5 Best Laptops for Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry

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What are the best laptops for drone mapping and photogrammetry? Ideally, drone mapping and photogrammetry is a process that is used to make maps of zones for several verticals such as farming, mining, remote sensing, and more.

Drone mapping and photogrammetry involves special art for which you will need some special skills, knowledge, and, of courses, some technical help from a laptop.

However, do not think that drone mapping is something that everyone with a laptop can do.

The laptop, however, should come with features and specs that will blend the science behind it with the art seamlessly.

Ideally, drone mapping and photogrammetry is done by professionals who specialize in drone operation. Therefore, you may feel that it can be done with any laptop.

Partly true as it may be, you will be better off if you have a device that comes with an impressive set of hardware components.

A standard or cheap system will not be able to do the job for you. The good news is that there are lots of good laptops out there for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

The bad news is that you will need to spend a lot of time researching them.

The best news is that with an article like this one it will be easy for you to choose the best laptop for your drone mapping and photogrammetry needs.

Want some more help? Go through the buying guide as well to make the right decision.

Laptops for Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry – Price

How Laptops Help in Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry and Its Uses?

A laptop helps in drone mapping and photogrammetry in more than one.

Firstly, it helps in obtaining the exact height of the terrain or an object by extracting the X and Y coordinates of each through the drone camera.

This, in turn, helps in creating a digital model of the terrain or object very quickly with reference to the ground plane.

It also helps in creating 3D digital models. You can create two such models of the same terrain with the photographs taken by the drone at different time intervals. These high-quality models help in finding the difference in the heights.

With the help of specialized tools, the laptop will also help in creating digital terrain models of areas that are under water as well as in finding the point density by adjusting the color difference that indicates the changes in weather conditions.

All the images and models of a terrain can be linked into an orthophoto mosaic to make it look seamless. It is then scaled up and imported in GIS or CAD and used as a backdrop for drone mapping.

Drone mapping is used across several industries that includes agriculture, construction, architecture, mining, land surveying, and public safety.

The bottom line is that drone mapping and photogrammetry is better than simple aerial photography.

However, its efficacy, speed, safety, and accuracy are enhanced by using a proper laptop, preferably any one of these five.

Minimum & Recommended System Requirements for Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry

The bare minimum system requirement for drone mapping and photogrammetry is an Intel Core i5 processor, preferably from the latest generation and a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz.

As for the graphics any integrated graphics chip of Intel HD 4000 and above or an OpenGL 3.2 compatible dedicated graphics card is required. It should also come with 4 GB of RAM and 10 GB of free hard drive space and at least a 12-inch screen.

For higher and more complex projects which involve as many as 2000 images at 14 MP or more will need higher RAM, larger and better storage, powerful processor, and efficient graphics card than what is mentioned above.

You will have your money’s worth if you follow the recommended system requirements as below to make your laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry futureproof.

Minimum system requirements: 7th generation Intel Quad Core i7 processor or higher| 16 GB of RAM | 512 GB SSD storage| Dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD equivalent graphics card | 15 inches screen or bigger | 1920 x 1080 pixels screen resolution

Recommended system requirements: 9th generation Intel Core i7 or higher processor| 16 GB of RAM or higher | 512 GB SSD or larger | Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 or higher dedicated graphics card | 16 inches screen or bigger | 1920 x 1080 pixels or higher screen resolution 

5 Best Laptops for Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry:

1. Asus ROG Strix Scar G532LWS – Best Overall

Asus ROG Strix Scar G532LWS
 

Bottom Line: This laptop is powered with 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX Super graphics card, adequate amount of RAM and a fast SSD storage which ensures that you get the best overall performance when you use it for drone mapping and photogrammetry jobs.

Key Features 

  • Screen: 15.6 inches
  • Storage: 1 TB PCIe SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • Processor: 10th generation Intel Core i7 10875H
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super
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Pros 

  • The display of the laptop is stunning and comes with a narrow bezel on three sides.
  • The per-key RGB lighting on the keyboard looks awesome.
  • The cooling system and thermal management is quite good.

Cons 

  • The system is quite heavy, weighing more than 5 pounds.
  • The loud fans can be annoying.
  • There is no optical drive in the system.

