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Geospatial Data & Software Applications
Software Options: Desktop and Online Software Applications
Vizualizing Data – The Visualizing Data website provides a comprehensive catalogue of some cutting edge desktop & cloud-based software applications. Select the “Mapping” option to better refine your search. Some of these platform options are free. There are also some nice data visualization application tools as well.
Google Earth Pro – A user-friendly geospatial exploration system that is appropriate for just about anybody. Check out this Google Earth Pro Tutorial from VAView NEED to Link to this once it has ‘moved over’.
Google Earth Engine – This is a streaming platform for scientific analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets. It is probably most applicable for academic, non-profit, business, and government users. GE Engine takes advantage of vast data archives and on the cloud computing. There are also some great tutorials associated with GE Engine. Check out these GE Engine tutorials from GeorgiaView.
Esri – Most 2 and 4-year colleges & universities in Virginia (and in other states as well) have access to the Esri suite of software products through Virginia’s Educational Software License Agreement with Esri. This license provides access to a suite of geospatial software products that are available to faculty, staff, and enrolled students. Installation instructions for students, faculty, and staff affiliated with Virginia Tech is available from here. has developed tutorials to support remote sensing processing using ArcGIS software products. Need to link this to the resource on the ‘tutorials’ webpage. Some examples of commonly used products include:
- ArcGIS Pro – Esri’s premier and feature dense geospatial software that supports all phases of GIS project implementation, as well as image analysis and Lidar data processing.
- ArcGIS Online – Data discovery and sharing ‘on the cloud’, while maintaining some basic analysis tools. Platform independent.
- Community Analyst Online – CAO is a cloud-based mapping solution that provides access to a plethora of demographic data assets, coupled with some basic analysis tools.
- Business Analyst Online – BAO is a cloud-based mapping solution that provides access to a plethora of business-driven data assets, coupled with some basic analysis tools
If you are a VT faculty/staff/student, and you want to install ArcGIS Pro or access the Esri suite of software options via the statewide license?
- You will FIRST need to create an ArcGIS Online account. This is required to obtain ArcGIS Pro licenses. If you do not have a Virginia Tech ArcGIS Online account, visit the site https://virginiatech.maps.arcgis.com and choose the “VIRGINIA TECH” login option. Log in and create an account. https://virginiatech.maps.arcgis.com
- After you have created an ArcGIS Online Account, reference this step-by-step for further installation instructions for ArcGIS Pro: Virginia Tech faculty/staff/student ArcGIS Pro Installation Instructions
- You ArcGIS Online account will provide you with access to a suite of other Esri products.
Other software options include:
GIS Software (free)
- GRASS: Geographic Resources Analysis Support System
- uDig GIS
- Users give it 5 stars. QGIS is one of the most popular (and powerful) free GIS software platforms.
Remote Sensing Software (free)
- GRASS: Geographic Resources Analysis Support System
- This one has stood the test of time. While it might not be the most user-friendly, it has the reputation of being quite robust.
- Funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ImageJ is a user-friendly image processing system that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It is a popular platform for teaching image processing.
- Has a reputation for automated feature extraction through object-based image analysis (OBIA). Plus, this option was initially developed by our friends in Brazil (documentation is available in English…).
- This too, has stood the test of time. Best of all, it was developed by Larry Biehl.
- QGIS’s semi-automatic classification plugin has received great reviews. Using this plug-in, users can download satellite imagery directly into the software (including Sentinel, Landsat, MODIS, and ASTER).
Drone Related Software
- OpenDroneMap is a post processing software that allows you to generate maps, point clouds, DEM’s and 3D models from aerial images. Freeware!
- Maps Made Easy: post processing software that is also free for smaller data collection efforts. After that, it is based on a point system that is still very affordable.
- SkyVector: is a free online flight planner that defines airspace restrictions. Contains every aeronautical chart for the U.S. If you need help interpreting the charts, be sure to check out our video tutorial series Mastering the Aeronautical Chart
- GoogleEarth Pro: Before heading out into the field to fly, it is always good to do some reconnaissance level planning. There are lots of options available, this is just one Geographic Information Explorer!
Track Kit– collect, share, waypoints and routes.
Survey123 – Survey123 for ArcGIS is a simple form-centric data collection GIS app. Using your ArcGIS organizational account you will be able to login into the app and download any forms that may have been shared with you. Once a form is downloaded, you will be able to start collecting data. If working offline, your completed forms will be saved locally. When connected, you can submit the data back to ArcGIS. Note that this can be used to collect points.
ArcGIS Collector – More robust than Survey123, but not quite as streamlined. Can be used to collect points, lines, or polys.
Fulcrum GIS – Easy to use data collector app, compatible with most GIS systems. It is not free, but there is a free trial available.
GNSS View – This is a pretty handy app that enables you to visualize where the GNSS satellites are located relative to your position.
Maps.me – Crowd sourcing maps app (and great for hiking and travelers too!)
DronePan: great little App that will makes it easy to capture aerial panoramas.
Pix4d Capture: is a free drone flight planning app. Available for both android and iOS. Supports both DJI and Parrot.
Precision Flight mobile: flight planning app. for DJI drones.
B4UFly: user-friendly and much improved. This app graphically displays where recreational drone operators can and can not legally fly.
UAV Forecast: Provides UAV forecasts for just about anywhere in the U.S. Contains both charts and maps.
Compass – Everybody needs a compass at some point. Here’s one for your phone.
GNSS Status – this app provides a number of servics, but we primarily use it to verify GNSS status information while planning / conducting drone flights.
KittyHawk – Pretty comprehensive sUAS app. Provides support for preflight considerations, LAANC Authorization, etc. Some of KittyHawk’s Apps are free, some are not.
B4UFly – This application was developed for recreational drone pilots. Drone operators can utilize B4UFly provides interactive maps and allows operators to quickly identify restricted airspace.
DroneBuddy – weather app that provides some good info. for drone pilots
YR – Seems like everything designed by the Norwegians is a step ahead. Great weather forecasting / & weather visualization app.
Windy – Wind forecast app. Shows forecasted gusts. Great for drone pilots, sailors, and kite fliers.
iDiskPro – Great application that can be used to transfer images / pdfs from an iPhone to other devices (using a USB / Lightning port)
DroneDeploy App – Great tools for most DJI platforms. There is a free trial period to test and use the App. After that, you’ll need to pay for it.
DJI Go 4 – Works with DJI drones.