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Best DJI Drones for Mapping and Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry requires a drone with a high-end camera, good stability in the wind, decent battery life, an acceptable flying range, and mapping software compatibility.

Which DJI drones are best for mapping and photogrammetry?

The best DJI drones for mapping and photogrammetry include the Mavic 3, Air 2S, and Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0. You can even use the Mini 3 Pro and Mini 3 in photogrammetry applications.

In this guide, we’ll cover each of these drones and their pros and cons.

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We’ll also explain your drone’s minimum requirements for mapping and photogrammetry and other more technical applications like topography.

1. DJI Mavic 3 – Our Choice

Droneblog's Choice
DJI Mavic 3 (Fly More Combo)
$2,945.00

Drone with 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, 5.1K Video, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, 46 Mins Flight, Advanced Auto Return, with DJI RC-N1, Two Extra Batteries, Gray.

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03/07/2024 11:56 am GMT

Dimensions: 13.70 x 11.14 x 4.24 in
Weight: 895 g
Max Range:  30,000 m
Max Speed: 47 mph
Max Wind Speed Resistance: 12.0 m/s (Level 6)
Max Flying Time: 46 min
Camera Sensor: 4/3’’ CMOS
Camera Still Resolution: 20 MP
Camera Shutter: Electronic
Internal Storage: 8 GB
External Max Storage: U3 512GB microSD card
GPS: Yes

✅ Pros

  • It has the longest flying time with one battery on the list
  • It has the largest camera sensor on the list
  • It has the highest wind resistance level on the list
  • It has the highest flying range on the list
  • It has omnidirectional obstacle-sensing and avoidance

❌ Cons

  • It lacks a mechanical shutter

For the price, there is no better camera drone for photogrammetry than the Mavic 3.

Its camera sensor is larger than the 1-inch size needed for this purpose, achieving imagery without distortion even at complex angles. Taking a set of photos will be effortless.

Its only downside is that it lacks a mechanical shutter to eliminate distortion of objects moving at high speed.

However, DJI counters this lack of a mechanical shutter with 46 minutes of flying time.

You have plenty of time to program the drone to stop at desired waypoints and take the shots. That way, your photos will look crisp.

Thanks to its incredible flying and transmission range and long battery life, you can cover vast zones. You can map large areas using just one battery.

This drone is perfect for topographic surveys of long terrains for agricultural or oil and gas applications.

If it gets a low battery signal while the drone is far away, it automatically determines the best route to RTH safely.

This feature, paired with its level-6 wind resistance, guarantees wind won’t disturb it easily. Your drone will return in no time.

2. DJI Air 2S – Best-value DJI drone for mapping and photogrammetry

DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo
$1,249.00

Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera, 5.4K Video, 1-Inch CMOS Sensor, 4 Directions of Obstacle Sensing, 31-Min Flight Time, Max 7.5-Mile Video Transmission, MasterShots, Gray

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03/07/2024 05:16 pm GMT

Dimensions: 7.20 x 9.96 x 3.03 in
Weight: 595 g
Max Range:  18,500 m
Max Speed: 42.5 mph
Max Flying Time: 31 min
Max Wind Speed Resistance: 10.7 m/s (Level 5)
Camera Sensor: 1’’ CMOS
Camera Still Resolution: 20MP
Camera Shutter: Electronic
Internal Storage: 8 GB
External Max Storage: U3 512GB microSD card
GPS: Yes

✅ Pros

  • It has great wind resistance for being so lightweight
  • You can use it for topographic missions
  • It comes with four-directional obstacle sensing and avoidance
  • It comes with internal storage and 512 GB of external capacity

❌ Cons

  • It lacks a mechanical shutter

If you’re looking for a less sophisticated DJI drone capable of topographic surveying, the Air 2S is it.

This drone is a versatile alternative to the Mavic 2 Pro. It’s lighter, smaller, and has five minutes more flying time with one battery.

The Air 2S lacks the fancy Hasselblad camera, but you still get the 20MP 1’’ CMOS sensor, so you can take photos with the required accuracy to merge into photogrammetric software.

Yes, you can rest assured, as it has compatibility with the most famous mapping apps like DroneDeploy and Pix4D.

It also lacks a mechanical shutter, but its max flying time is 31 minutes. This will be enough for short mapping missions.

You can also get it in a complete bundle at half the price of the Mavic 2 Pro. With the bundle, you gain 93 minutes of flying time. Yes, the bundle comes with two additional batteries!

It’s also a safe drone to fly thanks to the upward, forward, downward, and backward collision sensors.

When you activate the obstacle avoidance function, the Air 2S bypasses obstacles to preserve its integrity.

For even more safety, this drone incorporates an ADS-B IN.

