WebODM, being free and open-source, enables something powerful which is not possible in other drone mapping softwares like Pix4D. It is the ability to process any number of tasks simultaneously. Let us explore how we can utilize this powerful aspect of WebODM.
The ODM software is the brain of WebODM. ODM provides the processing pipeline required to generate the outputs such as orthophoto, DSM, 3D models etc. ODM is a command-line utility, which means it is not accessible easily from other computers. NodeODM provides a solution to this by providing an API interface to access ODM. Therefore, we can install NodeODM on multiple servers and assign tasks to them. Once we have installed NodeODM on servers, WebODM provides an easy-to-use interface to manage those nodes.
Once we have WebODM up and running, we can add processing nodes by clicking Add New in the Processing Nodes from the left-side menu.
The various fields are self-explanatory. Basically we need to specify the address of the server running NodeODM and the port on which NodeODM is listening on that server. We can also specify an authentication token if our NodeODM instance is using one. This will help prevent unauthorized access. Once we save the connection, WebODM will verify it is able to reach the NodeODM instance. After the connection is verified, we will be able to see the parameters of the NodeODM instance.
And that’s it! We can set up as many nodes as we want. This will allow us to process as many tasks as we want in parallel, something not possible with other softwares like Agisoft Metashape or Pix4D Mapper. But wait, it gets better.
Not all of us have servers lying around in our basement but that need not stop us from processing multiple tasks in parallel with WebODM. There are multiple cloud service providers which we can use to provision server instances in the cloud. Some such cloud providers are AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Digital Ocean etc. As we have explored in this article, many of these cloud providers allow ways to run servers cheaply for a shortly duration of time. In fact, ClusterODM is a library provided by the OpenDroneMap project to help automate management of cloud servers.
Therefore as we saw, due to WebODM having an open-source license, we can easily deploy multiple processing nodes and process our tasks quickly. If you regularly deal with very large datasets, also have a look at split-merge functionality in WebODM. It allows you to split a large dataset into multiple sub-parts which then get processed on different servers and stitched together. With such powerful features, it appears that WebODM could emerge as a major drone mapping software in near future.
Bonus: Deploying WebODM on Cloud
Unless you are an expert with cloud deployments, it can be a bit tricky to deploy WebODM on cloud and optimize it for maximum cost-savings. If you need expert assistance in deploying WebODM on cloud, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.