in terms of functionality, as they both allow users to perform volume measurements instantly.
One of the biggest hurdles in launching an effective drone reality capture program is the ease of use. For many, adopting drone flights into their workflow can seem complicated and intimidating. As a result, the success of a drone reality capture program hinges on being able to launch flight missions seamlessly. In a comparison between Pix4D and DroneDeploy, both platforms offer high-quality photogrammetry software, however, there is a significant difference in user-friendliness.
Pix4D's mapping software, Pix4DCapture, isn't quite as user friendly as it requires some degree of prior knowledge and direct pilot input, which can make scaling up your reality capture program a bit challenging. By comparison, DroneDeploy offers flight templates based on desired output, such as a vertical or facade flight plans, that allow you to launch an automated drone flight based on industry knowledge and best practices (making it easy for anyone to fly).
DroneDeploy also learns from the two million flights a year users conduct using the Flight app. DroneDeploy embeds this intelligence back into the platform to automate flight parameters such as flight speed, direction, sidelap, frontlap and other settings to increase likelihood of a successful capture.
Maps and 3D Modeling
Maps and 3D models are the end result of every drone flight. As such, you'll want your reality capture software of choice to deliver high-quality results. For both Pix4D and DroneDeploy, these maps can come in a wide range of formats, delivering insights on everything from elevation gain to plant health.
Both Pix4D and DroneDeploy allow you to create:
- 2D orthomosaics
- Thermography maps
- High-quality 3D models
- Multi-spectral maps
Whether you're looking to create a 3D map or a high-fidelity orthomosaic, both Pix4D and DroneDeploy offer tools to build it all. Where DroneDeploy wins out is in live mapping. DroneDeploy's LiveMap is an extremely useful feature that delivers real-time photogrammetry in the form of a 2D map, all in real time and completely offline. You do need internet access to create a higher-resolution map, but this feature is incredibly valuable for teams who need insight at the field’s edge.
Pix4D also offers a feature similar to LiveMap called Pix4DFields. Like DroneDeploy’s version, Pix4DFields allows you to track real-time photogrammetry on a 2D map. Unfortunately, maps in Pix4DFields cannot be processed via a mobile device for local offline processing, and instead you’ll need a computer to bring these maps to life.
Team and Project Management
When it comes to building a successful drone mapping program, ease of collaboration is key. Since both Pix4D and DroneDeploy offer cloud-based access, either product can provide your team with the tools necessary to collectively work on projects. However, the flexibility for collaboration is where these two products differ.
Pix4D allows other Pix4D users to collaborate on the same project, but the only hang-up is that they have to be Pix4D users. On the other hand, DroneDeploy's Enterprise package allows you to create a bespoke project-based user plan that is unique to the specific needs of your team. DroneDeploy also allows for public view access, giving you the chance to collaborate with users who may not be a part of your direct team. Additionally, DroneDeploy's cloud-dedicated processing can be performed remotely, allowing you to develop maps directly from your jobsite.
Pix4D does offer a cloud-based solution, however, processing power is limited by comparison, making it difficult to scale your reality capture program across your organization. Meanwhile, DroneDeploy automatically captures pilot information, flight logs, equipment records and battery information with each drone flight using the DroneDeploy Flight app, which allows administrators to easily manage a growing drone program with little human intervention.
Pix4D allows users to customize their processing parameters to produce specific datasets or modify their photogrammetry models. For engineers, this provides a robust set of configuration tools for research and development. However, for companies looking to scale their programs, without using a cloud-based program it makes it hard for other users to capture and view critical data. Conversely, DroneDeploy automates data processing to optimize for speed and accuracy, and produces orthomosaics, 3D models, point clouds, contour files and much more all from the drone imagery. Because this data is all in the cloud and easily accessible to all internal user, companies with a growing reality capture programs can scale quickly while capturing consistent and reliable data.
While both Pix4D and DroneDeploy offering a wide variety of features that could benefit any reality capture program, DroneDeploy's accuracy at scale, ease of use and cloud-based functionality make it an invaluable choice for teams hoping to rapidly scale their programs and make reality capture data accessible to everyone on a project or throughout an organization.