This module receives airplane and helicopter information as its location and direction. That way, you can avoid those aircraft circulating in the airspace when mapping at a high altitude.

There isn’t a more portable drone with such features, so if you’re a beginner wanting the best value for your money for photogrammetry missions, search no further.

3. DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0 – Best DJI drone for mapping and photogrammetry with mechanical shutter

DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0
$2,689.00

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro has many advanced features and specs. The flight modes are for drone pilots at all levels and are easy to use. It’s an excellent choice for travel drones and works best for aerial photography.

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03/07/2024 05:21 pm GMT

Dimensions: 15.77 x 9.90 x 6.75 in
Weight: 1,375 g
Max Range:  10,000 m
Max Speed: 45 mph
Max Flying Time: 30 min
Max Wind Speed Resistance: 10 m/s (Level 5)
Camera Sensor: 1’’ CMOS
Camera Still Resolution: 20 MP
Camera Shutter: Mechanical
Internal Storage: No
External Max Storage: U1 128GB microSD card
GPS: Yes

✅ Pros

  • It has the sturdiest design on the list
  • Although it is heavy, it’s very fast
  • It comes with five-directional obstacle sensing and avoidance

❌ Cons

  • It has only 30 minutes of battery life before needing to be recharged
  • It’s the oldest drone on the list, so spare parts are difficult to find

If you want a mechanical shutter camera drone that won’t break the bank, try the Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0.

This drone meets the minimum requirement with a 20 MP 1” CMOS sensor.

On top of that, you get a durable camera with a mechanical shutter and robust three-axis gimbal. Your shots will always be accurate, thanks to the shutter hardware.

The Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0 is unlikely to be easily disturbed by the wind. As it is a very robust drone, it’s on the heavy side. That heavy weight plus the GPS make this drone a very stable device in the air.

The drone has a simple design without foldable extremities. That configuration makes it sturdy and suitable to land in unleveled environments.

Although its camera is below the drone frame, the landing gear is tall enough to maintain a safety gap between the camera and the floor.

Its biggest downside is that it’s an old drone. Therefore, it’s very tricky to get spare parts for maintenance.

4. DJI Mini 3 Pro– Best DJI drone for mapping and photogrammetry with the best battery

DJI Mini 3 Pro (DJI RC)

It’s incredible how a small drone can have powerful features, especially for aerial photography. The compact and lightweight qualities of the DJI Mini 3 Pro make it sturdy enough to withstand strong winds.

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Dimensions: 3.50 x 2.40 x 5.70 in
Weight: 249 g and 290 g
Max Range:  18,000 m and 25,000 m
Max Speed: 36 mph
Max Flying Time: 34 min and 47 min
Max Wind Speed Resistance: 10.7 m/s (Level 5)
Camera Sensor: 1/1.3’’ CMOS
Camera Still Resolution: 48MP
Camera Shutter: Electronic
Internal Storage: No
External Max Storage: U3 512GB microSD card
GPS: Yes

✅ Pros

  • You can increase the battery life with the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus to 51 minutes
  • The Intelligent Flight Battery Plus can increase the flying range to 25km
  • It has three-directional avoidance sensors built-in
  • It has great wind resistance
  • You can fit it in any backpack thanks to its size

❌ Cons

  • It lacks a mechanical shutter
  • It lacks a 1-inch camera sensor

The Mini 3 Pro is for those starting photogrammetry with recognition missions who want obstacle avoidance for the least amount of money.

This little device comes with forward, downward, and backward avoidance sensors. These gadgets make the drone suitable for safe flying above mid-height obstacles like trees and small buildings.

This drone camera lacks a mechanical shutter and a 1’’ inch camera sensor.

However, it has 48 MP image quality. With that level of quality, you can obtain 2D and 3D maps of parks, small bridges, and neighborhoods with the required quality for surveying and recognition applications.

This drone’s ability to perform risk analyses is a sure bet.

If 34 minutes of flying time isn’t enough to finish your mapping mission, you can always use the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus. That way, your Mini 3 Pro increases its flying time to an impressive 47 minutes.

5. DJI Mini 3 – Best budget DJI drone for mapping and photogrammetry

DJI Mini 3 (Standard)
$559.00 $469.00

Lightweight and Foldable Mini Camera Drone with 4K HDR Video, 38-min Flight Time, True Vertical Shooting, and Intelligent Features.

