Pix4Dreact – a detailed look into this game changing real-time mapper
When time is of the essence and every second counts, Pix4Dreact is fast mapping software that’s tailor-made for rapid response and emergency situations.
Released in the autumn of 2019, Pix4Dreact was developed to meet the needs of first responders and emergency services. It quickly became apparent that Pix4Dreact was one of the most impressive innovations in the drone industry – a game-changer in disaster response applications.
Fully tested in the field, the software processes drone imagery on-scene at lightning speed without the need for mobile connectivity.
Natural disasters are on the increase, and the world has been ravaged by deadly storms, weather events and wildfires in recent years which have made headlines around the globe. Pix4Dreact was in part developed as a technological response to these events.
And it’s not just in public safety that Pix4Dreact can provide innovative and speedy solutions. The software was designed with creative uses in mind. Pix4Dreact enables more people and more organisations to unleash the power of geospatial mapping like never before. Applications of Pix4Dreact include, but are not limited to:
• Event pre-planning, e.g. ahead of a hurricane, earthquake or flood
• Event post-planning – a comparison of affected areas before and after
• Disaster response strategy and tactics
• Event planning, security logistics and crowd monitoring
• Evacuation planning and control
• Search and Rescue (SAR)
• Humanitarian aid
• Law enforcement
Pix4Dreact – the basics and the benefits
Working in environments without a data connection isn’t a problem with React. The drone captures data onto an SD card which can then be inserted into a computer to start processing anytime, anywhere.
Pix4Dreact does not require a powerful computer (4GB of RAM is sufficient) and the interface is incredibly simple yet powerful to use and to interpret quickly. And the application is portable – data can be processed in a mobile command centre and on-site.
Pix4Dreact takes just a few minutes to produce a complete orthomosaic. An orthomosaic is a detailed, accurate aerial photo representation of an area. Orthomaps give a live visualisation of a large area from which to make navigational decisions, logistical decisions, and resource and material decisions.
The drone takes many photos looking straight down from above. Hundreds if not thousands of photos are “stitched” together into a single scene to create a new, larger photo map, or “orthomosaic” (orthomap). In a typical example, Pix4Dreact can process hundreds of images in just a few minutes.
Rapid processing of each photo enables them to be geo-rectified (corrected for lens distortion and camera tilt perspective, etc) with pinpoint location and distance accuracy calculated using precise measurements, location marks and GPS coordinates.
Traditional methods for creating orthomosaics can take hours. Using a drone and React reduces that to minutes. Resulting orthomaps can be downloaded into PDF or GeoTIFF format. The output file sizes are compact enough to be quickly sent by email as needed or printed off in hard copy and distributed if required.
In the drone world, we tend to love a bit of gizmo overload. Some call it “technical flexibility” – which really just means devices and software loaded with options, buttons, and cool tools. That’s no good when disaster strikes. Pix4Dreact is ridiculously quick and easy to use. A simple user interface literally extends to “import images”, “start processing” and “export map”. What more do you need?
There is plenty of power in the engine room though, and enough optional tweaks to tailor the solution. But when a tsunami has hit or a hurricane has destroyed homes, roads and harbours – what more do you need?
Pix4Dreact & Pix4Dmapper
Pix4Dreact is not necessarily a replacement for Pix4Dmapper. It does not utilise Ground Control Points (GCPs), does not produce 3D renders and there is no map editing functionality.
Pix4Dreact simply takes 2D images and creates a 2D map as quickly as possible. It comes with some limitations in terms of image quality and resolution of the finished maps and is not intended to be used for survey-grade reconstruction tasks, as the finished images do not provide the same level of precision and detail that you would get from a program such as Pix4Dmapper.
But Pix4Dreact used in conjunction with Pix4Dmapper opens up a whole new world of power.
When lightning strikes – Pix4Dreact for emergency planning & disaster recovery
A successful emergency response starts with a map. This extends from planning, risk assessment, action and recovery to the mitigation of future events.
When a natural – or indeed man-made disaster occurs – more often than not the maps available to authorities and organisations are rendered useless. Infrastructure is damaged, roads may be impassable, power lines will be down, and internet and telecom connections are likely lost.
Real-time mapping enables rescue operations to identify how they are going to get from point a to point b in the most efficient and effective way. Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) can be established and aid stations – such as water, food and safety supplies – can be set up in a safe manner to the point where they are most needed.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, images from Google Earth appeared on television stations around the world. Yet back then, it was difficult for authorities on the scene to make use of geospatial data. The communications infrastructure was lost and drone tech and associated mapping innovations were not even in their infancy.
