Given the growing number of people using commercial drones these days, a common question is: “What do I do with all this imagery?”
The simple answer is that it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
If you just want to share the imagery as-is, and aren’t worried about making sure it’s georeferenced to be an accurate depiction of the ground, Oriented Imagery is probably your answer. If you’re capturing video, Full Motion Video in the Image Analyst extension for ArcGIS Pro is your best bet. Ultimately, though, many users plan to turn the single frame images acquired by drones into authoritative mapping products—orthorectified mosaics, digital surface models (DSMs), digital terrain models (DTMs), 3D point clouds, or 3D textured meshes.
Esri has three possible solutions for producing authoritative mapping products from drone imagery, each targeted for different users— (1) Drone2Map for ArcGIS, (2) the ortho mapping capability of ArcGIS Pro Advanced, and (3) the Ortho Maker app included with ArcGIS Enterprise. Read on to get an overview of all three solutions, and to figure out which one is best for your application.
Drone2Map for ArcGIS
For individual GIS users, Drone2Map is an easy-to-use, standalone app that supports a complete drone-processing workflow.
Drone2Map includes guided templates for creating orthorectified mosaics and digital elevation models. It’s also the only ArcGIS product that creates 3D products from drone imagery, including RGB point clouds and 3D textured meshes. Once you’ve processed your imagery, it’s easy to share the final products—2D web maps and 3D web scenes can be easily published on ArcGIS Online with a single step. ArcGIS Desktop isn’t required to run Drone2Map, but products created with Drone2Map are Desktop-compatible. That’s important, because it gives you the option to use ArcGIS Pro as an image management solution, or to serve your imagery products as dynamic image services using ArcGIS Image Server.
Ortho mapping capability of ArcGIS Pro Advanced
For GIS professionals, the ortho mapping capability of ArcGIS Pro Advanced enables you to create orthomosaics and digital elevation models from drone images (as well as from modern aerial imagery, historical film, and satellite data) in the familiar ArcGIS Desktop environment.
There are added benefits to processing your drone imagery in ArcGIS Pro. For users with very large imagery collections, Pro’s image management capabilities are especially valuable. Managing drone imagery using mosaic datasets makes it easy to query images and metadata, mosaic your imagery, and build footprints. Image management and processing workflows in ArcGIS Pro can also be automated using Python or Model Builder. Finally, sharing your imagery is straightforward. While you can publish your products to ArcGIS Online, you can also use ArcGIS Pro in conjunction with ArcGIS Image Server to publish drone products as dynamic image services.
Ortho Maker app in ArcGIS Enterprise 10.6.1+
For ArcGIS Enterprise users, the Ortho Maker app offers a solution for organizations with multiple users who want simple, web-based workflows to create orthomosaics and DEMs from drone imagery.
Ortho Maker provides an easy-to-use web interface for uploading drone imagery and managing the ortho mapping workflow, while behind the scenes it uses the distributed processing and storage capability of Enterprise and ArcGIS Image Server to quickly process even very large collections of drone imagery. (That also means it requires ArcGIS Image Server configured for raster analysis.) The ArcGIS API for Python can be used to automate the ortho mapping process. Sharing Ortho Maker products is virtually automatic—they become imagery layer items accessible in your Enterprise portal, easily shared with users throughout your organization.