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Is the X-Star Premium a suitable drone for aerial imagery/orthomosaic maps/GIS?

droneman123

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I've done a ton of research on drones and I have narrowed down my choices to the DJI Phantom 3 Professional, any one of the DJI Phantom 4 models, and the X-Star Premium. I am currently leaning towards the X-Star Premium because of: Price, really good reviews and customer service, the ability to change out the camera, and seemingly few software/update problems. Concerning customer service: I emailed Autel yesterday with some questions about the X-Star Premium and I had a response within 10 minutes, so that was pretty impressive.

Anyways, does anyone have experience with using the X-Star Premium as a drone for GIS purposes? I intend on using it to create orthomosaic maps and contour lines for specific areas. Does the Starlink app provide good enough waypoint and camera automation in order to snap photos that can be stitched together into aerial maps? I'm planning on using software like DroneDeploy or PrecisionHawk/PrecisionMapper for this.

Thanks.
 

Agustine

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Simple answer is no, it is not plug and play like DJI. If you are hoping for better cameras you might have a long wait as Autel is not known to crank out products like DJI. If you want to do a lot of manual steps then yes it can but I see no mapping software coming out for the X-star anytime soon that will make your job easier.
I know people that do it all manually with a Yuneec Typhoon 4K which does not record any waypoint info in the pictures but it is a long process.
 

droneman123

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Simple answer is no, it is not plug and play like DJI. If you are hoping for better cameras you might have a long wait as Autel is not known to crank out products like DJI. If you want to do a lot of manual steps then yes it can but I see no mapping software coming out for the X-star anytime soon that will make your job easier.
I know people that do it all manually with a Yuneec Typhoon 4K which does not record any waypoint info in the pictures but it is a long process.

Thanks for the response. The Autel is compatible with a lot of the online cloud GIS services (but so are a good number of other drones so not sure if this says much). An upgradable camera isn't a big issue for me (but it could be a nice thing to eventually have), it's more of the automation part that I'm looking for.

So the Starlink app has waypoint capabilities but no automatic camera picture taking abilities?
 

Agustine

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Nope not yet. It does have time laps and I have used that for some 3D mapping but really never played around to much with it. I use this video as reference and it works very well on the x-star.

 

droneman123

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That's really cool, thanks for that. That 3D map that you made is really detailed (!), that definitely could be useful
 

Agustine

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Thanks
I think it was DroneDeploy people were asking them to get involved with the (SDK) Software Developers Kit that Autel is supposed release after this firmware becomes final. I never followed that up but that would be nice to have them get on board.
 

droneman123

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Yes, that would be very awesome. If that happens, an Autel would 100% be useful for me.

I agree with one of the comments on that thread... DroneDeploy shouldn't chain themselves to just one drone manufacturer. You *can* still use their services with any drone apparently, but you can only automate a DJI drone with their app right now.
 

Delta Blue

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I have been asked to take a roof inspection test by a company that pays drone pilots to do so, and only one of the four flight patterns required using an autonomous map program such as Drone Deploy. When I inquired back to ask if I could take that test manually because my X-Star would not run Drone Deploy they replied that manual flying for that pattern was preferred anyway in order to make that map.
 

arto.inetco

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I fly both the P4P and the Autel for work. We have had issues with DJI Ground Station Pro flaking out after the June firmware upgrade. No mapping software for the XSP, and no SDK, and no response from Autel since CES in January on the SDK is extremely frustrating. Tim at Autel told me in March 2017 they released it to top tier folks..and look how many programs we have available...zero I wish they would release the SDK to everyone who wants it.

We will be testing out new mappers for our P4P in September, there are no less than 9 available...Altizure, Drone Deploy, Pix4D, PrecisionMapper, UgCS, are a few we will test. Ive been making OBJ models with PrecisionMapper over the weekend... very fast and good quality. Free evaluation for one month.

An issue weve been having in pretesting mapping apps is that most DJI mappers need the latest Go4 app installed, (I think only UgCS runs completely outside of DJI Go4 and only on Android)....so if Go4 is not the latest, that needs an update..then there is a cascade effect on everything that needs Go4 and then there is the firmware on the byrd, and/or firmware on the RC, or firmware on the battery, or the mapping app itself, or the IOS or Android needs an update, its a vicious cycle of updates. It got so bad last week that I was on site and the needed a firmware upgrade, direct from internet to the dji drone, and I had just updated the app the day before. With a client watching, I could not sit there for an hour and fuss with the drone firmware update, I packed the dji p4p back in the case, got out my orange pumpkin with old (March 2017) firmware and flew the mission with timelapse and manually running fence rows. So while DJI P4P has a slightly better camera and better handling characteristics, the constant barrage (every week) of dji updates, dependencies, and firmware patches are keeping us from putting it in the air when we get on site. You have to test it fully the day before you head out, and then its still 50/50 that you wont be out of date on something the next day. Its crazy.

