Pix4D: High Powered Survey or Modeling Tool?

October 31, 2018 Jay Meszar

Processing surveying data is often a challenge for some firms due to the constant changes in some of their projects.  For instance, if a company is constantly measuring volumes of a stock pile, they could re-survey a site several times a month.  Using traditional survey methods, this could keep a crew tied up for long periods of time.  If the company invested in a drone and photogrammetry software like Pix4D, they could fly an area and have data back within a couple of hours.  Maybe you are a person looking to create a 3D model but only have limited resources to collect data.  If you used the same drone or a camera of any kind, a 3D model can also be generated using Pix4D.

So let us begin to analyze what Pix4D is good at.  Allowing users to take images and turn them into either a survey, mesh or calculate volumes.  Using the aerial imagery, users can draw in curb lines, centerlines, top of slope etc.   


My first reaction to seeing something like this was to question the location of each of the vertexes that are representing my curb line.  This can be overcome be verifying the location of each vertex in several images to the right.  By doing this the polylines can then be exported to a civil design software.  The line in the image below was exported as a DXF and then imported into Civil 3D and exploded where it resides as a 3D polyline.



Creating a 3D model of an object is even easier that creating a survey.  In this next example, I created a 3D model of a mural I found walking along a street in San Francisco.  The model was created by using the 4k video on my cell phone to slowly walk around the mural.  Of course, if this were a real project I would move slower and be sure to get all angles of the mural. Below is a link to the video that was taken from my phone.


By processing the data as a model I have the option to save out a mesh file in various formats (PLY, DXF, OBJ and FBX).  The data can then be imported into other softwares such as Inventor, 3Ds Max etc.

So the answer to the the question, is Pix4D a survey tool or a modeling tool, the answer is actually both.  While we are not actually modeling in the software, we are able to create a mesh to be used in the other softwares.  I encourage you to look into this software for all of your photogrammetry needs.  Remember, you don't need an expensive drone or ellaborate camera setup to use Pix4D and get great looking data.  Below is a completed mesh of the video taken from a regular cell phone.



About the Author

Jay Meszar

Sr. Reality Capture Applications Expert<br><br>Jay offers a broad industry overview that comes from years of in-the-field experience. Jay’s vast experience allows him to help organizations make the most of both Leica Geosystems and Autodesk solutions. He understands the overall workflow from point cloud collection to design presentation and helps teams ensure they’re working with the best tools for the job. His years of industry instruction allow him to educate teams efficiently while they improve their workflows.

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