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Drones designed for a more professional environment are perfect for mapping. They have high-end features, such as a camera with optical zoom and immense software compatibility.
But then are non-enterprise drones like the DJI Mini 3 Pro with incredible specs. What about these drones? Can they perform in a mapping environment?
Well, the answer depends on the application.
DJI Mini 3 Pro is a capable drone for mapping if you understand its flaws. At the time, it doesn’t support SDK, so you need to find other ways to merge the shots for an accurate 3D photo. You will need to seek ways for the drone to follow the required route, taking the necessary pictures. And all of that depends on the pilot’s expertise.
We understand that even though not all are professional pilots, you may want to use this drone for mapping.
So keep reading. We will explain all you need to know about mapping with the DJI Mini 3 Pro. What you can expect and what you can’t.
Drone Mapping: minimum requirements #
For its price, most buyers think this drone is suitable for mapping. And indeed, it is.
As of the writing of this article, DJI hasn’t incorporated the SDK to run the apps necessary for a seamless mapping experience. However, DJI says this is just on the horizon.
But do you need those apps for mapping?
These apps do all the work, however, you will need to:
- Set up the mapping mission
- Selecting the location
- Set the boundaries where the drone is going to fly
- Set the points of interest
- Set the mapping takeoff location and starting point
You can configure things such as drone speed and altitude. Also, you can make a mapping mission preview to understand how the drone will perform.
However, these functions aren’t entirely necessary to carry out a mapping.
You can perform manual mapping in specific scenarios. We will explain how later in this article.
Now, let’s understand what an SDK is. And what minimum requirements a drone must meet for mapping.
What is an SDK? #
An SDK is a firmware upgrade where DJI frees the drone in the software section. This action allows us to use third-party apps, that work perfectly with our drone.
Once DJI releases the SDK for the DJI Mini 3 Pro, we will be able to install DroneDeploy or any other mapping app on our mobile device. That way this drone will be a guarantee when mapping.
Camera section #
The absolute minimum requirement for a drone for mapping is in the camera section. It needs to be a camera with at least 12Mp effective pixels.
The Mini 3 Pro has a 1/1.3-inch CMOS camera sensor with 48Mp effective pixels. This drone is more than suitable for mapping, as we will cover later in this article.
This camera hardware will guarantee high-quality pictures at max altitudes of 100m or 328ft.
Battery life #
Most enterprise drones for mapping last 30 minutes.
DJI Mini 3 Pro lasts up to 34 minutes in windless conditions, with the standard battery and 47 minutes with the Plus battery. So it covers the battery time minimum requirement.
» MORE: Can DJI Air 2S Be Used for Mapping? (Explained)
Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) #
Although the SDK is still unavailable on this drone, it will get this upgrade sooner or later, per DJI.
The mapping apps need the drone to be spatially oriented, so you can command it through a path of specific coordinates where it takes the shots.
The Mini 3 Pro has a GPS receiver that ensures that the mapping apps work, once they are available.
So, the Mini 3 Pro satisfies the requirements to be a mapping drone.
What software can I currently use with the Mini 3 Pro? #
For mapping vast and complex terrains full of detail, you will need an app.
At the time, the Mini 3 Pro isn’t compatible with mapping apps such as DJI Pilot, Dronelink, DroneDeploy, DH Mobile, or DJI GSP PRO.
So, you won’t be able to divide the mapping zone into a specific route in which the drone will fly automatically.
However, you can do manual mapping, then process the images with a PC or laptop software.
For most users, PIX4D is the best cloud software for its price.
DJI Mini 3 Pro isn’t an enterprise drone made for mapping, so this software is the best option. You can customize the features you need, avoiding high-ticket features you don’t need.
Also, you can set up a 15-day free trial to check which features satisfy your needs.
Agisoft Metashape and DroneDeploy are software for enterprise use. These also come in different packages, and they can be pricey.
Any of these three apps will do the job, as you only will use them to merge the photos you upload into a 3D view.
If you want a more in-depth description of each software and others you can use, look at this link.
» MORE: Best Drone Mapping Software
How do you do manual mapping? #
The crucial aspect here is to take pictures that overlap with precision. Then, one of the software above can model a 3D view with those pictures.
To take the pictures, you can fly the drone manually or use FocusTrack. Spotlight and POI are practical when you need to model buildings and constructions in general.
Let’s say you are tracking the progress of a building. Using POI, you can fix the drone in a circular movement around that building.
Using the lowest speed, you can take precise pictures at specific points and at every angle you need.
Once you have a complete set of pictures, upload them to the desktop software or its HTML version, and model the 3D photograph.
Of course, it will give you less accurate images as using manual flight controls isn’t as exact at taking pictures as an automated computerized system.
DJI Mini 3 Pro mapping recommendations #
We recommend using this drone for mapping only in small areas until DJI releases the SDK.
At the time, you can make the photogrammetry of the collected images, understanding it will be a completely manual process.
But until DJI releases the SDK, it’s not the best option for topography applications.
Does the Mini 3 Pro work for photogrammetry? #
Photogrammetry is a process where you input a collection of images of a location from different points and angles, and a computer returns a corrected 3D model or orthophoto.
Orthophotos are a must in mapping activities, as they are in scale, translating into accuracy while taking measurements from that image.
You now will have a 3D blueprint, where you can get longitudes to calculate perimeters, areas, and volumes with precision.
Thanks to the 48Mp 1/1.3-inch CMOS camera sensor, the Mini 3 Pro can take accurate photographs at 100m or 328ft from the ground.
This capability makes it a perfect non-enterprise drone for photogrammetry.
Does the Mini 3 Pro work for topography? #
However, for a topographic image, you would need the highest level of precision.
The drone must take pictures in exact previously calculated spots. Follow a predefined route where it will take shots with exact coordinates.
This is only achievable with the help of a mapping app.
For topography applications, it is not yet suitable.
Which scenarios should I use my Mini 3 Pro for mapping? #
Consider the altitude as a crucial factor. The Mini 3 Pro camera zoom is digital. This means every time you zoom in, the image quality decreases.
The higher the altitude, the more you will need to use the digital zoom in on specific areas, losing image quality.
And for mapping, imagery with a high pixel density permits accurate measurements for posterior calculations and analyses.
It is a lightweight device, so windy conditions affect it heavily. The aircraft will need to stabilize frequently, diminishing the battery life.
These two factors make this drone suitable for mapping small areas only, where it doesn’t need to go to higher altitudes where adverse wind conditions are.
So this drone is helpful for overviews of risk analyses, species identification, construction monitoring, and other mapping needs that don’t require massive detail.
Is DJI Mini 3 Pro useful for mapping? #
You can use the DJI Mini 3 Pro for mapping. But if you need laser-beam precision, you must use a mapping app.
For now, the final 3D modeling will lack exactitude, as you need to take the shots manually. It will depend on your piloting abilities. So, If you are a beginner or intermediate pilot, it’s better to wait for the SDK.
Will DJI release the SDK soon?
As this drone has become very popular, it will upgrade without any doubt. We will be able to use third-party apps to map with accuracy. But at the time, there is no Mini 3 Pro SDK release date by DJI.