This machine can also be considered as one of the best laptops for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

It not only comes with one of the best sets of hardware components but also with a reliable and stable software to back up its performance while making maps.

A bit heavy, this model comes with a stunning 15.6-inch display and the narrow bezel on its three sides that provides more real estate to allow you to work in a much better way on your maps.

The full HD resolution of this IPS display ensures a better imagery at 240 Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time, ensuring a seamless viewing pleasure.

The 8 GB dedicated GDDR6 Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card comes with ROG Boost at a base speed of 1140 MHz and a high of 1380 MHz that ensures a better and faster image production.

The 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor is the latest and powerful enough to process data at a high speed of 5.1 GHz.

It supports the DDR4 SDRAM of 3200 MHz bandwidth and the huge and fast PCIe SSD storage along with the Windows 10 Home operating system, which itself comes with a lot of useful features to help in drone mapping and photogrammetry.

The system stays substantially cool when used for a long time, thanks to the ROG Intelligent Cooling Thermal system. It comes with a Thermal Grizzly Liquid Metal compound to ensure better thermal management.

The system looks awesome with its per-key RGB backlit keyboard and the ROG Aura Sync System with light bar. Though there is no separate numeric keypad, the trackpad acts as one making it easy for entering data.

As for the connectivity options, the device supports Gigabyte+ wi-fi 6 network communication with Range Boost as well as Bluetooth 5.0 support.

The types of the ports in the system include one RJ 45 jack, one HDMI 2.0B port, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C port with DisplayPort 1.4, three USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and an audio jack.

2. Asus ROG Scar III – Runner Up

Asus ROG Scar III

Bottom Line: This laptop in the list comes with an equally good dedicated graphics chip as the above laptop and SSD storage but it is the 9th generation processor that makes it the second best for drone mapping and photogrammetry in spite of a much higher amount of RAM and a larger screen. 

Key Features 

  • Screen: 17.3 inches
  • Storage: 1 TB NVMe SSD
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • Processor: 9th generation Intel Core i7 9750H
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070

Pros 

  • The storage of the system is huge and fast.
  • The keyboard comes with a separate numeric keypad.
  • The screen is very large and comes with a thin bezel and high refresh rate.

Cons 

  • The system is quite heavy, weighing more than 6 pounds.
  • The fan noise is loud at times.
  • The trackpad is shifted to the left which may cause inconvenience while typing.

You will get everything in this laptop that you need for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

This gaming laptop comes with the latest 9th generation Intel Core i7 9750H processor which is powerful enough with its six cores, 12 MB cache, 45W capacity and an operating speed ranging up to 4.5 GHz.

It provides adequate support to the 2666 MHz DDR4 RAM and the huge NVMe SSD storage.

The dedicated GDDR6 Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card of the laptop comes with 8 GB memory to produce images at a faster rate and display them on the large screen that comes with thin bezel, full HD resolution, 240 Hz refresh rate, and 3ms response time.

The Windows 10 Home operating system comes with a 64-bit architecture that makes it all the more useful.

The keyboard of this laptop is comfortable to type on with its decent key travel and it looks gorgeous with its Asus Aura Sync customizable RGB lighting.

You can use the system for a long time but it will stay substantially cool due to the ROG Intelligent Cooling thermal system. It comes with two 12-volt fans with adjustable fan modes and comes with an anti-dust technology.

This laptop, which can be used for some serious content creation and gaming apart from drone mapping and photogrammetry, comes with adequate ports and slots that includes one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C port, three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A ports, one HDMI 2.0B port, one RJ 45 jack and a headphone and microphone combo jack.

As for the connectivity options, the system supports wireless 802.11 AC connectivity as well as Bluetooth 5 technology. Check out Asus ROG Strix Scar III Review.

3. Razor Blade 15 Base – Value for Money

Razor Blade 15 Base
 

Bottom Line: A higher value for money is offered by this laptop with its fairly high level of performance for drone mapping and photogrammetry jobs taking the price to performance ratio into account. The specs and features of this laptop are equally good as the others in this list making it no mean performer.

Key Features 

  • Screen: 15.6 inches
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • Processor: 10th generation Intel Core i7 10750H
  • OS: Windows 10
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max Q design

Pros 

  • The keyboard is nice and is backlit to allow typing in the dark.
  • There are lots of ports in the system.
  • The screen comes with a thin bezel and a high refresh rate.

