Pix4Dmapper releases smartphone app for unique UAV grid mapping

By Luke Geiver | November 13, 2014

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators using the popular DJII Phantom for mapping purposes now have the ability to record more accurate data sets and three-dimensional images. Pix4Dmapper has released a smartphone app for the Android operating systems that allows operators to map areas by defining various types of flights, the company said. “Users can select flight areas and height to create a fully automatic flight, or fly the drone using the remote control. The app automatically calculates in real time when to acquire images to cover the area optimally, as well as enhance image attributes and characteristics.”

Christoph Stretcha, CEO and founder, said the company made the app to simplify the user experience while guaranteeing the best and most accurate results achievable.

Oliver Kung, co-founder of the company, recently held a webinar walk-through on the application. The app connects to the UAV via wireless connection and allows the user to place a predetermined grid pattern over the area of interest. The software then activates the UAV, sending it to a predetermined height (typically 165 feet) to fly the grid and capture images at predetermined time periods. A grid pattern of 260 feet by 260 feet will typically yield 50 .jpg images sized at roughly 5 megabytes, depending on the height of the objects below the UAV. The heights of objects below the UAV will limit the number of image capture points for which the UAV can record.

The app utilizes key points situated in the grid to match photos taken from various points along the grid back to those key points to create a 3D rendering or orthomosaic. The system is better than using stitched pictures, according to Kung. Images created through the app can offer measurements as accurate as one centimeter depending on the settings and GPS capabilities of the UAV.

Images taken from a mapping flight need to be downloaded to a computer currently, but Kung said a cloud-based option will soon be released. Other operating systems will soon be offered as well. The system can map a 6 acre property in 20 minutes, creating a 3D map with a resolution up to 1 inch. A construction surveyor can fly for 10 minutes over a stockpile of material and soon have the volume measurements of the pile, the company also said. 

A webinar recording explaining the options of the app and software package created by Pix4Dmapper is available for interested users. The system is free to download. Some offerings of the company are available for purchase or rent. Pix4D is based in Switzerland, but has offices in San Francisco and China.