Solo for mapping

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Hi,
I am professional surveyor and want to dig into mapping - photogrammetry with drones.
I am considering the Solo and the Phantom 3 as options but have zero experience with the birds.
I like the Solo being open source and giving the ability to change cameras etc. but I also like the mature platform of the Phantom 3 (a lot of s/w options for autonomous missions).
Is the Solo capable of carrying a better camera than GoPro, e.g. a non-fisheye camera with better resolution >12mp and better lens? If so what options are available? I saw the new site-scan option with the sony camera but I don't need the autodesk cloud option.
Also is the workflow easy for the Solo to capture the aerial photos with proper geo-tags? I ask this because with the Phantom the workflow is very easy and straightforward.
Thanks in advance.
 
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the new sony camera/gimbal will be available this summer with sitescan. as far as selling it separately from the sitescan, it has been indicated that its a possibility, but we have to wait and see. the gopro can be modified with non-fisheye lens such as the 3.97 and 3.8. both of these lenses have an effective megapixel rating of 12mp and higher. also other cameras can be flown in the gimbal bay with the static mount or on the accessory bay. IMP concepts makes a bracket that can hold various cameras for mapping. you can even mount 4 different cameras to capture 4 different spectrums at once (ndvi, rgb, visible, etc).

the workflow with solo is:
-acquire the images with tower. tower supports survey, spline survey and structure scanner
-download your tlog and geotag your images with mission planner or export the tlog to gpx/kmz and geotag with something like geosetter
-import your geotagged images into your app of choice such as pix4d mapper, photoscan pro, etc.
 
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@vgo195

I hope you will share your thoughts here...

I am a pilot operating under the 333 exemption and developing a business which will offer aerial mapping services to professional surveyors, engineers and architectual designers.

How much time want to or think is nessecsry to dedicate to your UAS program? How much time are you willing to commit?

I personally found Solo easy to use but I have years of experience flying RC and have aviation knowledge. This last year I've learned there is much more to learn -- I've invested a lot of time learning the back end of Solo, and orienting with the software necessary to obtain data and create usable maps and models.

That said, do you - as a professional surveyor - see value in a service that offers UAS mapping service exclusively, or do you think in house is the way to go?

I can tell you that keeping up with the evolving software, bugs, glitches, aging technology - which causes comaptibility issues - and maintaining equipment is a full time endeavor in itself. Yesterday my iMac spent 6 hours creating an aerial map, point cloud and 3D model of about 2 acres. I think I need a more powerful computer to run the mapping software and Autodesk...Much more than I initially considered.

I'd love to brainstorm with you and share ideas
 
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Thanks for the replies.
I think that your mapping services might be useful but it depends also on the region that you work.
I am in europe and I have used mapping services from a non-surveyor with good results for the work i needed.
On the other hand a surveyor has the knowledge of photogrametry so the only thing he needs is a way to take overlapped photos from the air and of course the right software to compute the DSM, orthophotos etc. So as a surveyor if I could get a drone and with simple workflow (eg Phantom) take the pictures and process them then I will not use a mapping service. I will prefer to use my own equipment and check also the results.
Also bear in mind that except from the drone hardware/software we use RTK GPS systems in order to measure GCP's and tie the model to a specific projection.
That's my opinion from the scope of a surveyor. Other uses (archaeology, architecture,GIS) might find mapping services handy.
 
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@vgo195

I hope you will share your thoughts here...

I am a pilot operating under the 333 exemption and developing a business which will offer aerial mapping services to professional surveyors, engineers and architectual designers.
I'm in exactly the same spot as you are out here in WA (333, pilot, n-number). I've been working with a surveying company flying their drones for them and I've been experimenting with using Solo to generate mapping data and point clouds. It's a fascinating field which I'm enthusiastic about.

After talking with the surveyors I'm coming to the conclusion that once part 107 is released the bar for a surveying company to have their own drones and certified operators will be sufficiently low that they'll just do it. As a rule they're technophiles and will look at drones as well worth the investment.Calling someone up to schedule an appointment to do it for them is probably going to be seen as an extra step instead of just sending Bob out with the drone to do it himself.

BTW - check out Pix4Dmapper Pro - Pix4D. They have a monthly rental program which is much easier to swallow.

As for hardware I use an i7 quad-core with 32GB of RAM and I load the images and application on an SSD. Really cuts down the time to process the images.

As for me, I'm looking for other markets that would value having accurate maps that would overlay on Google Maps.,
 
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Interesting discussion. The main problem I have with Solo is when 3DR go and break key things like with the 2.1.x release. Triggering of the gopro via mavlink commands is broken which kind of kills the most important function for mission planning for survey.

Supposed to be fixed in 2.3.0, but who knows when that will be out. I've been a long time supporter of 3dr, but this is the first time I've considered buying a Phantom. I know they have their own issues. Maybe one of each is the best to hedge my bets :).
 
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Interesting discussion. The main problem I have with Solo is when 3DR go and break key things like with the 2.1.x release. Triggering of the gopro via mavlink commands is broken which kind of kills the most important function for mission planning for survey.

Supposed to be fixed in 2.3.0, but who knows when that will be out. I've been a long time supporter of 3dr, but this is the first time I've considered buying a Phantom. I know they have their own issues. Maybe one of each is the best to hedge my bets :).
There is a fix for the triggering issue. I am using it and it works great.
 
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the new sony camera/gimbal will be available this summer with sitescan. as far as selling it separately from the sitescan, it has been indicated that its a possibility, but we have to wait and see. the gopro can be modified with non-fisheye lens such as the 3.97 and 3.8. both of these lenses have an effective megapixel rating of 12mp and higher. also other cameras can be flown in the gimbal bay with the static mount or on the accessory bay. IMP concepts makes a bracket that can hold various cameras for mapping. you can even mount 4 different cameras to capture 4 different spectrums at once (ndvi, rgb, visible, etc).

the workflow with solo is:
-acquire the images with tower. tower supports survey, spline survey and structure scanner
-download your tlog and geotag your images with mission planner or export the tlog to gpx/kmz and geotag with something like geosetter
-import your geotagged images into your app of choice such as pix4d mapper, photoscan pro, etc.
FYI information directly from 3DR Enterprise sales:

"The Sony camera will be made available first to Site Scan subscribers ... The cameras will be limited production"

The "Enterprise version" of Solo is different from the retail version ... "No smart shots, improved wifi... That's all I can say"
 
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the smart shots are in the solo firmware and i don't see them forking the firmware just for sitescan. if that's the case, then using the solo app with a sitescan solo should work just like a regular solo.

as far as the wifi maybe they used the better cards in both the solo and controller? they are modular and people have already replaced them (self included).

i can't wait to talk to someone who purchases sitescan. i have so many questions :)
 
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I've had great results using MAPIR cameras (www.mapir.camera), which are made by the guys at Peau Productions - lots of helpful tutorials at that website on mapping. They are non-fisheye SJCAM with custom NADIR mounts for the Solo. These cameras combined with Tower app (Android) and/or Mission Planner allow great mapping with Solo. Here is another great article detailing mapping with Solo: Mobile mapping with Solo, GoPro, Tower, and the Agribotix Field Extractor

This provided me with an affordable way to get into mapping - I figure that if this system can pay for its self I can look into upgrading as needed.
 
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the smart shots are in the solo firmware and i don't see them forking the firmware just for sitescan. if that's the case, then using the solo app with a sitescan solo should work just like a regular solo.

as far as the wifi maybe they used the better cards in both the solo and controller? they are modular and people have already replaced them (self included).

i can't wait to talk to someone who purchases sitescan. i have so many questions :)
The rep also stated "better GPS - from an average of 9 to better than 13 sats" ...

The recommendation I received was to use "consumer Solo" for residential real estate and then use "Enterprise Solo" for reality capture, mapping, etc.

I'm not clear on where 3DR is going with Solo ... They are clearly focusing on SaaS ... I remember DOS and Free BSD from a lifetime ago ... This is all fascinating to me. I think when FAA springs Part 107 the playing field is going to get much bigger -- WE -- people looking to make a business out of this need a streamlined solution for gathering data and processing .... This downloading logs, converting, stitching, processing and process some more is for the birds. Thi reminds me of working with DOS ... We need Windows 3.11 for Solo

Is Site Scan the answer? I think the possibilities for the software are even more interesting than Solo... I asked for a "demo" but no such animal exists ... Discounted purchase price until the camera is realeased. A lot of money and not enough information ... But I am itching!

Any Intel from NAB?
 
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Today I had a conversation with one of the sales folks from 3DR for Sitescan. I am still trying to completely understand the workflow with Sitescan vs just taking photos using a tower mission and Pix4D. I have a few projects queued up and need to develop elevation models for various property sizes (17 hectacre, 60Ha, etc.). I'm told that Solo will fly the mission autonomously using Sitescan but I don't see anything different from a Mission Planner generated mission uploaded to Tower. The reality is that you still have to geotag the photos Solo creates using Sitescan (not much different from Tower) using Autodesk's Recap 360. As I understand, Sitescan gives you unlimited use of the Autodesk cloud for post processing and has supposedly integrated things to make the workflow a bit easier but I just don't understand what additional value Sitescan provides as compared to running Tower with a carefully planned flight in Mission Planner. I could also post process with Pix4D and don't have to purchase a 1 year license which 3DR forces me to do with Sitescan.

