Here’s the complete DJI Terra review? Read on to find out if DJI Terra is really worth it or not?
DJI TERRA: All In One Mapping Software Solution
DJI is the leading drone manufacturer around the world, and rightfully so. The drones they produce are some of the best quality drones ever produced, from fit, finish, polish, performance to features.
They really have it all, but even though they have the best drones capable of 3d mapping and photogrammetry, They didn’t really have software that would stitch it all together and make final 3d render, which would be fully navigable and observable.
People were using 3rd party companies’ software to achieve this, but they were using DJI drones. So, DJI finally decided to build a 3d mapping and photogrammetry software of their own called the DJI Terra, but it has a lot to live up to as the previous third-party software had several years of time to mature.
So, in this review I am going to be comparing DJI TERRA to the competition and seeing if the features it provides are actually up to standard, and whether or not DJI has managed to figure out the software part of 3d mapping or are really just the masters of hardware.
DJI Terra Reviewed
DJI Terra Requirements And Compatible Drones
The DJI Terra software requires a laptop to run, the process is quite simple, set the drones flight path and once it done put the SD card into the laptop for processing, but other competition have mobile apps which allow to access features through a phone, DJI at this point doesn’t have that in the DJI Terra software.
That said, if one person is going to carry a DJI Phantom drone, it’s not unreasonable to carry a laptop with him, just to check on the spot whether or not the data collected is correct and processable.
DJI Terra brings the same yet improved mission planning from the DJI ground station, along with map reconstruction and data analysis functions. These are DJI Terra specific features.
One other thing other than a laptop you will need for DJI’s Terra 3d modeling Software is the Phantom 4 drones. Yes, at this time, DJI has only made the Phantom 4 line of drones compatible with the Terra Software.
This is a strike against the software, especially since it doesn’t include enterprise drones like the Matrice and Inspire line of drones, The DJI Mavic 2 pro is also a highly capable drone with a much smaller form factor than the Phantom 4 but it’s not made compatible with the terra 3d modelling software.
They are DJI’s drones so maybe DJI knows something we don’t, about 3d mapping, but hopefully DJI increases the list of compatible drones soon.
The list of compatible drones is as follows.
- Phantom 4 Pro
- Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
- Phantom 4 Pro + V2.0
- Phantom 4
- Phantom 4 Advanced
- Phantom 4 RTK
DJI Terra: Mission planning
The DJI Terra Software allows you to pan your mapping survey using 3 distinct modes: waypoint, area and oblique. Each mode offers a different kind of accessibility. The different complexity setting each mode offers allows you to control the level of detail you want to get out of your survey, of course lesser detailed analysis means the drone can cover a larger area.
The 3 modes, waypoint, oblique and Area mode operate differently and are used to capture different levels of details.
The waypoint mode is quite simple, you just need to create a custom flightpath for your drone by selecting waypoints on the map. The Phantom 4 drones have obstacle avoidance and GPS positioning, So, they can do the rest pretty much themselves.
The area mode allows you to set the scope of the area using 3 waypoints, in this mode the software automatically generates a flightpath, using the GPS and its own obstacle avoidance system.
The last mode is Oblique mode, this is the most detailed mode, it works similar to the other 2 but during this process 5 separate and distinct flight paths are created to get the most accurate and detailed 3d mapping possible.
DJI Terra: Flight Execution
The flight execution is rather simple, since the DJI Terra software is operated locally through a laptop, All you need to do is connect the laptop to the controller and dial in the settings for either waypoint, oblique or area mode.
After that the drone will autonomously create a 3d map of the desired location. DJI Terra software shows you a preview of the images taken, this is by no means the actual construction of the final product, but it does indicate the quality and correctness of the work being performed.
Another great feature is that it shows the battery percentage of the drone, if the battery is low, the use can initiate return to home function, hot swap the battery and continuer mapping, This is quite a helpful feature as doing oblique mode mapping takes a lot of time and this is most likely to come in very handy during the 5 several trips the drone has to make.
DJI Terra: Data Processing
The data processing on the DJI Terra software happens locally, i.e. on a laptop. While most other competitors have cloud processing, which is much more convenient and you can just use that through the app. DJI terra requires you to plug your SD card into a laptop for 3d or 2d map generation.
DJI Terra offers 2 reconstruction options, 2d reconstruction and 3d reconstruction which are available in advanced and pro subscriptions respectively. Another issue you can face is the bottleneck provided by your individual hardware, the DJI terra software doesn’t do online processing. So, your laptop or Pc will be required to do most of the work.
DJI has made improvements to the system; they recently updated the software to make it 400% faster, which basically means it can not do the work of 4 days in 1 day, on the same machine.
The 2d Construction generates high resolution orthomosaic maps. These are very useful for taking accurate measurements for construction, agriculture and urban planning. Along with this you get the needed tools to calculate distance, area and volume for your desired purposes. You can do this by selecting points on the map to obtain accurate GPS coordinates.
The 3d model construction generates 3d models from aerial images, the 3d models are fully navigable, allowing you to closely inspect any feature on the map. Through DJI Terra 3d modeling software, you can view each image that was used for each section of the 3d model.
If the 2d model or the 3d model is not up to standards, you can always send your drone for a second round to get more images and create a higher detailed map.
DJI terra has 3 construction settings, Field, urban and fruit tree scenario all of these are pretty self-explanatory, and meant to be used in the terrain with the respective features.
The only disappointing part of the Terra software is that it does not have other features that the competition has other than the model reconstruction and measurements, but it does have the ability to export for editing and other purposes using the OBJ file format.
DJI Terra VS Pix4D Vs DroneDeploy: Quick Comparison
|DJI Terra (Pro)||Pix4D||DroneDeploy (Business)|
|Compatibility||DJI Phantom 4 Series||Long list of DJI, Parrot, and Yuneec drones||DJI Inspire, Mavic, Matrice, Phantom lines, Zenmuse cameras|
|Planning||Done via DJI Terra desktop app||Done via Pix4Dcapture mobile app||Done via DroneDeploy mobile app|
|Execution||Real-time orthomap||Real-time preview of map with quality indicators||Real-time Live Map|
Distance, area, and volume measurements
|Distance, area, and volume measurements|
|Distance, area, volume, slope measurements|
Automated insights (counters, stockpile measurements, etc.)
|Output types||Orthomosaic maps|
Digital elevation models
Digital surface models
The DJI Terra is cheaper but that’s doesn’t excuse how many features it lacks
Final thoughts: Is the DJI Terra Worth It?
Right now, in its current state, the DJI Terra 3d modelling software doesn’t seem up to par with the industry leaders, however its entry into the market does seem to indicate that DJI will continue to innovate and bring more features to it. As of right now, I can’t really recommend it and most 3d mapping professionals would give the same opinion on it. Hopefully in a year or two we can revisit the software.