Cons 

  • The system is quite heavy, weighing nearly 9 pounds.
  • There is no optical drive in the system.
  • The keyboard does not have a separate number keypad.

This is one of the best laptops that you can use for drone mapping and photogrammetry as well as for other complex computational tasks such as 3D modeling and more.

It is equipped with more power offered by the 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor.

The six cores and 16 threads, the base and maximum Turbo speed of 2.6 GHz and 5.0 GHz respectively, and its 12 MB L3 cache promises the ultimate level of performance by the laptop.

The dedicated Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card in this system comes with Max Q design and the power of it is even more enhanced by the Nvidia Turing GPU architecture.

This helps it to render images of cinematic quality at a much faster rate on the screen.

The screen of this system is of exceptional quality that not only comes with a narrow bezel but also with full HD resolution, a high refresh rate of 144 Hz, and up to 100% s-RGB color support.

All these features of the screen will enable you to see sharper and clearer images with more details during drone mapping and photogrammetry.

The CNC aluminum unibody frame makes this system extremely durable to use outdoors with the smallest footprint possible due to its compact design.

You will find that the design of this unit makes it ready to connect with its wi-fi 6 support, Gigabit Ethernet, USB Type A and Type C ports, and HDMI ports.

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You can even customize the color of the backlights of the keyboard using Razer Chroma. The best part is that the system design allows you to expand the memory.

There is also an open M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slot that will allow you to upgrade the storage of the laptop according to your need. Check out Razer Blade 15 Base Review.

4. Microsoft Surface Book 2 – Better Usability in Different Modes

Sale
Microsoft Surface Book 2
 

Bottom Line: Just as the specs of this laptop assure a high level of performance for drone mapping and photogrammetry jobs, the versatile design of this device makes it even more apt for such jobs. This design of it offers much better usability in as many as four different modes due to the detachable touchscreen.

Key Features 

  • Screen: 15 inches
  • Storage: 512 GB
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Processor: Intel Quad Core i7
  • OS: Windows 10 Professional
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

Pros 

  • The display is good and comes with a touch feature.
  • The camera at the front and rear are of high quality.
  • The versatile system can be used in four different modes.

Cons 

  • There is no separate number pad in the keyboard.
  • The system sometimes fails to recognize the main graphics card and revert to the less powerful Intel graphics card.
  • The battery life drains out fast even during moderate usage under low settings.

With the latest 8th generation Intel Quad Core i7 processor, this laptop is powerful enough to meet all the needs for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

It also has a fast storage to ensure speedier boot up of the system and an adequate amount of RAM to support multitasking.

The performance of the system is further enhanced by the dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics card belonging to the GTX series that features 6 GB of GDDR5 graphics memory.

All these features and hardware specs make this system four times more powerful than its previous models.

Adding to the performance of this laptop is the large enough and vibrant display that comes with PixelSense technology.

The design of this system allows you to use it in four versatile modes.

You can use this sleek and portable powerhouse as a laptop to run and make the best use of the complex app and software programs to complete the most demanding tasks on it most easily.

The large and responsive trackpad, the comfy keyboard, and the touchscreen makes it all the more productive and easier for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

You can detach the stunning display to use it in the tablet mode and take it anywhere.

Add to that, you can fold the screen to use it in studio mode and draw, sketch, and make adjustments on the images directly on the screen by using the Surface Pen most easily and efficiently due to the natural position.

In the view mode, you can share the contents of the screen with others during a presentation. All you have to do is detach the screen by pushing a button, turn it, and reattach it.

The Windows 10 Professional operating system allows easy navigation and operation with the interactive Cortana by using voice commands. Check out Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review.

5. Apple MacBook Pro – Larger and Better Retina Display

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Apple MacBook Pro
 

Bottom Line: This laptop will offer a better visual pleasure with a much clearer and sharper image with vivid colors, a necessity for drone mapping and photogrammetry jobs. The larger and better Retina display comes with a narrow bezel and IPS panel to offer a larger viewing area and a much higher resolution.

Key Features 

  • Screen: 16 inches
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i7
  • OS: Mac OS
  • GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M

Pros 

  • The display is very good with very thin bezel all around.
  • The audio system is pretty good.
  • The SSD storage is ultrafast.

Cons 

  • The system lacks multiple port types.
  • The battery life does not last for long as advertised under heavy use.
  • There is no separate number keypad on the keyboard.

This is one of the best Mac notebooks that you can use for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

It comes with an Intel Core i7 chip and adequate RAM and SSD storage that allows easy multitasking and faster boot up.

The 16-inch Retina display of the laptop comes with a narrow bezel on all its sides that allows a larger viewing area.

You can see the images more clearly with all the details for accurate drone mapping and photogrammetry.

This LED-backlit display comes with IPS technology to provide a wider viewing angle and a native resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels and 226 pixels per inch density. It supports millions of colors to make the images look more vivid.

The 4 GB GDDR6 AMD Radeon graphics card produces images fast with automatic graphics switching ability to Intel UHD Graphics 630. The Mac operating system helps in running the desired software quite smoothly.

The processor comes with six cores to make the best use of the 12 MB shared L3 cache and operates within a speed range of 2.6 GHz and 4.5 GHz with Turbo Boost.

Though limited in number and type, the system provides charging and expansion options through the four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

It allows charging, data transfer at 40 Gbps, and acts as a DisplayPort. There is also a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port that allows transferring data at 10 Gbps.

The system supports wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac standard of wi-fi networking.

It is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n IEEE standards. It also supports Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology. Check out Apple Macbook Pro Review.

How to Choose Best Laptops for Drone Mapping and Photogrammetry?

If you do not want to end up buying a laptop that will hardly meet with your drone mapping and photogrammetry needs, here are a few aspects that you should look for while shopping.

These specs are required even if you do not want to buy any of the abovementioned laptop models and go with your own choice. This buying guide will keep things simple and expedite your selection process.

Processor

The processor of a laptop is one of the most important elements to focus on while shopping for a system to be used for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

At the least, you should go for a laptop with an Intel i5 processor. Add to that, the processor should be equipped with at least four cores.

This will ensure that it is powerful enough to handle all the workloads and software you want to run during the simulations.

If money is no issue for you, then you can opt for a device with an Intel i7 processor or even a high-end Intel Xeon processor which typically comes with six cores and more.

Remember, higher the number of cores in the processor, greater will be the speed of processing.

It will lower the time lags and issues while processing the data with the power of your laptop increased significantly.

Memory

Your laptop will also need to have a decent amount of memory or RAM. This will allow smoother drone mapping and photogrammetry process. It will also allow multitasking on your laptop.

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Typically, if you are on a budget and if your job includes smaller projects that require less than a hundred images, then you can choose a laptop with just 8 GB of RAM.

Alternately, if your job involves medium sized projects and you have to deal with images numbering between one to five hundred images, then your laptop should have at least 16 GB of DDR4 RAM.

On the other hand, though 16 GB will be more than enough for most of the projects you handle, you may need a higher amount of RAM to the tune of 32 GB or more if you deal with larger projects for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

By a large project it means those that involve using a large number of images ranging anywhere between 500 and 2000 or more, and each of those images are at 14 MP.

Graphics

It is also required to have a decent graphics card in the laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry.

This is because the graphics card inside the device should be compatible with OpenGL 3.2 that is necessary for these types of jobs.

However, if you choose a laptop with an integrated chip, you must make sure that it has good compatibility.

Otherwise, to be safe and do all types of jobs of drone mapping and photogrammetry, you should go for a system that is equipped with a dedicated graphics card.

While choosing such a device, make sure that the graphics card comes with a minimum of 2 GB video RAM or VRAM.

Most of the modern Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards come with much more than that and will be therefore compatible with all of those drone mapping and photogrammetry software.

Just make sure it is of the latest type as that will make your laptop futureproof.

Storage

The internal storage space of the laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry is another huge concern and is as important a factor as those mentioned above.

However, and once again, your choice will be based on the size of the projects you handle.

If you work on small projects then you will need a smaller amount of storage, maybe 128 GB. However, for medium and large projects you will need 256 GB and 512 GB of storage, if not more, respectively.

This number will certainly go up when you handle bigger projects that need a magnanimous amount of imagery.

Ideally, if your budget permits, a laptop that comes with a combination of SSD and HDD storage, or one that also supports cloud storage will be a much safer and productive bet.