On one end we have Autel with no apps besides Starlink, and then we have DJI which has almost a dozen flight apps that may or may not work on any particular day when we get on site.
 

droneman123

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I fly both the P4P and the Autel for work. We have had issues with DJI Ground Station Pro flaking out after the June firmware upgrade. No mapping software for the XSP, and no SDK, and no response from Autel since CES in January on the SDK is extremely frustrating. Tim at Autel told me in March 2017 they released it to top tier folks..and look how many programs we have available...zero I wish they would release the SDK to everyone who wants it.

We will be testing out new mappers for our P4P in September, there are no less than 9 available...Altizure, Drone Deploy, Pix4D, PrecisionMapper, UgCS, are a few we will test. Ive been making OBJ models with PrecisionMapper over the weekend... very fast and good quality. Free evaluation for one month.

An issue weve been having in pretesting mapping apps is that most DJI mappers need the latest Go4 app installed, (I think only UgCS runs completely outside of DJI Go4 and only on Android)....so if Go4 is not the latest, that needs an update..then there is a cascade effect on everything that needs Go4 and then there is the firmware on the byrd, and/or firmware on the RC, or firmware on the battery, or the mapping app itself, or the IOS or Android needs an update, its a vicious cycle of updates. It got so bad last week that I was on site and the needed a firmware upgrade, direct from internet to the dji drone, and I had just updated the app the day before. With a client watching, I could not sit there for an hour and fuss with the drone firmware update, I packed the dji p4p back in the case, got out my orange pumpkin with old (March 2017) firmware and flew the mission with timelapse and manually running fence rows. So while DJI P4P has a slightly better camera and better handling characteristics, the constant barrage (every week) of dji updates, dependencies, and firmware patches are keeping us from putting it in the air when we get on site. You have to test it fully the day before you head out, and then its still 50/50 that you wont be out of date on something the next day. Its crazy.

On one end we have Autel with no apps besides Starlink, and then we have DJI which has almost a dozen flight apps that may or may not work on any particular day when we get on site.

Thanks for all of that, you hit the nail on the head. Exactly what I'm worried about with the DJIs. I wish that Autel would open up their SDK because it would make my decision a lot easier.

Why I might go with an Autel:
1. Ability to change out cameras (I'm thinking of getting an infrared camera too)
2. Very few complaints about them, can't find hardly anything when it comes to complaints about firmware updates, huge plus in my book
3. Really good customer service, I've emailed them questions and have gotten responses back in a few minutes
4. Price (not my top priority but hey it's pretty reasonably priced)
5. It captures good quality geotagged images

Downsides:
1. No object avoidance sensors (ughh, this might be a deal breaker, maybe just fly really carefully?)
2. Lack of outside software because SDK hasn't been opened up
Only two downsides that I can think of. Number one makes it a little bit scarier to fly in places that have power lines, etc. and number two makes it a bit more complicated to make ortho maps (not impossible though, as you well know I'm sure). I will probably only be mapping small(ish) areas so this might not be a big deal for me.

The P4 and the P4P have obstacle avoidance sensors, that's the main attraction for me
 

Agustine

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The SDK will not be released until the new firmware becomes final. Autel has said this many times on their facebook page.
 

droneman123

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The SDK will not be released until the new firmware becomes final. Autel has said this many times on their facebook page.

Any estimate on when that might happen? Because I might get an autel if it's somewhat soon. Just joined their FB page so haven't seen those posts.
 

arto.inetco

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Thanks for all of that, you hit the nail on the head. Exactly what I'm worried about with the DJIs. I wish that Autel would open up their SDK because it would make my decision a lot easier.

Why I might go with an Autel:
1. Ability to change out cameras (I'm thinking of getting an infrared camera too)
2. Very few complaints about them, can't find hardly anything when it comes to complaints about firmware updates, huge plus in my book
3. Really good customer service, I've emailed them questions and have gotten responses back in a few minutes
4. Price (not my top priority but hey it's pretty reasonably priced)
5. It captures good quality geotagged images

Downsides:
1. No object avoidance sensors (ughh, this might be a deal breaker, maybe just fly really carefully?)
2. Lack of outside software because SDK hasn't been opened up
Only two downsides that I can think of. Number one makes it a little bit scarier to fly in places that have power lines, etc. and number two makes it a bit more complicated to make ortho maps (not impossible though, as you well know I'm sure). I will probably only be mapping small(ish) areas so this might not be a big deal for me.

