Sina Jarahizadeh, Bahram Salehi

A Comparative Analysis of UAV Photogrammetric Software Performance for Forest 3D Modeling: A Case Study Using AgiSoft Photoscan, PIX4DMapper, and DJI Terra

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Analytical Chemistry

Three-dimensional (3D) modeling of trees has many applications in various areas, such as forest and urban planning, forest health monitoring, and carbon sequestration, to name a few. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) photogrammetry has recently emerged as a low cost, rapid, and accurate method for 3D modeling of urban and forest trees replacing the costly traditional methods such as plot measurements and surveying. There are numerous commercial and open-source software programs available, each processing UAV data differently to generate forest 3D modeling and photogrammetric products, including point clouds, Digital Surface Models (DSMs), Canopy Height Models (CHMs), and orthophotos in forest areas. The objective of this study is to compare the three widely-used commercial software packages, namely, AgiSoft Photoscan (Metashape) V 1.7.3, PIX4DMapper (Pix4D) V 4.4.12, and DJI Terra V 3.7.6 for processing UAV data over forest areas from three perspectives: point cloud density and reconstruction quality, computational time, DSM assessment for height accuracy (z) and ability of tree detection on DSM. Three datasets, captured by UAVs on the same day at three different flight altitudes, were used in this study. The first, second, and third datasets were collected at altitudes of 60 m, 100 m, and 120 m, respectively over a forested area in Tully, New York. While the first and third datasets were taken horizontally, the second dataset was taken 20 degrees off-nadir to investigate the impact of oblique images. Results show that Pix4D and AgiSoft generate 2.5 times denser point clouds than DJI Terra. However, reconstruction quality evaluation using the Iterative Closest Point method (ICP) shows DJI Terra has fewer gaps in the point cloud and performed better than AgiSoft and Pix4D in generating a point cloud of trees, power lines and poles despite producing a fewer number of points. In other words, the outperformance in key points detection and an improved matching algorithm are key factors in generating improved final products. The computational time comparison demonstrates that the processing time for AgiSoft and DJI Terra is roughly half that of Pix4D. Furthermore, DSM elevation profiles demonstrate that the estimated height variations between the three software range from 0.5 m to 2.5 m. DJI Terra’s estimated heights are generally greater than those of AgiSoft and Pix4D. Furthermore, DJI Terra outperforms AgiSoft and Pix4D for modeling the height contour of trees, buildings, and power lines and poles, followed by AgiSoft and Pix4D. Finally, in terms of the ability of tree detection, DJI Terra outperforms AgiSoft and Pix4D in generating a comprehensive DSM as a result of fewer gaps in the point cloud. Consequently, it stands out as the preferred choice for tree detection applications. The results of this paper can help 3D model users to have confidence in the reliability of the generated 3D models by comprehending the accuracy of the employed software.

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