This presented a wonky paradox. The rest of us could zoom in and check out the impact of Katrina’s damage and flooding while those directly on the scene – where it was most needed – found themselves limited in what they could see. It took responding agencies days, or weeks, to gain access to accurate geospatial intelligence that they could use. And in many similar scenarios, the geospatial data that would be most useful in emergency management can be destroyed by the disaster itself.
And this was in the United States – perhaps the most connected nation on the planet. Online and offline access is essential and will be until the likes of Elon Musk power, prove and provide internet connections from space – the SpaceX satellite network which is still in trial stages, for example.
For this reason, the simple SD card – which we may have thought of as old-hat and a bit obsolete in the Internet of Things era – comes right back into its own with Pix4Dreact.
Contrast the Hurricane Katrina scenario with that of Hurricane Dorian some 14 years later. The Miami-based Airborne International Response Team (AIRT) was able to use Pix4Dreact for aerial mapping with drones in Marsh Harbour, the Bahamas to help assess the devastation from the major Category 5 hurricane which was the worst the area had ever experienced.
In the recovery phase of disaster management, timelines can be created for developing situations. This would be especially useful, for example, in wildland, moorland and bush fires to track the spread and location of burning areas.
Aid and relief – Pix4D in humanitarian efforts
Natural disasters often result in humanitarian crises. Be this a lack of necessities such as food, water and medicine or the widespread displacement of people.
Recovering from the extent of an earthquake, hurricane, flooding or wildfire requires us to understand the extent of the catastrophe, and identify the areas and communities which have been hardest hit. Literally hundreds of thousands of people can be made homeless by environmental disasters.
Speedily produced maps using Pix4Dreact and timelines built by the resulting outputs enable authorities to track the movement of people and drop supplies to where they are most needed as well as establishing temporary accommodation in the areas in which they have headed.
Stake out from the skies – Pix4DReact in law enforcement
Pix4Dreact can be used to support police operations, raids on suspected criminal activity and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) missions.
In a typical operation, law enforcement and military organisations may deploy a helicopter, say, 24 hours in advance of the actual on-ground activity. The flight would scan for layout information, potential trigger points and identify possible entrances, exits and physical obstructions.
Drone operation and Pix4Dreact cuts that planning time dramatically and will enable intelligence, information and logistical data to be gathered with near-real-time precision, or as close as feasibly possible.
Pix4Dreact can be used in the wake of road traffic collisions to map the area and record hazards and positions in situ.
Best drones for Pix4Dreact
Pix4Dreact can be used with most drones and most drone cameras. When authorities in Kenya reacted to heavy flooding, they utilised Pix4Dreact and Pix4Dmapper with a DJI Mavic and a WingtraOne.
Certainly, drones built with mapping in mind are ideally suited for Pix4Dreact, such as the WingtraOne for fixed-wing drone options.
For a compact quadcopter option, the Parrot Anafi Thermal would offer solutions to combine thermal imagery with orthomosaic processing and production. Or a DJI Mavic package with the advanced sensor of the Mavic 2 Pro for high-quality imaging, even in low-light conditions. Automated flight planning capabilities would be a great solution too.
Crowds and claims – other applications for Pix4Dreact
Pix4Dreact lends itself to pre-event planning, logistics and security for large scale public events. From a local town fair to a music festival to a mass public protest – as we have seen en-masse around the world in the summer of 2020 in response to the #Blacklivesmatter movement.
Rapidly developed orthomosaics enable planning for where to locate command centres, security personnel, vehicles, emergency crews and first-aid posts. The benefit of using a map which is developed in real-time with up to date information is enormous. Especially when considering the unpredictable nature of crowds in general but particularly in marches and protests.
After a disaster has struck and the damage is assessed, there is an application for Pix4Dreact for insurance assessments and processing claims and payments. Once payments have been authorised and work carried out on the basis of insurance claims, companies can then deploy PixDreact once more to assess whether the restorative operations have truly been carried out.
And of course, we haven’t even touched on the potential power of Pix4Dreact in Search and Rescue operations (SAR). The opportunities for real-time rapid mapping in SAR missions is enormous but is a discussion for another day.
Coptrz and Pix4D
In just a few short months, Pix4Dreact has quickly become widely regarded as a solution which will change the world of mapping and how it is used, particularly in emergency response, humanitarian aid and disaster planning scenarios.
Pix4Dreact is predicted to become the standard scene documentation solution for authorities, response organisations, investigators and the humanitarian aid community.
Perhaps just as important, Pix4Dreact is available at an accessible price point – an incredibly important consideration particularly for publicly funded and charitable bodies.
The power of Pix4Dreact may intrinsically lend itself to public safety scenarios, but the applications are endless and business use is one area where potential still exists.
To discuss how Pix4Dreact could lend itself to your organisation or operation, do get in touch with us today and our UAV strategists can discuss your requirements in detail.
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