DroneDeploy is one of the most powerful mapping platforms out there and it works with a lot of “Off the Shelf” drones available today.
But does it work with the Autel line of drones?
No, the DroneDeploy Flight app is not compatible with any Autel drone as of the writing of this article.
That being said, DroneDeploy has stated they plan on getting Autel drones on their list of compatible drones in the future.
Although the DroneDeploy Flight app does not support Autel drones, the images from the drone can still be used to create a map with the DroneDeploy photogrammetry software.
The native Autel flight app (Autel Explorer) has a built-in mapping software that is very easy to use, so quality maps can easily be created with the Autel drones and DroneDeploy.
Map Creation with Autel Drones
Since the Autel Explorer app provides the ability to create a flight path for proper image collection for orthomosaic map creation, it’s not much different than creating a map with the DroneDeploy Flight app.
The Explorer app includes all the same parameters as the DroneDeploy Flight app, and is just as easy to set up a flight path.
Autel Explorer App
The Autel Explorer app is a very powerful flight app that includes some premium features as well.
There are a few different options to create flight paths, either rectangular or polygon-shaped, as well as waypoint flight paths.
These different options give you the ability to create great-looking orthomosaic maps no matter what shape the area is that is being mapped.
The Autel Explorer app also includes other features like tracking abilities and oblique image collection, in case a 3D model is desired.
It is nice that Autel included so many features in this app and it makes the Autel EVO 2 an even more powerful tool.
1. Creating the Flight Path
This step can be done before you head into the field to fly. I like to set up the flight path in the comfort of the office before I head out into the field so I can be sure I have an internet connection.
This makes it easy to visualize where the boundaries of the map will be since the Autel Explorer app has a GoogleMap style map to create the flight path “on top of”.
2. Setting the Parameters
Once the area is set, the next step is to set the flight parameters. The altitude can be set here, and this is one of the main factors that determines the resolution of the map.
The overlap is another important parameter to set, and it includes the front and side overlap. The mapping software needs enough overlap to be able to tie the images together properly.
Flight speed is another parameter that is set during this step, and this determines the length of time it takes the drone to capture all the required images.
The altitude setting is an important one that impacts the resolution as well as the time it takes to fly the mission. The higher the altitude of the flight, the shorter the flight time.
Keep in mind that the higher the altitude, the lower the resolution of the map, so try to find a middle ground that keeps the flight to a reasonable length of time and the resolution high enough to create a quality map.
The best way to find the optimal settings is to try many different ones and see what works best.
The overlap is definitely one of the most important factors in producing a high-quality orthomosaic map. If the overlap is too low, the photo stitching software will have a hard time properly stitching the images together.
I have also noticed that too much overlap can cause issues with the stitching software as well, so try a few different settings to find the ones that work best.
I have found that about 75% front overlap and 65% side overlap usually creates a nice-looking orthomosaic map, but different drones might require different overlap settings to get the best results.
The speed is automatically set in the DroneDeploy flight app once the altitude and overlap settings have been selected.
The Autel Explorer app also sets the speed based on the altitude and overlap, but it can be adjusted to suit the needs of the mission.
I usually just go with the default setting that automatically populates based on the altitude and overlap settings, but I ensure it isn’t above 13mph or so.
If the speed is too high the images might be blurry, and this will definitely cause issues in the photo stitching software and the map will not come out very well.
3. DroneDeploy plus Explorer
To utilize the mapping engine of DroneDeploy with the image collection of the Autel Explorer app, you just need to create the desired flight path and “let it rip”.
The Autel Explorer app will upload the flight plan information to the EVO 2 drone, and it will take off and start flying along the path.
Once it is done, the drone will land and the images can be taken off the SD card and uploaded to DroneDeploy for processing.
4. Map Creation
Once the flight is complete, take the SD card out of the Autel EVO 2 and upload the images to DroneDeploy.
First, make a new project in DroneDeploy and then upload the images to that project. DroneDeploy will show where the images were taken and you can trim the mapped area however you like.
It will then start processing all the images into an orthomosaic map. This takes a little while to complete, and depending on the size of the mapped area it can take a few hours or so.
Once the map is complete, DroneDeploy will send an email stating the map has been processed and is available for view and download.
5. Final Product
This is the best part of the whole process, in my opinion. Seeing what I have created gives me a sense of accomplishment, especially when the map comes out looking good.
Sometimes the map isn’t great and the edges of certain objects might be a little jagged. To me, this means I get to try again and adjust some of the settings to see what works best.
That’s one of the nice parts of having a DroneDeploy account, I can get out there and try again, and it doesn’t cost anything more to create another map.
While DroneDeploy does not support the Autel EVO 2 Drone in their Flight app (yet), great maps can still be created using the Autel EVO 2 and DroneDeploy.
In my experience, the fact that DroneDeploy doesn’t support the Autel EVO 2 has not caused any issues and I have created many great-looking maps using the steps outlined above.
It would be nice if DroneDeploy supported Autel Drones, but it shouldn’t stop you from using the Autel EVO 2 to create maps with the DroneDeploy software.