Hi! I'm new, curious and confused

First, this is awesome to find. I’ve read quite a bit on the forum prior to signing up today and though I lack understanding of much of the terminology and concepts discussed, it’s clear that people here are kind to each other, which the world needs more of.

Here’s where I’m at… in this time of people learning about sustainability, I have been helping others learn to grow their own food. In trying to expand my knowledge in this arena, I have been learning more about permaculture - namely swales on contour to focus on water usage.

As google earth is quite outdated, I’m looking for a way to use my Mavic Pro (if I can) to make topos (don’t have to be perfect, not a business thing) to get swales and berms properly on contour.

I’m not computer illiterate, but have minimal experience with Command Line tools and Node. This project seems awesome to support and I’ll gladly buy the installer, but I’m having trouble determining if I will be successful in my end goal with it.

Don’t hesitate to tell me if I am in the wrong place and this is out of my league, but I’m not lazy and (somewhat) intelligent and am hoping that I can support this project and succeed in my end goal. Thoughts?



Yes, you can use your Mavic if you’re not super fussed about absolute precision and accuracy, and in your stated application, they don’t really matter at all.

  1. Investigate the Litchi app to assist you in setting up flight plans:

  2. WebODM Lightning by UAV4Geo is likely the best/easiest solution for what sounds like your computer literacy and comfort level. Bonus is that the fees directly support further development of OpenDroneMap for everyone.

  3. You can generate contours and DEMs from Lightning. Or, you can (and I’d argue, should also) get familiar with QGIS:


I agree with all of this. WebODM Lightning is the easiest way to get up and running with minimal fuss. For flight planning you can also try Map Pilot ($10), Drone Deploy (free), or Pix4D Capture (free).


I will add, too, that it’s fine to skip the flight planning apps when you’re just getting started, and fly manually. This can make things easier if you’re just getting comfortable with your drone. Fly a lawnmower pattern over your area and make sure you have lots of overlap between your photos.

If you want to process a test dataset before you fly anything at all, download the Brighton Beach images. It’s a very small dataset so the results are rough and have lots of holes, but it will give you a good idea of how things work. Click the green “Code” button, then “Download Zip”.


Thanks for all of the helpful info, guys… I appreciate the encouragement and direction pointing.

Corey, I do have the photos from dronedeploy. I couldn’t tell right away if I could put them in to virtual-surveyor and build a contour on their trial, but I also think Sajin is right, I should learn how to do it and grasp GIS. Helping people grow their own food and build sustainable environments is something I want to continue to do and understanding these tools would definitely go a long way in that regard.

But in the shorter term, it sounds like I might be able to take the stuff from dronedeploy and buy Lightning and get what I’m looking for? Gonna see what I can pull off!


Yes: you can fly using DroneDeploy, process using OpenDroneMap (WebODM.net is the quickest way to get started), and then generate contours in e.g. QGIS.org.

Good luck, and feel free to ask lots of questions.

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I guess my main question… is there a guide or documentation on all of this? I did the task in WebODM and am just a bit confused on what’s next…

I know there is documentation for QGIS, but I thought I had read in Saijin’s comment that I could generate contours in Lightning…

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There just so happens to be an excellent book by @pierotofy, which much like Lightning, contributes funds directly to the development of OpenDroneMap for everyone.

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Thanks @Saijin_Naib! I bought the book.

Just a thought, if there was an opportunity to pay for mentoring to further contribute to the project, people like me would definitely do it :slight_smile:


That’s a great idea! If you need QGIS tutelage, Ujaval has awesome courses:
Bonus for his courses is that they help fund QGIS development, and he offers official certification.

Since you thought that was a good idea, I’m gonna go with an ask - feel free to shoot me down.

Can I make a donation to have someone help me figure this out? I’m legit working on understanding all of this - I started reading the ebook, it’s really helpful.

Here’s my catch, though: I’m in Alaska and summer is drawing to a close. This is all like reading a foreign language to me and while it is exciting and I love learning, I really want to try to get swales built before winter to catch the snow melt in spring. And our dark, long winter is a perfect time for me to learn QGIS.

Thought I’d throw it out there. Not asking for a freebie, not asking in a lazy way… just a small sense of urgency. :slight_smile: I know the internet is full of beggars and really don’t want this to come across as such.

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Depending on what you need help with, I’d be open to offering training, especially if it is for general photogrammetry, or GIS/QGIS stuff. The finer points of OpenDroneMap escape me as I currently am still learning this specific suite (and get corrected by @smathermather, @pierotofy, and others often) and most of my knowledge/experience is with Pix4D and Agisoft after doing Agricultural sUAS services for a few years.

That being said, if you’re looking for GIS/QGIS, there are IMO better choices other than me who can offer you certification, which I can not. I’m just a lowly GIS Analyst :stuck_out_tongue: