Photogrammetry has become a widely used technology in aerial image processing. In comparison to more traditional alternatives such as LiDAR and manned surveys, photogrammetry has proven to be not only much faster but also cost-effective. With cloud-based services such as WebODM, creating Orthophotos, Digital Surface Models (DSMs), or Point Clouds, has become easier than before. However, not all consumer drones can capture the accurate data needed to produce high-quality photogrammetry outputs. Therefore, given below is a list of some of the best photogrammetry drones to choose from:

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Flight Time: One of the most important factors is flight time. The longer the drone can stay airborne, the faster you can complete a mission. This reduces the battery swaps required per-mission. Thirty minutes of flight time is a good limit to aim for.
  2. Camera: This is the deciding factor for a photogrammetry drone. Make sure that the drone has a high-resolution camera and more importantly a mechanical shutter. Most consumer drones come with an Electronic Shutter. The difference is that electronic shutters distort the images slightly when the drone is in motion. Thereby, a mechanical shutter prevents that.
  3. Transmission Range: If you’re planning on taking bigger projects, having a 5km+ transmission range is a must.
  4. Portability: Sometimes you will require a larger drone with multiple payloads. However, for most projects a drone that can be deployed within minutes if not seconds is essential. Additionally, commuting with a bigger drone tends to be quite difficult.
  5. Cost: Some professional photogrammetry drones are quite expensive such as the DJI Matrice series. However, you can always start with basic enterprise drones and upgrade later. 

Best Drones For Photogrammetry

1. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

Flight Time: ~30 minutes

Camera: 1″ CMOS sensor, 20MP High Resolution | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 6km

Portability: 3/5

Cost: $1,600

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 | Best Drones for photogrammetry

DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is the perfect blend of all 5 deciding factors. It has an incredible battery life of 30 minutes. This means lesser return trips. The 1” 20MP sensor does not miss out on even the tiniest of detail. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 comes equipped with OcuSync 2.0 Transmission system, upgraded FOC sinusoidal driver ESCs and 9455S quick-release propellers that reduce noise and make the drone more aerodynamic. It is not the most ultra-portable drone but portable enough to carry in a backpack for long hours. Learn more about the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 here.

2. Yuneec Typhoon H3

Flight Time: ~25 minutes

Camera: Leica ION L1 Pro 20MP High resolution | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 2km

Portability: 2/5

Cost: $2,294

Yuneec Typhoon H3 | Best Drones for photogrammetry

Yuneec’s latest offering is the Typhoon H3. This hexacopter was built in collaboration with the flagship camera company Leica. Although the H3 lacks battery life and transmission range, it makes up for it in its image quality. At this price point, it is equipped with a state-of-the-art camera system that can capture lossless imagery. Additionally, the drone being a hexacopter is more stable than quadcopters. The H3 also comes with a professional ST16S remote control. Learn more about the Typhoon H3 here.

3. DJI Phantom 4 RTK

Flight Time: ~30 minutes

Camera: 1″ CMOS sensor, 20MP | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 7km

Portability: 3/5

Cost: $6,200

DJI Phantom 4 RTK | Best Drones for photogrammetry

The Phantom 4 RTK is the more expensive version of the Phantom 4 Pro. It boasts the same camera configuration as the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. However, it has an increased transmission range of 7km. The striking feature that makes this drone expensive is the inclusion of an RTK (real-time kinematic) module. The RTK module can achieve 1cm+1ppm (horizontal), 1.5cm+1ppm (vertical) accurate data. If you opt for a non-RTK drone, an external RTK and GNSS system can cost upwards of $6000. Learn more about the Phantom 4 RTK here.

4. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

Flight Time: 31 minutes

Camera: 48 MP 1/2″ CMOS Sensor | Mechanical Shutter | Thermal Camera

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 10km

Portability: 4/5

Cost: $6,240

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced | Best Drones for photogrammetry

The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced the top-tier version of the standard Mavic 2 drone. It has a whopping 48MP camera sensor which is more than enough for precise surveys. To add to that it even comes with a thermal camera which has extreme industrial usage. Additionally, it comes with features like GPS timestamping, password-protected data, and even an RTK module. The transmission range on the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is the highest in this segment. Learn more about the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced here.

5. DJI Inspire 2 + Zenmuse X5S Payload

Flight Time: 23-27 minutes

Camera: 4/3″ CMOS Sensor, 20.8MP | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 7km

Portability: 2/5

Cost: $5,300

DJI Inspire 2 | Best Drones for photogrammetry

The DJI Inspire 2 is a flagship cinematography drone. The drone can travel up to an astounding speed of 94 kph. It comes with dual batteries which are easily swappable without powering the drone off. This means you can swap batteries and get the drone airborne for the second round in less than 15 seconds. The Inspire 2 can be coupled with the X5S, X4S, and X7 payloads. With the standard X5S camera payload, Inspire 2 delivers incredibly detailed images required for creating accurate maps. Learn more about the DJI Inspire 2 here.

6. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise

Flight Time: 31 minutes

Camera: 12 MP 1/2.3″ CMOS Sensor | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 10km

Portability: 4/5

Cost: $2,995

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise | Best Drones for photogrammetry

The Mavic 2 Enterprise is a great solution for those who are looking for a non-RTK and a more affordable variant. The Mavic 2 Enterprise retains the flight time of 31 minutes. It has a decent camera that can capture high-resolution images. Most features are the same as the Advanced version excluding the thermal camera and the RTK module. Learn more about the Mavic 2 Enterprise here.

7. Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

Flight Time: ~28 minutes

Camera: 1″ CMOS SONY C23 Camera, 20MP | Mechanical Shutter

Max. Transmission Range: Up to 1.6km

Portability: 2/5

Cost: $1,709

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus | Best Drones for photogrammetry

The Typhoon H Plus is another great drone by Yuneec. However, the drone has a poor transmission range. The flight time is respectable compared to the Typhoon H3. The two main reasons you would want to buy this drone are because of its superior camera system and low cost. The Typhoon H Plus even comes equipped with SONAR for collision avoidance. This drone is perfect for someone just starting out in photogrammetry. Learn more about the Typhoon H Plus here.

Conclusion

There are many enterprise drones yet to be launched, like the much-awaited Skydio X2. However, the best photogrammetry drone depends upon the pilot’s skill level and requirement. For beginners, a Phantom 4 ProV2.0 or a Typhoon H Plus are great picks. If GCPs (read more about GCPs in photogrammetry here) and RTK systems are your priority, you can choose from the Phantom 4 RTK and other RTK drones on the list. Agricultural drones would require modifications of multispectral and hyperspectral cameras, which will be covered in the next blog post.

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