How to Do Photogrammetry with a Drone

How to Do Photogrammetry with a Drone

Photogrammetry is the science of obtaining reliable measurements and 3D information from photographs. With the advent of drone technology, photogrammetry has become more accessible and easier to achieve than ever before.

If you’re looking to perform aerial mapping or 3D modeling with drones, this guide will provide you with the essential knowledge and steps to achieve accurate and high-quality results. From understanding the fundamentals of photogrammetry to selecting the right drone and processing your data, we’ve got you covered.

Key Takeaways:

  • Drone photogrammetry allows for accurate aerial mapping and 3D modeling.
  • Understanding the photogrammetry process, including image acquisition and triangulation, is essential for successful results.
  • Choosing the right drone with suitable camera specifications and flight capabilities is crucial.
  • Proper preparation and planning, including a site survey and assessment of weather conditions, is necessary before conducting a photogrammetry flight.
  • Optimizing camera settings, flight patterns, overlap, and capturing nadir images are necessary for acquiring high-quality images.

Understanding Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry is the science of creating 3D models of objects or landscapes from 2D images. It’s a complex and technical process that requires careful planning, specialized equipment, and sophisticated software. At its core, photogrammetry involves the extraction of information about the relative positions of objects in a scene by analyzing the images captured from different perspectives.

Photogrammetry Process: The photogrammetry process involves two key stages: image acquisition and data processing. Image acquisition refers to the process of capturing images from different angles, while data processing involves turning those images into a 3D model. The data processing stage is further broken down into various steps, such as triangulation, point cloud generation, and meshing.

Image Acquisition: The process of image acquisition involves capturing a series of overlapping images from different perspectives, typically by using a drone equipped with a high-resolution camera. The drone is flown over the area of interest in a systematic pattern that ensures adequate coverage and overlap between images. These images are then processed using specialized software to create the 3D model.

Triangulation: Triangulation is a fundamental concept in photogrammetry. It involves using the overlapping images to calculate the position and orientation of each camera relative to the objects in the scene. By analyzing the position and orientation of each camera, the software can calculate the 3D coordinates of every point in the scene.

Overall, photogrammetry is a highly technical process that requires specialized knowledge and equipment. However, by following best practices for image acquisition and data processing, and choosing the right drone and camera, you can easily create high-quality 3D models and aerial maps.

Choosing the Right Drone for Photogrammetry

Selecting the right drone for photogrammetry is critical to achieving accurate and high-quality results. When choosing a drone, consider the following factors:

Drone SelectionCamera SpecificationsFlight Capabilities
Consider the size and weight of the drone, as well as its flight time and stability.Choose a drone with high-quality camera specifications, such as a high megapixel count and adjustable aperture settings.Ensure that the drone is capable of capturing images from different elevations and angles, and that it can fly in various weather conditions.
Consider the payload capacity, as this will impact the choice of camera and other accessories.Choose a drone with a reliable GPS system for accurate geotagging of images.Consider the sensor size and type, as well as the focal length and field of view of the lens.Choose a camera with RAW imaging capabilities to enable post-processing adjustments.Choose a drone with different flight modes (e.g. waypoint navigation, point of interest, and free-flight).Ensure that the drone has sufficient battery life and can be easily controlled from a distance.

By carefully considering drone selection, camera specifications, and flight capabilities, you can ensure that your drone is fit for the purpose of photogrammetry and will deliver the desired results.

Preparing for a Photogrammetry Flight

Before conducting a photogrammetry flight with your drone, it’s crucial to make proper preparations. Here, we will take you through the essential steps to ensure a successful and safe flight.

Flight Planning

Planning your flight is critical to achieve your mapping objectives, ensure safety, and comply with regulations. Consider the following items when planning your flight:

  • Determine the area to be mapped and divide it into sections to manage the flight plan better.
  • Check weather conditions to avoid flying in high winds, rain, or low light conditions.
  • Check airspace restrictions and obtain necessary permissions before the flight.
  • Ensure your drone is fully charged and has sufficient battery power for the flight.
  • Choose a take-off and landing site that’s safe and free from any obstructions.

Assessing Weather Conditions

Assessing weather conditions is a crucial aspect of preparing for a photogrammetry flight, as adverse weather can affect the quality of images and pose a safety risk.

Weather ConditionSafety Risks
High WindsMay cause drone instability and affect image quality
Rain/SnowAffect image quality and pose potential damage risk to the drone
Low LightMay compromise image quality and affect mapping accuracy

Conducting a Site Survey

A site survey is necessary to evaluate the conditions of the area to be mapped and identify any potential obstacles that could pose risks during the flight.

  • Assess the terrain and elevation to determine the ideal altitude for the flight.
  • Identify any obstacles such as buildings, power lines, and trees that could interfere with the drone’s flight path and image capture.
  • Ensure that any individuals in the area are aware of the drone’s presence and potential risks.

Section 5: Capturing Images for Photogrammetry

To achieve accurate and high-quality results in photogrammetry with your drone, it’s crucial to optimize your image capture techniques. Here are some key considerations:

Camera Settings

To get the best results, ensure you adjust your camera settings appropriately. Here are some settings to consider:

  • ISO: Use a low ISO setting to reduce noise in images
  • Shutter Speed: Choose a fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur in images
  • Aperture: Use a narrow aperture to ensure the entire scene is in focus
  • Focus: Set the focus to manual and adjust it for optimal sharpness

Flight Patterns

Varying your flight patterns can help you capture more detailed images of your terrain. Consider using the following flight patterns:

  • Straight lines: Fly your drone in a straight line to capture images of long, linear terrain, such as roads or rivers.
  • Grid patterns: Capture images of your terrain by flying your drone in a grid pattern. This technique is ideal for more complex terrain and will ensure that your images have sufficient overlap for accurate 3D modeling.
  • Orbit patterns: Take images of an object or landmark by flying your drone in an orbit pattern around it. This technique will help you capture all angles of the object and ensure that you have more than enough images for accurate 3D modeling.