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03/08/2024 01:06 am GMT

Dimensions: 3.50 x 2.40 x 5.70 in
Weight: 248 g and 290 g
Max Range:  18,000 m and 25,000 m
Max Speed: 36 mph
Max Flying Time: 38 min and 51 min
Max Wind Speed Resistance: 10.7 m/s (Level 5)
Camera Sensor: 1/1.3’’ CMOS
Camera Still Resolution: 48MP
Camera Shutter: Electronic
Internal Storage: No
External Max Storage: U3 256GB microSD card
GPS: Yes

✅ Pros

  • You can increase the battery life with the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus to 51 minutes
  • It’s a very inexpensive drone for its construction and features

❌ Cons

  • It lacks a mechanical shutter
  • It lacks a 1-inch camera sensor

If you’re on a very tight budget and don’t mind foregoing collision avoidance sensors, go with the Mini 3.

From a photogrammetry standpoint, the Mini 3 Pro has no advantages over the Mini 3. They have the same camera, so you get the same photo quality.

The Mini 3 has the advantage of a 51-minute flight time thanks to the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus—that way, you can do a full recognition photogrammetry mission without a rush.

You can store it in any laptop bag, and it won’t break your back. It’s so light and easy to pocket that you won’t mind carrying everywhere.

This drone will perform the same as the Mini 3 but at a lesser price.

However, you lose the collision avoidance safety aids. So we only advise you to use this drone for mapping applications in obstacle-free areas, or you can lose it without advice.

Best DJI Drones for mapping and photogrammetry – Minimum requirements

We choose these drones because they meet the minimum standards for these applications.

But what are those minimum requirements?

High-end camera

The better your camera, the more accurate information you can get from the photos.

The minimum requirement is that your drone has a 1’’ camera sensor with 20 MP quality with a three-axis gimbal.

With these camera parameters, your drone can take photos that will overlap with precision so you can obtain accurate data such as volumes, areas, and distances.

Other drones have smaller camera sensors with increased camera resolutions and are still helpful. You can use the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro to take photos to develop risk analyses or recognize an area.

These applications don’t need maximum accuracy, so these little tools have their space in photogrammetry.

Although a mechanical shutter lets you take images without rolling shutter distortion while flying at high speed, those drones are pricy.

The Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0 is well-priced, but it is an old drone that is hard to find for purchase, and its spare parts are also tough to find.

So drones with electronic shutters are viable, as you only need the drone to stop when taking the photos. Consider this type of flight mission increases battery usage due to wind stabilization needs.

Mapping software compatibility

The camera itself is useless if your drone can’t use a photogrammetric or mapping software.

You can use all these drones with software like DroneDeploy or Pix4D. With them, your aircraft can follow specific waypoints, taking the necessary shots to overlap and get a 2D or 3D image.

Can I use these photogrammetry apps with the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro? DJI released the SDK in April 2023, which allows you to do it. That’s another reason to use these drones for photogrammetry.

GPS and wind resistance

Another must-have feature for a drone in this space is a GPS module.

First, your drone must fly to waypoints where it will take the photos to model the 2D or 3D image. Waypoints are geographic coordinates only reachable by your drone when it has GPS information.

On the other hand, your drone must have self-stabilization aids to stay still while taking the shots, even more so if it has an electronic shutter.

The only way your drone will maintain its position is with the help of the GPS module, which constantly calculates the drone’s location for it to be still at a point.

Also, the drone must have at least level 5 wind resistance, which helps the drone maintain its stability.

Battery life

Mapping and photogrammetry missions take approximately 20 minutes to an hour. But finding a drone with an hour of flying time is tricky.

All drones on our list are more than capable of these applications, as the Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0 has a flight time of at least 30 minutes.

Flying range

Lastly, your drone must fly along a long zone, so your drone must have a range of 10 km. That way, you guarantee the drone can cover distances without losing signal and, consequently, your work.

Best DJI drones for mapping and photogrammetry – Frequently asked questions

What is drone photogrammetry?

Drone photogrammetry involves taking several photos from a high altitude of a large zone. Specialized software merges those photos, creating a 2D or 3D map where you can obtain exact measurements.

This link has an article with a deeper, easy-to-understand explanation.

» MORE: What is Drone Photogrammetry? (Explained for Beginners)

What is cartography vs. topography?

Drone cartography is to overlap the photos taken to recreate a 2D and 3D map. It’s better known as mapping.

Drone topography is the same process but with the highest accuracy.

Here, you need the 1’’ camera sensor with 20 MP image quality and a three-axis gimbal, the minimum combo to get exact terrain recreation on the 2D or 3D map.

Do I have to register my DJI Mini 3 or Mini 3 Pro for photogrammetry?

Yes, you do if you want to use the DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro for photogrammetry as a drone for recognition missions.

However, you can’t use them for topographic applications like surveying, as they lack the 1’’ camera sensor.

Although these drones weigh less than 250 g with the standard battery, photogrammetry is a business. These drones enter into the FAR 107 consideration, so you must register them for this application.