Has anybody in the group used Sitescan yet? 3DR did an online video session with me but it did not get into all the nitty gritty technical details of post processing the data. Right now I have more questions than answers. Thanks for any ideas.
 
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Today I had a conversation with one of the sales folks from 3DR for Sitescan. I am still trying to completely understand the workflow with Sitescan vs just taking photos using a tower mission and Pix4D.
Totally agree with you. I've been flying Tower missions and running the photos through Pux4D. The only advantage I see to Sitescan is the Sony camera that comes with Sitescan. Although I've heard the camera may be available without it.

Another thing I've learned is that lots of people already know Pix4D and just want me to collect the images.
 
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i don't think the enterprise team is doing a good job of differentiating the sitescan workflow from traditional and what the benefits are.

traditional workflow
  • plan and execute survey
  • download images to computer
  • geotag images
  • process with software of choice
  • export images, 3d files or other data
sitescan
  • plan and execute survey
  • automatically geotag images
  • automatically upload images to a360
  • automatically start processing
  • automatically preview results (low res version)
benefits of sitescan
  • all-in-one solution
  • automation
  • data is processed in the cloud freeing up your local computer
  • another survey can be flown, while another one is being processed
  • data in a360 is available for any autodesk app that supports it

now these benefits might not matter to everyone, but for the industries that 3dr is targetting, they do. for someone like site manager at a construction site, they don't have the time for the traditional workflow, time is money. they will instantly benefit from a sitescan workflow because of the automation it provides and the instant results they can get while still on site.

for an individual, when you consider the price point, the benefits only have value if they will increase profit. if it doesn't, then site scan doesn't make sense. in my case, at this current time, it won't, so i will continue to use a traditional workflow.
 
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OK, really dumb question. I haven't tried this with a Solo yet, but before you start the survey, do you have to point the gimbal down??
 
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i don't think the enterprise team is doing a good job of differentiating the sitescan workflow from traditional and what the benefits are.

traditional workflow
  • plan and execute survey
  • download images to computer
  • geotag images
  • process with software of choice
  • export images, 3d files or other data
sitescan
  • plan and execute survey
  • automatically geotag images
  • automatically upload images to a360
  • automatically start processing
  • automatically preview results (low res version)
benefits of sitescan
  • all-in-one solution
  • automation
  • data is processed in the cloud freeing up your local computer
  • another survey can be flown, while another one is being processed
  • data in a360 is available for any autodesk app that supports it

now these benefits might not matter to everyone, but for the industries that 3dr is targetting, they do. for someone like site manager at a construction site, they don't have the time for the traditional workflow, time is money. they will instantly benefit from a sitescan workflow because of the automation it provides and the instant results they can get while still on site.

for an individual, when you consider the price point, the benefits only have value if they will increase profit. if it doesn't, then site scan doesn't make sense. in my case, at this current time, it won't, so i will continue to use a traditional workflow.
Thanks for summarizing the workflow... I am working through the details and sort of feeling out what the best way is to take advantage of the benefits of Solo with respect to scanning a large area and post processing the data so it's usable for surface modeling in Autodesk Civil3D. I have looked at Sitescan quite a bit and ended up having a conversation with 3DR yesterday where they did a little demo on the Sitescan version of Tower (that's what it looked like anyway). Where I was surprised is that SiteScan actually does not automatically geotag the images. You have to take the SD card out of the Gopro (no big deal), upload the images to your computer and then process them using AutoDesk's ReCap 360. This is where I sort of scratched my head and thought to myself... why can't I just use a flight plan setup in Mission Planner then upload it to the Tower app on my phone and have Solo go off and take the photos? Then I come back to the office and do the same thing with ReCap 360 to generate what I need to bring into Civil 3D. If you use surveyed ground targets I was told these get used in ReCap 360 (not sure how as I haven't tried it yet) to tighten up the precision of the final work product.

Where I am not completely understanding things is what the final work product looks like as generated from ReCap 360 or if I should look at using Pixel4D. I need to build 3D surfaces in Civil3D with contours but wasn't sure how ReCap or Pixel4D handle elements like trees, light poles, etc. I am also wondeirng about the curved lens on the GoPro (I have a Hero4 Black) and if the images should be corrected in Photoshop first (to remove the lens curvature) prior to processing in Pixel4D or ReCap 360. Any thoughts on this would be great.
 

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