The Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is now trying to extend its hardware success to software and introduces a new 3D modeling and mapping software. With DJI Terra, DJI directly attacks established software providers like Pix4D and DroneDeploy.
The new software DJI Terra includes mission planning, recording control, mapping and various evaluation functions. It’s targeted towards professional users from various fields of application, from crash reconstructions and infrastructure inspections to agricultural field mapping and construction site modeling.
Let’s take a closer look at the features offered:
Mission Planning Options
- Area: Any polygonal shape can be marked, the software automatically calculates the most efficient way to cover the entire area. So far nothing new, we already have this in the DJIGO App or the GroundStation GS. But there seem to be more sophisticated settings for defining image overlap, which is relevant for 2D mapping.
- Waypoint: Here it gets more exciting: In addition to the usual waypoint planning, DJI promises that the user can dynamically adjust the parameters. For example, the height and speed of the drone as well as the angle of inclination of the camera can be changed on the planned route during the flight. Compared to GS and DJIGO App this is a considerable improvement. In addition there is a 3D flight visualization for more complex missions.
- Oblique: Supports the repeated flight of a mission with different camera angles, in order to provide as much detail of an object for 3D models as possible.
2D mapping in real time
With real-time mapping capabilities, DJI Terra allows drone pilots to generate 2D orthomosaic maps as the drone flies. This is perfect for applications where an immediate overview and instant decisions have to be made. Of course DJI Terra can also be used to create detailed 3D models.
Data analysis and Measurements
DJI Terra provides a variety of measurement options including linear distance, surface area, and volumetric estimations. The images can also be annotated and labled directly, which is very helpful when working in teams and in further workflows. For detailed on-site inspections (e.g. accident reconstructions), the software provides a photo inspection tool that allows closely examination of every photo used to create the model so they can inspect and highlight critical elements.
Prices and Compatibility
DJI Terra is now available in two variants: Advanced for 2D mapping and Pro for additional 3D mapping and modeling. DJI hasn’t published prices yet – of course I’ll give them back as soon as I found out about them.
Another limitation: So far DJI Terra is only compatible with the DJI Phantom 4 series and a Windows computer. Owners of the newest Mavic 2 models cannot use the software. The following drones are compatible:
Verdict: Is DJI Terra worth it?
The new mapping software Terra from DJI is facing strong competition: Pix4D and DroneDeploy, but also MapsMadeEasy or 3DR offer very good, established tools, which also work with a variety of drone models. A possible advantage for DJI Terra might be the very close integration into the flight/camera control and the thus possible dynamic adjustments in mission planning. A big disadvantage, at least at the time being, is the limited compability to the DJI Phantom 4 series. Another question mark is pricing – DJI launched the software without sharing prices, which makes it difficult to compare its value against its competition.