Apart from the amount of storage, there is one more thing that you should note while selecting.

You should always go for a solid-state drive rather than any traditional hard drive disk, even if it costs you a bit more.

The solid-state drives are faster, cooler, and quieter. It will not fail easily and will result in a notable improvement in the performance of the laptop.

This will help you to store and access a large number of files easily, a common requirement in drone mapping and photogrammetry.

Battery life

If you follow the rule of thumb, you should always buy a laptop that comes with an all-day battery life.

This is necessary because, most of the time you will need to carry your laptop to the field for drone mapping and photogrammetry where charging it will be a genuine issue.

A laptop with an incredible battery life of more than 15 hours will be best but that will also come with a hefty price tag.

If you cannot afford such a device, you should ideally go for one that comes with at least 7 to 8 hours of battery life, but nothing less than that.

This will enable you to do a lot of work on a single charge before you need to start looking for a power socket for recharging it.

Operating system

Typically, most of the drone mapping and photogrammetry software are specifically designed to run seamlessly and without any technical glitches on Windows operating system.

Therefore, know about the requirements of the software you will use the most to get the most fitting operating system for it.

However, everything is not designed for Windows only. There are a few specific drone mapping and photogrammetry software that will also run on Mac operating systems.

At this juncture it is important to keep in mind that selecting an operating system is simply a matter of preference.

However, it is the requirement of the software that will affect the final outcome in a significant way.

Portability

Once again, you will need to carry your laptop with you outdoors for drone mapping and photogrammetry, and therefore, it needs to be extremely portable.

At the same time, you should also make it a point not to sacrifice on the performance aspect for the sake of portability.

Most of the time, you will not get all the power you need to meet all your demands in a portable laptop, unless it is one of those super thin and super light laptops, which, invariably, comes with a huge price tag.

Therefore, when it comes to portability of a laptop, there are a few things to keep in mind specifically.

Portability largely depends on the weight of the laptop which should be ideally between 3 to 5 pounds. There are lots of other factors to look for in the system you choose that are allied to it.

The size of the screen and the bezel around it also plays an important role to influence the portability factor.

A laptop with a screen size ranging from 13 to 15 inches are good enough in terms of viewing area as well as for portability.

Anything larger than that will add on to the weight of the item, sometimes unnecessarily.

It will also be larger in overall size making it difficult to carry in a standard laptop bag.

Display resolution

The resolution of the screen should be good enough to allow you to see the images on it clearly while working outdoors.

Since you need to focus on the details in the images for more accuracy in drone mapping and photogrammetry, a full HD display is most ideal.

If your budget allows, you can go for a higher resolution than that.

The brightness of the screen should also be more than the average threshold of 250 to 275 nits.

Also make sure that the screen has a matte finish, is anti-glare, and comes with IPS technology to provide you with a wider viewing angle.

FAQs:

Why is a laptop preferred over smartphones for drone mapping and photogrammetry?

Using a laptop instead of a smartphone is much easier due to the host of features that it comes with. It is more powerful and will allow you to connect more devices to it that may be necessary. The larger real estate of the screen will allow you to see the images clearly to edit them accurately.

How exactly can I set up my laptop with the drone for accurate mapping and photogrammetry?

First, you will need to install a few specific software to get the programming correct. This includes Python 2.7 and OpenCV2. Then you must visit the PC-drone repository to download the code. Finally, you will need to run this code using the USB camera and Arduino connected to the right port.

What software should I install in my laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry?

It will depend on the experience you have on drone mapping. If you are a beginner you will need to use the simplest Drone Deploy mapping software.  Otherwise, if you have some hands-on experience in it, you can use the Pix4D drone mapping software that is specially designed for more advanced users.

Can I take ortho photographs on my laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry to measure true distance?

Yes, you can. An orthophotography is an aerial image that is geometrically corrected for lens distortion, camera tilt, topographic relief, and perspective. You can use them to measure the real distances and modify the earth’s measurements as these are accurate images of the objects in the environment.

Do I still need a fly controller if I use a laptop for drone mapping and photogrammetry?

It all depends on your choice. You can use a laptop for fly control however instead of a controller in a much better and convenient manner. This is because you can use better tools for fly control that will make the drone more or less semi-autonomous. It means, you do not need to be directly in control.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin