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New Drone Software: 3D Models Made Simple

In recent months, countless organizations and individuals have obtained Section 333 exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to commercially operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Some are realtors trying to boost their property listings. Many are inspectors attempting to document hard-to-reach or dangerous areas using drones. Yet others are filmmakers searching for that dynamic, award-winning shot.

Few of these drone operators probably view what they’re doing as data capture. Yet, the images and video being recorded is just that: information that, when processed, has particularly limitless potential. With the introduction of new software applications like Pix4D and Workmode, it’s possible to transform simple still photography into interactive 2D/3D models. Orthomosaics, point clouds, and ground survey/terrain models can be generated in a matter of minutes. Metrics such as contour lines and vegetation indexes can be calculated with automated efficiency. Even lengths, areas, and volumes of structures and stockpiles can be assessed down to centimeters.

Although the drone software from Pix4D and Workmode are capable of producing very similar results, they’re completely different in terms of operation. While Pix4D users process data themselves, Workmode users submit raw data for cloud-based rendering services. Pix4D also has far more comprehensive commands and customizable products -- making it well suited for seasoned drone professionals routinely handling demanding clients. Workmode, on the other hand, connects independent drone operators with nearby potential clients through its posting board for limited, one-time missions.

While both drone software applications are well developed, questions of safety and effectiveness still remain. No matter how powerful new technology is, it’s only as good as the person behind it. Indeed, Pix4D developers warn that -- in their experience -- there are essentially two varieties of drone data: exceptional or unusable. Even with GPS navigation and high-resolution equipment, drone operation and photogrammetry have proven extremely difficult. Workmode’s “Certified Pilot” program of 11 short videos and exam of 25 questions certainly doesn’t inspire such a high level of confidence. Additionally, neither Pix4D nor Workmode guarantee its drone users are insured or even permitted to fly drones commercially. Many drone operators are consequently not only inept at flying drones, but financially and legally unprepared for the ramifications: a chilling combination.

Potential clients should always work with drone companies that have developed long-standing experience and expertise in the UAV industry -- lest they end up paying for unrenderable service or even damages.

As such, leading drone service companies like DroneView Technologies will ultimately prove to be the most effective implementers of Pix4D and/or Workmode.

Justin Wood

JPW Design Studio, California

Minimalist Website Designer