Photogrammetry Software for any Application: Interview with SimActive President Philippe Simard

Drone imaging and mapmaking is a powerful tool with applications in a wide range of industries, whether it’s construction, surveying, agriculture, law enforcement and first response, utilities – the list can go on and on. Leading the way in technology and software capabilities is SimActive Inc, providing a cutting-edge software program to create orthomosaic maps and 3D models using imagery from any source, drone or otherwise. We interviewed SimActive President Philippe Simard to find out more.

What is SimActive? What products and services do you offer?

SimActive is the developer of Correlator3D, a leading photogrammetry software.  The company has been in business since 2003 and was the first to introduce GPU-based processing of imagery.  The software supports all types sensors mounted on any platform including drones, aircrafts and satellites and produces high-quality mapping products.  In addition to software licenses, the company also offers tailored training sessions as well as technical support. Clients can also profit from processing services in which the SimActive team of professionals will generate outputs.     

What is the workflow process of getting from images to finished product? How long does it take to process a data set?

Users first collect overlapping imagery, typically following a regular pattern over the project area, with each photo having a GPS coordinate.  This raw data is then imported into the software. The first step is called aerial triangulation. It allows the camera to be automatically calibrated as well as the position/orientation of each image to be precisely calculated.  Point clouds and digital surface/terrain models (DSMs and DTMs) are then extracted, and can be manually edited. From these, orthophotos are produced and then merged together into a seamless orthomosaic. The processing of a typical drone project comprising of 300 images can be performed in less than 30 minutes, on a standard laptop and directly in the field.

What are the different types of outputs, and what can they be used for?

DSMs and DTMs are typically used to visualize and analyze the terrain topography.  Other applications such as contour extraction or volume calculation are also possible directly within the software.  Point clouds can be colorized for 3D analysis, and 3D models can be automatically extracted for viewing purposes. Orthomosaics are used in a variety of applications as they consist of a highly accurate 2D map of a region.

How does SimActive’s mapping software compare to other similar options available such as Pix4Dmapper or DroneDeploy?

Correlator3D is a higher-end software product that allows users to generate geospatial data at greater accuracies.  It features a step-by-step approach to photogrammetric production, leading to a better control of the entire workflow.  Intuitive editing tools allow to easily modify results to fit end-user requirements. The software can also process large projects (tens of thousands of images) in a single batch, with batch processing capabilities.  Its speed is multiple times faster than any other tool, allowing users to process typical projects of a few hundred images directly in the field on a laptop, often in less than half an hour.

Which industries can make use of your mapping services?

Mapping products, whether they are generated from aircraft, drone or satellite imagery, are generally used in a multitude of applications.  In the case of drones, the industries that show the greatest interest include mining, forestry and agriculture. For example, for mineral exploration, calculating the volume of material extracted each week is often of interest.  In agriculture, multispectral imagery is very helpful for monitoring crops. For forest management, drones can be used to measure the eight of trees or recognize species.

Are there any new products, services or capabilities that are under development? When can we expect to see them become available?

The company keeps investing in research and development efforts, leading to continuous improvement of the software.  There are at least 4 major releases per year (with minor releases once or twice a month) and the upcoming version of Correlator3D is scheduled for May.  It will feature a new online viewer, where users will be able to export results directly from the software for immediate sharing. It will also include a new reflectance calibration tool for multispectral sensors.