Empowering Educators to Teach Reality Mapping with ArcGIS Reality

07-06-2023 12:27 PM
Esri Regular Contributor
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As technology continues to advance, new tools and products are being developed to help us better understand and interact with the world around us. Esri released a new product called ArcGIS Reality, a platform that combines reality mapping and geographic information system (GIS) technology to give us a whole new perspective on reality.

Reality Mapping

So, what is Reality Mapping? In simple terms, it is the process of integrating real-world data into a digital map or virtual reality environment. This can include anything from satellite imagery and aerial photographs, lidar to 3D models, and sensor data. The goal is to create a more comprehensive view of our surroundings and enable us to make better-informed decisions. It is about bringing reality capture and GIS together, with an emphasis on geospatial accuracy. A couple of common uses of reality mapping is to create a digital twin of a city, visualize proposed developments and infrastructure projects, or emergency responder to quickly assess the situation on the ground.

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ArcGIS Reality

ArcGIS Reality is a product suite that provides a comprehensive set of tools and workflows for creating reality mapping products from drone and aerial imagery.

With ArcGIS Reality, users can generate Digital surface Model (DSM), Digital Terrain Model (DTM), true Orthomosacis, 3D meshes, and point clouds. This allows users to produce high‑fidelity 3D basemaps, elevation surfaces, and digital twins—even from medium and large-format cameras, and across large areas like cities or countries.

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ArcGIS Reality Product Family

The ArcGIS Reality is a suite of products, which consists of:

All the products offered in ArcGIS Reality are powered by the same engine, known as the ArcGIS Reality Engine.  You can choose which ArcGIS Reality products best suit your needs and the extent of your project.

When it comes to reality mapping by using drone imagery, there are two options available. ArcGIS Drone2Map is a desktop reality mapping product specifically designed for drone imagery. Alternatively, Site Scan for ArcGIS is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product that utilizes the cloud to optimize reality mapping with drone imagery.

For reality mapping on a larger scale, such as at a city or country-wide level, there are two options to consider. ArcGIS Reality for ArcGIS Pro, an extension to ArcGIS Pro, can fulfill this need. Additionally, ArcGIS Reality Studio, a standalone desktop application, is also available.


How do you know which experience is best for you? 

It all depends on the platform you are using to collect data and size of your project area. 

ArcGIS Reality product to choose.png


ArcGIS Drone2Map and Site Scan for ArcGIS are solutions focused on drone mapping for sites with a relatively small extent. You can use Drone2Map when you have a small drone team, and Site Scan is a SaaS product designed to support larger drone programs conducting lots of flights and managed in the cloud.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, ArcGIS Reality Studio, is a hyper-focused application designed for imagery collected by crewed aircraft over a large area using metric frame cameras. It’s great for citywide and countrywide mapping. ArcGIS Reality for ArcGIS Pro provides 3D reality mapping directly within ArcGIS Pro. It’s designed for users that are working at a large scale using a variety of sensors.


ArcGIS Reality for Education

ArcGIS Reality is a great tool to be used for teaching, research, and campus operation.  The easiest to start is with ArcGIS Drone2Map, which is the reality mapping product for drone imagery. 

ArcGIS Drone2Map

ArcGIS Drone2Map Standard license is included in Esri Education Institutional agreement and ArcGIS for Schools.  With the ArcGIS Drone2Map Standard, you can create 2D product outputs such as true Orthomosaics, DEM, DSM, and DTM.  If you need to create 3D reality mapping outputs such as point clouds or textured meshes, you can use ArcGIS Drone2Map Advanced license, which is available with added cost (education pricing). 

Site Scan for ArcGIS

Another option is to leverage cloud and optimize your drone reality mapping by using Site Scan for ArcGIS, which is SaaS solution that host and process all your drone mapping in the cloud.  Site Scan for ArcGIS is available with added cost (education pricing).

ArcGIS Reality Studio and ArcGIS Reality for ArcGIS Pro

These products are designed for large-area scale reality mapping production involving variety of sensors and aerial imagery captured with metric cameras.  At the time this blog is posted, ArcGIS Reality studio and ArcGIS Reality for ArcGIS Pro are available only with commercial pricing. We are currently evaluating the possibility of offering reduced pricing for Education.  

Need more info?

Please contact your respective Esri Account Manager to get more information about ArcGIS Reality’s options, licenses and to get quotes.  Feel free to contact me to discuss more on technology aspects of ArcGIS Reality.  Learn more about ArcGIS Reality here.


About the Author
Canserina Kurnia is a GIS professional with over 20 years of experience. She currently holds the position as a Senior Solution Engineer at Esri, at their headquarter office in Redlands, California. Her main role is to provide technical advices and assistance to universities globally, in advancing their GIS technology for teaching and research.