The P4 and the P4P have obstacle avoidance sensors, that's the main attraction for me


AO: the obstacle avoidance (OA) will not pick up small thin lines like phone wires or powerlines. Its more for buildings and hard surfaces. OA will not even pick up tree branches if they are too thin. We fly landfills and open fields mostly, but we do have powerlines and cell towers on site...I have flown over them. If your flying in powerline areas, I would say the both the Autel and DJI get the same amount of "Magnetic Interference" warnings near those.

Here are some other pros and cons not mentioned yet:
Autel: The orange color is GREAT to spot 1700 ft out - DJI white disappears against the sky after 1000 ft
Autel: The hardshell Case is GREAT, things fit nice- DJI the styrofoam case SUCKS, and the camera rubs against the controller.
Autel batteries are $80-$100, up to 6 extra fit in case - DJI batteries are $150, only 2 extra fit in case, under a styrofoam arm.
Autel seems to work great with Android - DJI works great with IOS
Autel Controller has a screen with vitals (heading, battery life, signal strength,etc) - DJI info is all on your phone or tablet.
and when you get video interference and your iphone or tablet GO COMPLETELY BLANK....the last thing you have on DJI is your RTH button. Which has failed us, twice. On Autel, weve lost signal and screen and were
able to bring the drone back. If you fly very far (2000+ft), think of what you would do without your screen.
The Autel Controller has buttons for start up, take off, RTH, and pause....these are VERY nice to use. There is comfort in the startup procedure. On DJI, everything is on your screen. Even on a tablet, the buttons are close and I dislike taking my hand off the controller to try to touch a button on the screen...and the GLARE...ugh. you have to get a sunshade for either one if your flying in nice weather. Clients always want to look over your shoulder and see their site.

Autel has promised new cameras but delivered nothing. I dont think they even have a booth at Interdrone this week. So, what is the use of an interchangeable Gimble without anything to change to? Ive talked to the FLIR Reps about the Flir Duo, and they say Autel is close to releasing it. the downside is the Flir duo has 160x120 resolution...its no Vue Pro...so, is a sucky Flir better than no Flir?

For a first commercial drone, either the DJI or the Autel will suffice. A fair comparison on features and price point would be the P3Pro and the XSP. I went with Autel initially cause I liked the Starlink app better than the Go4App, and then I was able to get the P4P through work. For starters, you wont go wrong with either one, but I think you would LIKE the Autel better to fly and take pictures/video montages, but you would LOVE the DJI P3Pro or P4(P) better for actual mapping such as orthoimagery (shp, kml) and Pointcloud (ply las stl) and 3d Modeling (Obj). If you get the DJI, there is a free program called RAPID DJI that will do your DEM and GEOTiffs for free, up to 150 pictures.

Note: Our shop is actually looking at the Hubsan 501A as a field recon drone for district staff. Its $300, range up to 750ft, and 1080p camera...its a step down from the autel or dji phantoms, but its SPARK size small and for recon, it may suffice. The Autel and DJI are fairly large cases, they take up a whole seat in a car.
The Hubsan 507A $99, may become our trainer. Now, all our pilots start out on plastic JJRC models H31 and X6 and get at least a dozen crashes out of their system.

Good Luck.
 

droneman123

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AO: the obstacle avoidance (OA) will not pick up small thin lines like phone wires or powerlines. Its more for buildings and hard surfaces. OA will not even pick up tree branches if they are too thin. We fly landfills and open fields mostly, but we do have powerlines and cell towers on site...I have flown over them. If your flying in powerline areas, I would say the both the Autel and DJI get the same amount of "Magnetic Interference" warnings near those.

Here are some other pros and cons not mentioned yet:
Autel: The orange color is GREAT to spot 1700 ft out - DJI white disappears against the sky after 1000 ft
Autel: The hardshell Case is GREAT, things fit nice- DJI the styrofoam case SUCKS, and the camera rubs against the controller.
Autel batteries are $80-$100, up to 6 extra fit in case - DJI batteries are $150, only 2 extra fit in case, under a styrofoam arm.
Autel seems to work great with Android - DJI works great with IOS
Autel Controller has a screen with vitals (heading, battery life, signal strength,etc) - DJI info is all on your phone or tablet.
and when you get video interference and your iphone or tablet GO COMPLETELY BLANK....the last thing you have on DJI is your RTH button. Which has failed us, twice. On Autel, weve lost signal and screen and were
able to bring the drone back. If you fly very far (2000+ft), think of what you would do without your screen.
The Autel Controller has buttons for start up, take off, RTH, and pause....these are VERY nice to use. There is comfort in the startup procedure. On DJI, everything is on your screen. Even on a tablet, the buttons are close and I dislike taking my hand off the controller to try to touch a button on the screen...and the GLARE...ugh. you have to get a sunshade for either one if your flying in nice weather. Clients always want to look over your shoulder and see their site.