Overlap is crucial for photogrammetry as it enables the software to accurately stitch together images to create a 3D model. Here are some recommended overlap percentages:

Overlap TypeOverlap Percentage
Lateral overlap75%
Longitudinal overlap60%

Nadir Images

Nadir images are captured with the camera pointing directly down, which is ideal for photogrammetry as it enables software to create 3D models accurately. Ensure you capture a sufficient number of nadir images to get the best results.

Processing Photogrammetry Data

After capturing your drone images, the next step in photogrammetry is processing the data to create accurate 3D models. This involves utilizing specialized photogrammetry software to convert the images into a point cloud, which can then be used to generate a 3D model.

The choice of software is crucial for obtaining high-quality results. There are various photogrammetry software options available, each with its unique features and capabilities. Some popular options include:

  • Agisoft Metashape: A comprehensive software with advanced features, suitable for large projects.
  • Pix4Dmapper: A powerful software with a user-friendly interface and cloud processing capabilities.
  • DroneDeploy: A web-based platform that provides real-time mapping and data analysis.

Once you have selected your software, the next step is data processing. This involves aligning the images and creating a dense point cloud. The point cloud is an array of 3D points that represent the surfaces of the objects in your images. These points can then be used to create a 3D model using specialized meshing tools.

To generate an accurate point cloud, it is essential to ensure that your images have the necessary overlap. This ensures that the software can accurately triangulate the images and create a detailed point cloud. Additionally, it is vital to ensure that the images have the correct camera settings, such as focal length and aperture, to ensure that the images are of high quality and suitable for processing.

Point Cloud Generation

After creating the dense point cloud, the next step is to generate the 3D model. This can be achieved by using specialized meshing tools, which create a mesh by connecting the points in the point cloud. The resulting mesh can then be textured using the original images, creating a photorealistic 3D model of the scanned area.

The choice of meshing tool will depend on the software you are using. Some popular options include:

SoftwareMeshing ToolFeatures
Agisoft MetashapeDelaunay meshingAdvanced filtering and quality control options
Pix4DmapperPolygonal meshingAutomatic seam detection and mesh optimization
DroneDeployDelaunay meshingAutomatic texturing and quality reports

After generating the mesh, you can export it in various file formats, such as OBJ, STL, or FBX, depending on your requirements. The resulting 3D model can then be exported to other software, such as CAD or GIS software, or viewed using specialized 3D viewers.

By following the proper photogrammetry data processing techniques, you can create accurate and photorealistic 3D models of the scanned area. With the right tools and techniques, you can unlock the full potential of drone-based aerial mapping and 3D modeling.


In conclusion, drone photogrammetry is a powerful tool that has revolutionized the world of aerial mapping and 3D modeling. By understanding the principles of photogrammetry, selecting the right equipment, and following proper image capture and data processing techniques, you can achieve accurate and high-quality results for your projects.

Start Small, Think Big

It is important to remember that learning drone photogrammetry takes time and practice. Start with small projects that allow you to experiment with image capture and data processing techniques. As your skills improve, you can scale up your projects to tackle more complex challenges.

Stay Informed and Up-to-Date

With drone technology constantly evolving, it is important to stay informed and up-to-date about the latest developments in the field. Join online communities and attend industry events to network with experts and stay informed about the latest advancements in drone photogrammetry.

Unlock the Potential of Drone Photogrammetry

As you continue your journey into drone photogrammetry, remember that the potential of this technology is vast. From construction and engineering projects to environmental monitoring and disaster response, drone photogrammetry has the power to transform the way we approach complex challenges. Start your journey today and see where drone photogrammetry can take you.


What is photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is the process of creating 3D models or measurements from 2D images. It involves capturing multiple images of an object or area from different angles and using software to analyze the images and calculate their position and dimensions in 3D space.

How can I use a drone for photogrammetry?

Drones are an ideal tool for photogrammetry as they can capture aerial images from various perspectives, allowing for more accurate and detailed 3D models. By attaching a camera to a drone and following proper image capture techniques, you can utilize drone technology to achieve high-quality results in photogrammetry.

What factors should I consider when choosing a drone for photogrammetry?

When selecting a drone for photogrammetry, it is important to consider factors such as camera specifications, flight capabilities, and payload capacity. You will need a drone with a high-resolution camera, stable flight control, and the ability to carry the necessary equipment for capturing quality images for photogrammetry.

What preparations should I make before conducting a photogrammetry flight with a drone?

Before conducting a photogrammetry flight, you should make several preparations. These include planning your flight path, assessing weather conditions to ensure safe flying, and conducting a site survey to identify any obstacles or potential challenges that may affect the quality of your images and data capture.

What are the key aspects to consider when capturing images for photogrammetry?

When capturing images for photogrammetry, you should pay attention to camera settings, flight patterns, overlap requirements, and capturing nadir images. Optimal camera settings and flight patterns will ensure the best quality images, while proper overlap and nadir images are crucial for effective 3D reconstruction and accurate measurements.

What software do I need to process photogrammetry data captured by a drone?

Specialized photogrammetry software is required to process the data captured by a drone for photogrammetry. There are various software options available, such as Pix4D, Agisoft Metashape, and RealityCapture, which allow you to process the images, align them, generate point clouds, and create 3D models.

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