Autel has promised new cameras but delivered nothing. I dont think they even have a booth at Interdrone this week. So, what is the use of an interchangeable Gimble without anything to change to? Ive talked to the FLIR Reps about the Flir Duo, and they say Autel is close to releasing it. the downside is the Flir duo has 160x120 resolution...its no Vue Pro...so, is a sucky Flir better than no Flir?

For a first commercial drone, either the DJI or the Autel will suffice. A fair comparison on features and price point would be the P3Pro and the XSP. I went with Autel initially cause I liked the Starlink app better than the Go4App, and then I was able to get the P4P through work. For starters, you wont go wrong with either one, but I think you would LIKE the Autel better to fly and take pictures/video montages, but you would LOVE the DJI P3Pro or P4(P) better for actual mapping such as orthoimagery (shp, kml) and Pointcloud (ply las stl) and 3d Modeling (Obj). If you get the DJI, there is a free program called RAPID DJI that will do your DEM and GEOTiffs for free, up to 150 pictures.

Note: Our shop is actually looking at the Hubsan 501A as a field recon drone for district staff. Its $300, range up to 750ft, and 1080p camera...its a step down from the autel or dji phantoms, but its SPARK size small and for recon, it may suffice. The Autel and DJI are fairly large cases, they take up a whole seat in a car.
The Hubsan 507A $99, may become our trainer. Now, all our pilots start out on plastic JJRC models H31 and X6 and get at least a dozen crashes out of their system.

Good Luck.

Thanks for this in depth post, I really needed this. That's good that you clarified what object avoidance actually does.

"For starters, you wont go wrong with either one, but I think you would LIKE the Autel better to fly and take pictures/video montages, but you would LOVE the DJI P3Pro or P4(P) better for actual mapping such as orthoimagery (shp, kml) and Pointcloud (ply las stl) and 3d Modeling (Obj). If you get the DJI, there is a free program called RAPID DJI that will do your DEM and GEOTiffs for free, up to 150 pictures."

This is what is making this decision so difficult... But at least I have it down to these three now.

Edit: RAPID – New Release of the Free Imaging Processing Application, August 31, 2017 | Drone Mapper Imagery Processing
The RAPID software now works with any drone! Just announced on August 31. Since my mapping projects are probably going to be small at first, this might make an Autel that much more useful...
 
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PilotChris

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I fly both the P4P and the Autel for work. We have had issues with DJI Ground Station Pro flaking out after the June firmware upgrade. No mapping software for the XSP, and no SDK, and no response from Autel since CES in January on the SDK is extremely frustrating. Tim at Autel told me in March 2017 they released it to top tier folks..and look how many programs we have available...zero I wish they would release the SDK to everyone who wants it.

We will be testing out new mappers for our P4P in September, there are no less than 9 available...Altizure, Drone Deploy, Pix4D, PrecisionMapper, UgCS, are a few we will test. Ive been making OBJ models with PrecisionMapper over the weekend... very fast and good quality. Free evaluation for one month.

An issue weve been having in pretesting mapping apps is that most DJI mappers need the latest Go4 app installed, (I think only UgCS runs completely outside of DJI Go4 and only on Android)....so if Go4 is not the latest, that needs an update..then there is a cascade effect on everything that needs Go4 and then there is the firmware on the byrd, and/or firmware on the RC, or firmware on the battery, or the mapping app itself, or the IOS or Android needs an update, its a vicious cycle of updates. It got so bad last week that I was on site and the needed a firmware upgrade, direct from internet to the dji drone, and I had just updated the app the day before. With a client watching, I could not sit there for an hour and fuss with the drone firmware update, I packed the dji p4p back in the case, got out my orange pumpkin with old (March 2017) firmware and flew the mission with timelapse and manually running fence rows. So while DJI P4P has a slightly better camera and better handling characteristics, the constant barrage (every week) of dji updates, dependencies, and firmware patches are keeping us from putting it in the air when we get on site. You have to test it fully the day before you head out, and then its still 50/50 that you wont be out of date on something the next day. Its crazy.

On one end we have Autel with no apps besides Starlink, and then we have DJI which has almost a dozen flight apps that may or may not work on any particular day when we get on site.


So are you able to use PrecisionMapper with your Autel? Looking at their support forum, it only supports DJI multi-rotors?
 

Tufargon

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I seen someone talking the other day about Dronemapper and it being compatible with almost any drone now. Has anyone actually tried it with the XSP?
 

droneman123

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So are you able to use PrecisionMapper with your Autel? Looking at their support forum, it only supports DJI multi-rotors?

It says on their website (on the bottom in the black stripe) that it works with data from all drones, including Autel. And then it says that you must provide images plus telemetry data (which I'm assuming is what is included as the metadata for each image). So my initial reaction is to say yeah it should work :)

PrecisionMapper | Drone & UAV Mapping Analytics
 

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